State Budget anti-people: Opp

GUWAHATI, July 5 – Opposition members today came down heavily on the State Budget, terming it as anti-people and lacking focus on many of the burning issues of the State. Taking part in the general discussion on the budget, Bhuban Pegu (independent) said that the perennial problem of flood was unlikely to be contained unless there was a shift in policy. He said that to be effective, the practice of launching flood- and erosion-control measures in April/May had to be discarded and replaced with a time-bound programme beginning in November/December.

“All these years huge sums of money have virtually been washed away due to shoddy and half-done anti-flood works that begin just before the flood season. The common excuse resorted to by the Government about a so-called long-drawn process for financial clearance is ridiculous and must be changed forthright if we are to have an effective flood-control mechanism and prevent recurring damage worth thousands of crores every year,” Pegu said.

Drupad Bargohain (CPI) criticized the budget, saying that the dangers of a deficit budget were already manifesting in the form of price rise. “To meet the deficit the Government has to go for either large-scale borrowing or enhanced taxation, which invariably impacts the common people hard,” he said.

Urging the ministers to visit the markets, Bargohain said that they did not know the ground situation vis-à-vis price rise as they never visited any market.

Bargohain also questioned the implementation of many Centrally-sponsored projects which he said were tardy and corruption-riddled. “Lots of instances are there when newly-constructed roads failed to last even a year,” he said.

Jagat Sing Ingti (Congress), while welcoming the provisons for setting up new institutes of higher learning in different parts of the State, appealed to the Government to ensure timely completion of the announced projects. “The Diphu Polytechnique took 25 years for completion but classes are yet to start,” he said.

Regretting that the House saw little deliberations on the volatile situation in NC Hills, Ingti said that people were getting killed and property being destroyed every day but such a crucial issue stood neglected. “We do not even know what steps the Government is taking to contain the situation,” he said.

Accusing the State Government of following double standards in engaging militant outfits in talks, Ingti said that if the Government could initiate dialogues with the NSCN (I-M), DHD (Nunisa), UPDS, etc., there was no reason why the same could not be done in the case of the DHD (J) and KLNLF. “Is it that the Government waits till an outfit attains a ‘stature’ before it can be invited for talks?” he asked.

Disapproving the Government’s dissolving the NC Hills Autonomous Council following the arrest of its CEM Mohit Hojai, Ingti said that the act was tantamount to “murder of democratic norms” as there was always the option to select a new CEM from among the members.

Ingti was also critical of the move to replace the customary laws of the Karbi and Dimasa people, saying that it hinted at a conspiracy to marginalize the two indigenous communities.

Anwarul Haq (AUDF) termed the budget as ‘frustrating’, and said that it had little for the people of the Barak Valley. He charged the Government with failing in its basic responsibility of providing security to the personnel engaged in the East-West Corridor and railway, resulting in virtual abandonment of the highway project in NC Hills and prolonged disruption in the Lumding-Badarpur railway tract following heightened militant activities.

Haq said that the Government had done little to uplift the 5 lakh-odd members of a fishing community of Barak Valley who had been languishing for decades.

Haq also said that along with enhancing salary and perks of the employees, the Government ought to ensure a better work culture in its offices.

Maneswar Brahma (BPF) described the budget as a realistic one but added that some long-standing needs of the BTC area on fronts like education and health still awaited priority status. He also called for expediting process of withdrawal of police cases against former BLT members as per provisions of the BTC agreement.

“This is resulting in undue harassment to the former BLT cadres. In addition, the Relief and Rehabilitation Department should also be handed over to the BTC administration,” he said, and pleaded for bestowing of legal status on the village council development committees (VCDCs) as panchayati raj institutions were not required in a Sixth Schedule area like the BTC.

Brahma further urged the Government to create a separate directorate for Bodo-medium educational institutions besides filling up the vacancies of posts of teachers.

Durga Bhumij (Congress), while hailing the budget as pro-people, underscored the need for implementation of development schemes for the tea-tribes populace. “Even a basic amenity like drinking water eludes a vast majority of the tea-tribes,” he said. He also stressed proper management of the 15 ailing tea gardens of the Assam Tea Corporation (ATC), saying that the labourers were enduring tremendous hardships in those gardens. “If necessary, the gardens should be given out on long-term lease for revival,” he added.

Earlier, initiating the budget discussion, Rana Goswami (Congress) defended various steps spelt out in the budget, terming those as the correct exercise under the prevailing circumstances.

“Education has been given top priority with stress on creating adequate educational infrastructure across the State and relating education to industry and enterprise,” he said. He also claimed that work on Indo-Bangladesh border fencing was progressing satisfactorily.

Goswami also accused the AGP of doing precious little to improve the power situation while the party was in power. “Rather, the AGP closed down the thermal power stations at Bongaigaon and Chandrapur besides stalling the Karbi Langpi hydel project,” he said.

Kamal Singh Narzary (BFP), Dr Alaka Sarma (AGP), Raju Sahu (Congress), Chandi Basumatary (Ined), Motiur Rahman Mandal (Congress), Praneswar Basumatary (BPF), Rajiv Lochan Pegu (Congress), Mohibul Haq (Ind), Bhupen Bora (Congress), and Bithika Deb (Congress) also participated in the debate.