Rs 16,447-cr Budget allocation for NE
Riding on the back of a populist Budget, Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram today reiterated UPA Government's commitment for economic uplift of the north eastern region (NER), announcing a hike of Rs 2082 crore in Central allocation. The NER will continue to receive special attention and enhanced allocations. "I propose to provide Rs.1,455 crore to the Ministry, Development of the North Eastern Region (DoNER),' said the Union Finance Minister. The total Budget allocation for NER, spread over different Ministries and departments, will increase from Rs 14, 365 crore in 2007-08 to Rs 16, 447 crore in 2008-09, he announced. Although the Finance Minister spoke of special interest for development of NER, his words did not match the allocations. For instance, he announced a special centenary grant of Rs 20 crore to the Tocklai Experimental Station at Jorhat. The demand was for Rs 100 crore grant. The Tocklai Station at Jorhat of the Tea Research Association will celebrate its centenary in 2010. It is in the process of upgrading its facilities and expanding its activities to cover the NER, North Bengal and Darjeeling. A visibly agitated BPPF MP, SK Bwismutiary sought to interrupt Chidambaram on a couple of occasions, protesting meagre allocation for BTAD areas. The Finance Minister has also proposed to set up centres for development as mega clusters in handloom sector. The Government proposes to invest about Rs 70 crore in developing each cluster. An initial amount of Rs 100 crore was earmarked. Incidentally, both the projects are in Union Minister for State for Fertilizer and Chemicals, Bijoy Krishna Hendique's Parliamentary constituency. Meanwhile, the Special Purpose Tea Fund set up last year for re-plantation and rejuvenation has been earmarked Rs 40 crore. The fund popularly called the tea package was envisaged to bail out the sick tea industry. The NER and, especially, Arunachal Pradesh and the border areas face special problems that cannot be tackled in the usual course or through normal schemes. Hence, Government proposes to identify the urgent needs of these areas and address them through a special mechanism, he said, acknowledging the problems faced by the border State. "In order to jumpstart the process, I propose to set apart a sum of Rs.500 crore in a fund dedicated for the purpose,' said the Minister. The ambitious SARDP-NE, a programme envisaging development of road infrastructure, has been set a target of 300 km. Last fiscal, 180 km of road had been constructed. The Finance Minister also declared a special focus on saving the tigers. The number 1,411 should ring the alarm bells. "The tiger is under grave threat. In order to redouble our effort to protect the tiger, I propose to make a one time grant of Rs.50 crore to the National Tiger Conservation Authority. The bulk of the grant will be used to raise, arm and deploy a special Tiger Protection Force,' Chidambaram said. The National Aids Control Programme will be provided Rs.993 crore. Studies have shown that the prevalence rate of HIV and AIDS has come down from 0.9 per cent to 0.36 per cent, which is a matter of some satisfaction, he said. Meanwhile, allocation for flood control projects for the NER and Sikkim has been hiked to Rs 114.20 crore from Rs 58.39 crore. While there was no mention of the Majuli Protection Scheme, Pagladiya Project has been earmarked Rs 2 crore, a rise from Rs 1.29 crore. However, allocation for Indo-Bangladesh border works has gone down to Rs 484.23 crore from Rs 560.97 crore.