Budgetary allocation doubled but mixed response in northeast (Lead)

February 28th, 2011 - 8:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Pranab Mukherjee New Delhi/Guwahati, Feb 28 (IANS) The near-doubled budgetary allocation of Rs.8,000 crore (Rs.80 billion/$1.7 billion) for the development of the northeast by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee Monday has evoked mixed reactions, with five of the eight Congress-ruled states in the region terming it a balanced one, while the opposition has described it as directionless.The notable highlight in the budget for the northeast has been a near 100 percent jump in the allocation for special assistance to Rs 8,000 crore for 2011-12. Of this, Rs 5,400 crore has been allocated as untied Special Central Assistance.

“In order to boost development in the northeastern region and special category states, the allocation for special assistance has been almost doubled to Rs.8,000 crore for 2011-12. Out of this, Rs.5,400 crore has been allocated as untied Special Central Assistance,” Mukherjee said while presenting the budget for 2011-12 in the Lok Sabha.

“I would say this is a reformist and mature budget by a mature finance minister aimed at addressing various issues like tax reforms to infrastructure and also the social sector as well,” R.S. Joshi, president of the Federation of Industries and Commerce of Northeastern Region (FINER), the apex trade administration body of the region, said.

In addition, the ministry for development of north eastern region (DoNER)has been allocated Rs.1,550 crore for infrastructure development. This is, however, almost 12 percent lower than the Rs.1,760 allocated for 2010-11.

Of the Rs.1,550 crore, Rs.700 crore will be for schemes of the North Eastern Council (NEC), Rs 800 crore as grant from the Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR) and Rs.50 crore for the schemes of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC).

DoNER, through its schemes of NEC and NLCPR, takes up projects in the northeast for infrastructure development in the sectors like roads, bridges, power, irrigation, health, education, sports and drinking water supply.

Another Rs.170 crore has been earmarked under the Social and Infrastructure Development Fund for creating and upgrading infrastructure facilities, specially in Arunachal Pradesh and other border areas in the northeast.

The region will also get Rs.191 crore for central plan schemes. This includes Rs.60 crore as loans to the North East Development Finance Corporation (NEDFC), Rs.68 crore for the North East States Road Project (NESRP) and Rs.35 crore for the North Eastern Region Livelihood Project (NERLP).

The Congress party was upbeat.

“This is a budget for the people and the special assistance of Rs.8,000 crore would go a long way in improving infrastructure facilities in the region,” said Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.

“This is a pro-people budget and we hope the provisions, especially in areas like education, health, social sector and infrastructure would go a long way in the overall development of the country,” Pawan Singh Ghatowar, Congress MP from Assam.

The opposition parties said the budget gave nothing to the northeast.

“This is nothing but a budget that is directionless with no steps taken to curb price rise and growing inflation. There is nothing for the northeast and Assam as well in the budget,” said Ramen Deka, BJP MP from Assam.

“The people of Assam and the northeast got a raw deal from this budget. The people of the northeast got nothing from this budget,” said Biren Baishya, MP of the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) said.

The central government has a separate ministry for the development of northeast region comprising Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura.

Sharing over 2,000 km of boundary with Nepal, China, Bhutan, Myanmar and Bangladesh, many states in the region have been battling insurgents for decades.

More than 30 rebel groups operate in the region with their demands ranging from secession to greater autonomy and the right to self-determination.

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