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Mamata announces ₹2,99,688 cr budget ahead of elections

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on February 05, 2021

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee   -  PTI

Focus on infrastructure projects; tribal population

Ahead of the 2021 Assembly polls, the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee went full throttle in loosening purse strings as she announced a host of welfare schemes, targeting micro-constituencies while assuring the continuance of free ration and subsidised healthcare to all.

Free ration would continue for all post-June 2021; while the subsidised health insurance scheme “was opened up for enrollment throughout the year”.

Although this was a vote-on-account, most projects had a three-to-five year completion time frame; and allotment to schemes was made for FY22.

“I propose a budget of ₹2,99,688 crore (net) for the year 2021-22 on behalf of the State government,” she said, while presenting the Budget in place of Finance Minister Amit Mitra who is unwell.

Infrastructure projects

Several infrastructure projects spanning 46,000 km of rural roads were announced with 10,000 km to be laid in the coming fiscal.

Several development projects, which include flyovers and foot-over bridges, improved road connectivity and expansion of city roads and bridges, primarily in Kolkata, and the suburbs were also announced at an estimated outlay of ₹2,475 crore.

Battle for Netaji

Continuing with its turf war with the Centre, the State also made provisions for a host of schemes centered around Netaji Subhash Bose. These include setting up of community centres (with libraries and photo galleries called Jai Hind Bhaban at ₹100 crore) across districts; an Azad Hind Monument at a cost of ₹100 crore and a state-level planning commission (Netaji State Planning Commission) at ₹5 crore. Also announced was the setting up of a ‘Netaji Batallion’ in the Kolkata police force at an outlay of ₹10 crore.

Targeting micro-constituencies

The Chief Minister also targeted the tribal population – one of the key constituencies that the Trinamool Congress was trying to woo – with the setting up of ‘Alchiki’-medium (a tribal language) schools. Over 5 years, 500 such schools will come up with 1,500 para-teachers being recruited and an amount of ₹100 crore in FY22.

English medium schools for SC and ST were also proposed in the next three years; while another 100 regional language-medium schools – like Nepali, Hindi Kamtapuri, Urdu and Kumali – were also proposed to be set up.

A number of Madrasas will be converted into government-aided ones; while 200 Rajbanshi language schools – an ethnic community of North Bengal where the Trinamool is trying to consolidate – will be given “government recognition”.

There was a substantial push towards housing projects, particularly in the tea garden areas and amongst the tribal populace. Nearly ₹1,650 crore was allotted across two flagship projects targeting the segments.

In line with the largesse, the State Government also proposed an increase in payouts to share croppers. The minimum payout to farmers would be ₹3,000 per annum, while for share croppers the per acre payout, beginning June 2021, will be ₹6,000. Payouts will be under the state’s flagship ‘Krishak Bandhu’ scheme (farmers’ assistance program).

Nearly ₹450 crore has been allocated towards financial support for schemes covering construction workers and migrant labourers.

Published on February 05, 2021

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