Assam govt to provide financial help to families of people who died due to COVID-19

Finance minister Ajanta Neog said Assam government will provide one-time financial assistance of Rs 1 lakh to families of people who died of COVID-19

Guwahati: The Assam government will provide one-time financial assistance of Rs 1 lakh to families of people who have died of COVID-19, state finance minister Ajanta Neog said on Friday.

Presenting the budget for 2021-22 in the assembly, Neog claimed this is a first-of-its-kind scheme by any government in the country.

The state government had already announced the ‘Chief Minister Shishu Seva Scheme’ for children who lost their parents due to coronavirus and the ‘Chief Minister COVID-19 Widow Support Scheme’ for widows.

Under the scheme for children, an amount of Rs 3,500 will be provided per child each month.

For those below 10 years who may not have an extended family or guardian, the Assam government will take steps to house them in child care institutions and provide adequate funding towards their upkeep and education.

In the other scheme, each widow is eligible for a one-time grant of Rs 2.5 lakh.

The modalities for application and availing the benefit under the new schemes will be issued by the health department in due course, and the programmes will cost the exchequer around Rs 40 crore, the minister said.

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Altogether, 4,888 deaths of adults, including 1,345 women, due to COVID-19 have been reported in the state till July 13, Neog said.

A total of 56 minors (less than 18 years of age) have also died due to the virus during the same period.

She said 95,770 COVID-19 patients were provided free treatment along with food worth Rs 300 per day till June this year.

“Total number of ICU beds has now been increased to 1,540, with approximately 1,099 ICU beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients. The number of oxygen supported beds has also been hiked to 3,855,” Neog added.

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Opposition slams Assam Budget as ‘anti-people’

Ajanta Neog, the state's first woman finance minister, presented a Rs 566 crore deficit budget for 2021-22.

Guwahati: Opposition parties of Assam on Friday criticized the state budget presented in the Assembly, claiming that it is “anti-people”, with no real proposals to address the burning issues, including price rise.

The budget spoke more of long-term plans rather than concentrating on what or how much can be achieved in a year, Leader of the Opposition Debabrata Saikia of the Congress said.

Ajanta Neog, the state’s first woman finance minister, presented a Rs 566 crore deficit budget for 2021-22.

“People are facing a hard time due to COVID and price rise. We expected some measures to offer succour from price rise especially. But there is no proposal to control the prices,” Saikia said.

The BJP-led government has even failed to propose concrete ways to implement its promises made to people before the assembly election held earlier this year, he claimed.

Also Read: No ICU beds in 60 per cent of district hospitals in Assam

“We expected some better management and manoeuvering this year as we have a woman finance minister. But sadly, it was not seen,” the Congress leader added.

AIUDF general secretary and legislator Aminul Islam claimed that the budget has no focus on creating assets.

“The poor and common man has been affected by price rise. But there is no proposal to control price rise.

“The Budget is only for creating beneficiaries. And even when it comes to government schemes, there is no equitable distribution of benefits,” he said.

Islam also criticised that only Rs 77 crore has been earmarked for the development of minority community which forms one-third of the state’s population.

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“There is no proposal for land survey and land rights in char (riverine) areas or the plain tribes. This budget is for the rich and upper-middle-class, not for the common man,” Islam added.

Assam govt tables Rs 566 crore deficit budget, proposes no new tax

Guwahati: The Assam government on Friday presented a Rs 566 crore deficit budget for 2021-22 in the assembly, without proposing any new tax on the public.

This is the first budget of the Himanta Biswa Sarma-led government in Assam.

While reading out the budgetary proposals, Ajanta Neog, the first-ever woman finance minister of Assam, said that she is following the footsteps of her predecessor who had decided not to tax the public in his budgets.

Sarma was the finance minister in the previous Sarbananda Sonowal government.

“I too, with the aim of continuing this trend, would like to hereby place my budget without levying any extra tax on the public,” she said in the Assam Assembly.

During the last fiscal, the Tax Department’s collection declined to Rs 14,645 crore from Rs 14,967 crore in the previous financial year due to “economic slowdown” on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, Neog said.

Presenting the Budget estimates, she said the aggregate income has been calculated to be Rs 2,89,770.68 crore for 2021-22, while the total expenditure for the fiscal is estimated at Rs 2,89,367.10 crore.

“Thus, estimated transactions during the year will result in an estimated surplus of Rs 403.58 crore. This, together with the opening deficit of Rs 969.78 crore will lead to a budget deficit of Rs 566.20 crore at the end of the year 2021-22,” she added.

Bill tabled in assembly to strengthen Assam’s resources to fight pandemic

In the beginning of the financial year 2020-21, the state was allowed borrowing permission based on 3.50 per cent of GSDP.

Guwahati: Assam Finance Minister Ajanta Neog on Monday introduced a Bill in the assembly, which seeks to allow the government to raise the borrowing ceiling by 0.50 per cent of the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) to strengthen the resources of the state to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Introducing the Assam Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (Amendment) Bill, 2021, Neog said that the Union Finance Ministry has informed Assam that during 2021-22, it will be allowed the Net Borrowing Ceiling (NBC) of four per cent of the projected GSDP for the fiscal.

In the beginning of the financial year 2020-21, the state was allowed borrowing permission based on 3.50 per cent of GSDP.

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The remaining borrowing ceiling of 0.50 per cent of GSDP is earmarked for incremental capital expenditure by the state and will be allowed on the basis of Capital Expenditure incurred by the state during the year 2021-22.

The decision has been taken in view of the unprecedented COVID-19 situation and to strengthen resources of the state to fight the pandemic as well as maintain the standards of service delivery to the public, Neog said.

Additional borrowing ceiling of 0.50 per cent of GSDP over and above the ceiling of 4 per cent of GSDP will also be allowed to the state, based on guidelines issued by the Centre, subject to the amendment of the Act, she said.

The state Cabinet had, in its meeting on Jun 24, approved the amendment of the Act for incorporating the conditions.