Assam and the North East have a lot to cheer about in the Union Budget 2023-2024 presented in Parliament last month. The Assam Government was quick to acknowledge the largesse of the Finance Minister which it said was the largest ever allocation of development funds in its history.
Chief Minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma expected the Budget to serve as a catalyst in job creation, with initiatives such as PM Vikas, the National Apprentice Programme, PM Kaushal Vikas Yojna 4.0 and significant investments in digital and green economies.
He emphasised that these measures will not only provide new job opportunities, but also help to promote innovation and sustainability in the region.
“I am grateful to the Union Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, for granting further fiscal autonomy to the States in incentivising capital investments,” Sarma stated.
He expressed his gratitude towards the Prime Minister for nearly doubling the allocation for Prime Minister’s Development Initiative for North East Region (PM-DevINE), aimed at revitalizing infrastructure growth in North Eastern States, and praised the Budget’s focus on tribal and indigenous communities through schemes like PM-PVTG for last-mile development.
The Budget also received a thumbs up from industry bodies, and the masses. “With major capital expenditure outlays and an outlook for employment generation, the Budget is a welcome one with a progressive outlook, balancing economic, social, and ecological stability and development of the country and region,” said the CII NE Council.
“I welcome the announcement on the MSME sector. The Government should take advantage to push for the growth of MSMEs in the State,” said Monaj Bhuyan, secretary of Asom Samabai Kohar Sangha, Sarthebari.
Abhijit Barooah, Managing Director, Premier Cryogenics Limited, welcomed the announcement of setting up of 157 nursing colleges in co-locations with 157 medical colleges launched since 2014. “It will enable India to reap demographic dividend. Indian nurses, especially from North East, are in demand across the world and the region will benefit with identification of few such colleges in the region,” he said.
Echoing the industrialist’s sentiment was Dr Hemeswari Bhuyan, Principal (in-charge), Regional Nursing College, Guwahati. “A proper healthcare system is dependent on both doctors and nurses. I expect that the Assam Government would want a few of these to be established in the State in the coming days,” she told this reporter citing figures to point out to the huge demand for nursing education in the State.
Niranta Gohain, Director of Wave Eco Tourism, appreciated the outlay of ₹ 1412 cr in the Budget under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme. “The Swadesh Darshan Scheme will benefit the North East if executed in letter and spirit,” he said.
Post-Budget, Railways to chug faster
The Union Budget has earmarked ₹ 10,988.80 crore for the development of railways in the North East, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said in his virtual interaction with media persons of the region. Vaishnaw said for the first time an amount of ₹ 1.20 lakh crore has been earmarked for connecting the hilly and border areas of the region.
“The gross budget allocation for NF Railway for 2023-24 fiscal is ₹ 10,988.80 crore,” he said. “It is 13.75 per cent more than the previous year’s allotment (₹ 9,660.14 crore)
Also 59 stations in the North East will be developed with world-class amenities cum facilities. Last year, 445 km of railway tracks were electrified in Assam. Fifteen stations each in all divisions of NFR will be developed under Amrit Bharat Station Scheme.
He added that adequate funds have been allotted for the overall development of railway infrastructure in all North Eastern States. Vaishnaw informed the media that work on infrastructure projects worth ₹ 75,795 cr is in progress in the region.
₹ 600 crore for New Bongaigaon – Rangiya-Kamakhya and ₹ 500 crore for New Bongaigaon-Goalpara-Kamakhya have been allocated for speedy execution of the ongoing track doubling works, he said. He said that Agthori Station near Guwahati will be redeveloped with world-class facilities with a total spending of ₹ 517 crore.