Assam CM welcomes enhanced budgetary allocation for NE

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Guwahati, Mar 19(UNI) Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has welcomed the Union Budget for 2008-09 saying the fund allocation for Northeast has risen by about Rs 2,000 crore.

"It is the best budget since Independence and we must thank the Prime Minister, UPA Chairperson and Union Finance Minister for it," Mr Gogoi, while reacting to the Union budget proposals, said.

"The Budget looks after the poor and the down-trodden, and at the same time, addressed the economic concerns," he added.

Mr Gogoi said the total budget allocation for NE, spread over different ministries/departments and including the DoNER, has been raised to Rs 16,447 crore this fiscal against Rs 14,365 crore in 2007-08. The DoNER would receive Rs 1,455 crore of the total amount for the region.

Mr Gogoi also appreciated Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram's announcement for a special fund of Rs 500 crore to start up a mechanism to address the problems of the border areas in NE, especially Arunachal Pradesh.

Lauding the loan waiver for small and marginal farmers, he said it would benefit the farmers of the state greatly. The special allotment for tea growers and tea research would also benefit the state, he added.

The chief minister stressed that for the first time, importance has been placed on the social sector.

Mr Gogoi also lauded Mr Chidambaram's proposal for sepcial funds for preservation of tiger population saying the state budget would also reflect this initiative.

The Union Finance Minister had announced a Rs 50 crore for the National Tiger Fund Authority to deploy a special tiger protection force in the country.

Talking to reporters here yesteday, Mr Gogoi said the state budget, which he would place before the Assembly next week in the capacity as the state Finance minister, would have special funds for wildlife protection.

The recent spurt in killing of rhinos had brought the matter of wildlife protection into focus in the state.

Mr Gogoi said that a recent tiger census had recorded only 70 tigers in Assam as against over 200 tigers in previous census.

"We are looking into the matter. But there seems to be some anomaly as the number could not have gone down so drastically." The Northeast chapter of the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has said the budget proposals had failed to address the connectivity problem in the region.

The budget proposals did not mention the issues of improving air connectivity and development of river transport facilities in NE.

The road connectivity issue had only been partially met with provision for an additional 300 km of road under SARDP-NE, the ICC-NE said, adding that the inter-state connectivity area remained neglected.

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