Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi Monday presented a populist tax-free budget with lots of sops for the rural poor, besides incentives for the education sector, jobs for the unemployed and welfare measures for women in a bid to woo voters ahead of next year's assembly elections.
The Rs.3.464.46 crore deficit budget for the fiscal 2010-11 estimates a growth rate of 9 percent.
"This is a budget for the poor and the common people and I would say this is an aam aadmi (common people) budget," the chief minister said after the budget.
The budget envisages providing 10 kg of rice per month to 1.3 million families living below the poverty line at Rs.6 per kg, with Rs.150 crore earmarked for the scheme.
From financial assistance of Rs.400 crore to 16,130 venture schools and colleges, to allocating more than Rs.100 crore to other educational institutions, the budget made special provisions for earmarking 30 percent of government jobs for unemployed youths from rural areas.
For women, the budget spelt good news as the chief minister announced 50 percent reservation of seats for them in panchayats, besides reserving 20 percent government supplies and contracts not exceeding Rs.1 million for women and Rs.10,000 as marriage assistance for girls living below the poverty line.
Gogoi announced the setting up of two medical colleges in Diphu in Karbi Anglong district and Nagaon district respectively, besides allocating Rs.5 crore for financial assistance to poor patients undergoing bypass surgery.
Victims of insurgency have also been covered in the budget with two percent jobs for the next of kin of terror victims and raising ex-gratia payments to the next of kin of terror victims from Rs.3 lakh to Rs.5 lakh.
The sops apart, the budget has no new tax proposals but wide- ranging cuts of service and entry taxes on items like fish, textiles, tea, cinema hall tickets, medical equipment, pressure cookers, brass utensils, cups and glasses, plywood, turmeric, local fireworks, besides subsidies for small businesses.
The opposition, however, termed the budget as an "election-oriented" and without any real incentives for the people.
"This is nothing but an election-oriented budget and would fail to impact the economy and would not benefit the commoners," Chandra Mohan Patowary, president of Assam's main opposition Asom Gana Parishad, said.