With 3 states poll-bound, NE makes big gains, but Oppn rips apart Budget
Agartala / Guwahati , Feb 05, 2023, IANS
Ahead of the Assembly elections in three northeastern states - Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland, political parties are divided over the Union Budget 2023 even as trade and industry bodies predict that the northeastern region would gain substantially from it.
The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry's (FICCI) Northeast Advisory Council, the Confederation of Indian Industry's (CII) North East Council, the Federation of Industry & Commerce of North Eastern Region (FINER) and other organisations have highly appreciated the Budget, but, parties' reaction comes on political lines and say its effect would be reflect in the ensuing three Assembly elections.
The BJP and its allies said that the "growth-oriented" and "pro-people" Budget would further help them in the electoral outcome while the opposition parties including the Congress and the Left parties claimed that the people would show their opinion in the polls.
CPI-M leader Narayan Kar said that at a time the unemployment rate is at a historic high, the budget reduces the MGNREGA allocation by 33 per cent.
"No special allocation in the Budget for the northeastern states. No specific plan to curb price rise and to boost the development of the northeast," he said, claiming that only some unrealistic promises were made in the Budget.
He said that during the election campaign, they would apprise the people about the harmful sides of the Union Budget.
Congress leader Birajit Sinha said that the Budget deprived the northeastern region and the BJP government "is always making hollow promises to fool the people".
However, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that the budget would assist the deprived and lower middle class and BJP leader and Tripura Deputy Chief Minister Jishnu Dev Varma said that the Budget would boost agriculture, tourism, connectivity, infrastructure besides creation of employment for the youth.
"Record allocation of Rs 2.40 lakh crore for Railway in the Union Budget would help to speed up railway infrastructure in the northeastern region. Development of railway infrastructure in the region would boost tourism, agriculture, and employment," Dev Verma said.
Union Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) Minister G. Kishan Reddy said that allocation by various Union ministries to the northeast has increased by 30 per cent from Rs 72,540 crore to Rs 94,680 crore.
While the budget of the DoNER Ministry rises from Rs 2,800.44 crore in 2022-23 to Rs 5,892 crore, the allocation to the Prime Minister's Development Initiative for North East Region (PM-DevINE) has risen from Rs 400 crore to Rs 2,200 crore.
The budget has allocated funds for 50 additional airports, heliports, water aerodromes and advance landing grounds for improving regional air connectivity. It proposes to revive 22 airports and commence 100 RCS routes, and viability gap funding. A new scheme has also been formulated for air connectivity and aviation infrastructure.
Political pundits said that though there are many issues in the Budget, the opposition parties including the Congress are unable to take these to the people during the election campaign as they have no required skill and organisational base in the three poll bound states.
Leading economist Prashanta Baruah said that though the Budget has some good proposals but there is no specific scheme for the creation of employment and micro and medium scale industries.
"Government must undertake some schemes and projects for the upgradation of skills in various sectors. Utilising resources like bamboo, rubber, fruits, medicinal plants, various forest products, small and medium industries must be set up in the northeast to achieve twin goals of exploiting resources and resolving unemployment problem," Baruah told IANS.
The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry's (FICCI) northeast chapter has suggested a Gujarat's GIFT City-like industrial zone in the region to attract business and investment from the neighbouring countries, including the ASEAN region.
"This would give a major boost to India's Act East Policy," FICCI Northeast Advisory Council Chairman Ranjit Barthakur said.
The Federation of Industry & Commerce of North Eastern Region termed the Union Budget a "no complaint Budget" and said that it was largely beneficial to the northeastern region.
FINER's former Chairman and analyst R.S. Joshi said that the Budget is very liberal in funding infrastructure and socio-economic projects aimed at providing better living to people of the northeastern region.
CII North East Council Chairman Pradeep Bagla said that in the agriculture sector, by making available quality planting materials especially for millets, an agri-accelerator fund to support agri start-ups, young entrepreneurs with innovative solutions will benefit and encourage aspiring start-ups, entrepreneurs and farmers in the northeast.
CII North East Council's immediate past Chairman Abhijit Barooah said the announcement of setting up of 157 new nursing colleges in co-locations with 157 medical colleges launched since 2014 will also enable India to reap demographic dividends.
Indian nurses, especially from the northeastern states, are in demand across the world, and the region will benefit with identification of a few such colleges in the region, he had said.
Barooah also said that the upgradation of Self Help Groups in terms of support in procurement of raw materials and skilling will provide strong dividends to the northeast economy.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at [email protected])