Follow Us:

Assam government’s first e-budget: Here’s what Himanta Biswa Sarma said and proposed

The budget with a deficit of Rs 2,149.04 crore proposes no fresh taxes.

Sanghamitra Mazumdar | New Delhi |

After Andhra Pradesh, Assam has become the second state to present an e-budget. Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma presented the state’s first e-budget in the Assembly on Monday.

The budget with a deficit of Rs 2,149.04 crore proposes no fresh taxes.

The budget estimates of 2018-19 show a receipt of Rs 90,673.42 crore under the Consolidated Fund, of which Rs 74,118.50 crore is on Revenue Account and the remaining Rs 16,554.92 crore is under Capital Account.

The budget proposed a levy of electricity duty at 5 per cent on ad valorem basis and 1 per cent increase on stamp duty registration fee for transactions in immoveable properties.

“The estimated transactions during the year will result in an estimated surplus of Rs 999.99 crore. This, together with the opening deficit of Rs 3149.04 crore will lead to a budget deficit of Rs 2149.04 crore at the end of the year 2018-2019”, said Sarma in the BJP-led Sarbananda Sonowal government’s third budget.

The budget was presented in both hard copy format and in the digital format in a tablet computer.

“I speak to you holding a tablet to present before you a Budget for a progressive, aspirational Assam that has an inclusive agenda for growth for our citizens regardless of gender and social belonging. I take utmost pride in presenting to you e-Budget on this important day,” said Sarma.

The budget speech was streamed live on Twitter and Facebook.

Mediapersons covering the budget session were provided with the speech in a pen drive.

ALSO READ: Assam Budget 2018-19: Himanta Biswa Sarma presents first e-Budget

In his speech, Sarma said his budget had three strands – “Ekatrikaran – consolidation of the policies we have announced and the work we have undertaken in the last two years; ‘Xomproxaron’ — expansion and scaling up the ambitions of some of our existing programmes; and ‘Uttoron’ – raising the standards of our pursuance”.

He called Assam the land of three P’s — Potential, Possibility and Prosperity — and said, “We have taken great steps in making this budget future ready, citizen friendly and all embracing through our e-budget model that has easy to use provisions of SDG (sustainable development goal), gender, child and elderly related.”

The finance minister also proposed to increase the tender fee from Rs 8.25 to Rs 100 for tenders up to Rs 20 lakh and Rs 500 for tenders beyond Rs 20 Lakh.

Regarding relief to small tea growers, he proposed to exempt specified land cess on green tea leaves. In the previous two budgets, the cess had been reduced from 25 paise to 10 paise per kg green tea leaf in two phases.

Earlier, Sharma started his speech with a mention of two significant events in Assam’s history – Srimanta Sankardev’s reform movement and farmers’ martyrdom.

“This year – 2018 – is very special and historic for the people of Assam. Exactly 450 years ago, Mahapurush Srimanta Sankaradeva left for his heavenly abode in 1568. During my entire budget speech, the members will notice that there is an effort to uphold the core philosophical values of Srimanta Sankardeva,” he said.

He also paid tributes to the 140 farmers who were shot dead by the British forces on January 28, 1894, for protesting against the increased taxes on land. The incident came to be known as the Patharughat peasant uprising, which entered 125th year in 2018.

For the agriculture sector, he announced zero interest on crop loans, debt relief for farmers and financial assistance for farm implements.

As a one-time measure, Sarma said, the government would calculate the farmers’ dues – both principal and interest – to the banks and then deposit 25 per cent of such outstanding dues, subject to a maximum limit of 25,000, in each such loan account. “This move will unclog the much needed credit supply to the farmers,” he said. Stating that Rs 500 crore had been allocated for the scheme, Sarma said the details would be worked out in due course of time.

“We will continue to reward the prompt paying farmers by extending 4% interest subsidy, so that they get all short-term crop loans up to Rs. 1 Lakh at 0% rate of interest,” he added.

Sarma proposed to allocate an additional Rs 256 crore for infrastructure development of leading colleges and universities to boost higher education in the state.

“I would like to announce a scheme that proposes to support all girls belonging to minority community, to further aid and incentivize them to keep pursuing higher education. Towards this end, I propose an annual scholarship of Rs 2,000, Rs. 4,000, Rs. 6,000, Rs. 10,000 for girl students belonging to minority community studying in class 10th, 11th-12th, graduation & post-graduation, respectively. These amounts which will be credited into their accounts through the DBT mode simply on self-certification that they are unmarried and pursuing their education. For this, I allocate Rs 250 Cr for the year 2018-19,” said the minister.

He also announced the Swami Vivekananda Assam Youth Empowerment (SVAYEM) Yojana, “which envisages to provide financial assistance to young entrepreneurs to about one lakh young people”.

The government will also allocate Rs 500 crore for execution of the state’s signature projects under the Uttoron Scheme.

Sarma said the government sanctioned conversion of 208 timber bridges into concrete bridges in 2017-18, adding that he proposed to allocate Rs 150 crore to completing work on over 700 more such bridges.

(With agencies)