Budget 2018: Has Modi govt taken Northeast region for a ride?
Guwahati, Feb 2: The much-awaited Union budget 2018 was presented by Union finance minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday in Parliament. Jaitley's latest budget, the last full budget of the Narendra Modi government before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, got mixed reactions.
While leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its alliance partners in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government mostly gave a thumbs-up to Jaitley for focusing on farmers, rural people and poor in the budget, opposition parties slammed the FM for presenting an "anti-people" budget.
The Northeast region, comprising of eight states and mostly cut-off from the rest of India because of geographical barriers, once again felt "cheated" by the government in Delhi.
It is a well-known fact that most in the region nurse the grouse of being neglected by the mainland India (read successive governments in the national capital, irrespective of any political party).
The budget 2018 reaffirmed the allegation of the people of the region that no matter who rules in Delhi, it does not care about the needs, wishes and aspirations of the Northeast.
What surprised many in the region about the latest budget is that in the whole budget speech of Jaitley, he did not mention anything specific about the Northeast for once.
Such "neglect" towards the region by the Modi government is strange as the BJP plans to rule over the entire Northeast in the coming years.
Congress national spokesperson Tom Vadakkan told reporters in Shillong, Meghalaya, that the budget had nothing for the Northeast to cheer about.
"The Northeast has been taken for a ride. Broken promises and failure on delivery are hallmarks of the Modi government and have led to trust deficit. We called it a deficit sarkar (government)," Vadakkan was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.
Bobbeeta Sharma, All India Congress Committee (AICC) co-ordinator in Meghalaya, said like the rest of the country, people in the Northeast need jobs and development.
"Earlier we had the North East Industrial Promotion Policy but after it was scrapped in 2015, subsidies stopped, investments stopped and development stopped.
"The people were hoping the budget would open flow of investment to the region. We want to ask the NDA government how will jobs be created in such a situation?" Sharma said.
However, experts feel that although Jaitley did not mention anything specific about the Northeast in the budget but there are a lot of takeaways for it in infrastructure, agriculture, rural economy, healthcare, education and bamboo sectors.
"The approach of the budget can be termed pragmatic. It is targeting the fiscal deficit and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth. The region can benefit from outlays in agriculture and rural economy," chairman of Federation of Industries and Commerce in the North Eastern Region (Finer), Pabitra Buragohain, told The Telegraph.
Those who are involved in the bamboo-based industries in the region too are happy with the announcement of a restructured bamboo mission in the budget. Bamboo is widely available across the Northeast and thousands of people are employed in the bamboo-based industries.
"Bamboo is 'green gold'. We removed bamboo grown outside forest areas from the definition of trees. Now, I propose to launch a re-structured National Bamboo Mission with an outlay of Rs 1,290 crore to promote bamboo sector in a holistic manner," Jaitley said during his budget speech.
"The restructured National Bamboo Mission has more innovative features on value-chain development of bamboo from primary processing to value addition and market linkages. The introduction of a new policy for transit of bamboo from non-forest areas will further boost the bamboo sector in the Northeast, where more than 50 per cent of India's bamboo resources are available," Kamesh Salam, former expert member of the apex committee of National Bamboo Mission and founder, South Asia Bamboo Foundation, told The Telegraph.
While the BJP governments in Assam and Manipur have hailed the budget as "a people-centric, farmer-centric, development-centric and welfare-centric budget which would address the needs of all people", the Left government in Tripura called the budget as "anti-poor and anti-people".