Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, presented the annual state budget at the legislative assembly last week. As usual, the budget has been hailed by most of the ruling party legislators and criticized by the opposition, including some Congress MLAs who have, off late, waged a revolt against the veteran chief minister.
|Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi presenting the state budget at the Assam Assembly, Photo Courtesy: www.tntmagazine.in|
Like most budgets, both at the state and centre, this time too, Tarun Gogoi has tried to balance out the major requirements. Education seems to have been given a major thrust with the announcement of the establishment of a number of educational institutions. The development of Guwahati city also features prominently including the plan of constructing a Metro system there. Many critics have opined that important challenges like ever spiraling inflation and the problems faced by the tea garden communities have not been adequately addressed.
However, the political class, especially those from Barak Valley have chosen to remain completely quiet about the indifferent treatment meted out to the valley, by Gogoi who also holds the important Finance portfolio.
The thousand crore carrot which Gogoi successfully used as a political gimmick during the assembly elections in 2011, continues to hang in front of the people without any immediate promise of it being fulfilled. This time again, Gogoi has not allotted any funds specifically for Barak Valley. Rather, almost to appease the people of the valley, he has mentioned that the Planning and Development department has been instructed to submit a detailed plan of projects which can be taken up with these One Thousand Crores, in three months time. He has also said that funds will be released after the projects are finalized and sanctioned.
Given the track record of the state government, it is absolutely unlikely that the projects would be sanctioned on time and the government would release the funds. Moreover, even if the funds are released, how much money will actually benefit the people is anybody’s guess.
Apart from this, there is almost nothing for the people of the valley. The chief minister has proposed the establishment of a Nursing College at Silchar and has mentioned of some old projects such as the Karimganj Engineering College and the construction of by passes at Silchar, Katlicherra and Hailakandi.
There is no announcement about improving the road infrastructure in the valley or the establishment of any new industry. The valley will probably get a few more schools and Industrial Training Institutes, but, over all, there is nothing much to cheer about.
In comparison, Jorhat gets a Women’s University and a Planetarium cum Science Centre and Dibrugarh gets funds for further improvement of its already refurbished airport. The National Highways 37 and 52 in Brahmaputra valley will also get further improved though there is no announcement regarding the improvement of the extremely dilapidated National Highways (portions maintained by Assam PWD) that connect Barak Valley with the rest of the country.
There are elaborate plans for redeveloping Guwahati city, which will get a new Metro system, a Ropeway and few other landmarks. However, the state's second largest town gets absolutely nothing. There are no plans for the construction of any new road, flyover or drainage system in Silchar which is an unmanageable urban mess today, thanks to government non-performance.
Barak Valley has 14 Congress MLAs in the state legislature. Probably, no other part of Assam is so well represented in the ruling party. Yet, we have not heard any criticism about the budget from these leaders. If they cannot raise genuine issues which concern the people then the very justification of their existence is questionable. Would we, the people of Barak Valley do any worse if the valley was unrepresented in the assembly? Probably no. Right now, they are a waste on the public exchequer and nothing else.
Indifferent treatment to Barak Valley is nothing new. The onus is on us to make our presence felt. It is important for us to vote for the right candidate and not bother about his religion or caste. Unless, we wake up, the future budgets of the state will also speak very little about Barak Valley.