Budget: Centre’s largesse for West Bengal just ahead of elections

The minister announced ₹25,000 crore for 675 kms of highway works in the state, including up-gradation of the existing Kolkata-Siliguri road connectivity.

Highway
Road projects have also been announced for Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Assam | Representative Photo: iStock

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday tried to woo voters of West Bengal along with other poll-bound states, announcing mega infrastructure and welfare projects.

Presenting her third budget, the minister announced ₹25,000 crore for 675 kms of highway works in the state, including up-gradation of the existing Kolkata-Siliguri road connectivity.

Similar road projects have also been announced for Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Assam — the three other states where elections will be held in a couple of months.

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Sitharaman announced 3,500 km of National Highway works in her home state Tamil Nadu at an investment of ₹1.03 lakh crore. These include Madurai-Kollam and Chittor-Thachur corridors. However, the construction will start next year.

For Kerala, she announced 1,100 km of road projects, including Kanyakumari-Mumbai corridor at an investment of ₹65,000 crore.

In Assam, the centre will undertake road works worth more than ₹34,000 crore covering more than 1,300 kms of national highways, the finance minister said in her budget speech.

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She further announced largesse for railway projects in Bengal, which will go to poll in April-May. She said the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor will be extended by 274.3 kms from Gomoh in Jharkhand to Dankuni in West Bengal. She also proposed another dedicated freight corridor between Kharagpur in West Bengal and Vijaywada in Andhra Pradesh.

The finance minister also announced ₹1000 crore for the welfare of tea garden workers of Assam and West Bengal, especially for women and children. “A special scheme will be devised for the same,” she added.

The announcement comes ahead of a slew of infrastructure projects in the oil and gas and road sectors to be unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in West Bengal on February 7, keeping an eye on the state elections.

At a public function in Haldia, the prime minister will lay the foundation stone of the second catalytic dewaxing unit at the Haldia Refinery of Indian Oil Corporation.

This unit, with a capacity of 270 MMTPA, is estimated to be developed at a cost of ₹1,019 crore and will produce advanced Group III Lubes Oil Base Stock (LOBS), which will be first of its kind installation in India.

Once commissioned, this will lead to reduction of import of LOBS. Currently, around 70 per cent of the LOB requirement of the country is being met through imports, according to a statement of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.

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After the commissioning of the plant at Haldia Refinery, “LOBS production in the country will be enhanced and LOBS import dependency will be reduce by around 8 per cent. This project is expected to result in saving of foreign exchange to the tune of 185 million USD,” it said.

The prime minister will also inaugurate a 347 km-long Dobhi-Durgapur natural gas pipeline built at a cost of ₹2,433 crore by GAIL as part of the Pradhan Mantri Urja Ganga project.

It will supply gas to Matix fertilizer plant at Durgapur and will supply gas to industrial, commercial and automobile sectors and city gas distribution in many major towns in the state, including Purulia, Asansol, and Durgapur.

The prime minister will also dedicate a LPG import terminal built by the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd which will cater to the growing demand of LPG in eastern region. The BPCL has constructed this LPG import terminal at Haldia at an investment of ₹1,100 crore. The terminal will meet the requirement of LPG in West Bengal and other states in eastern and north-eastern India.

He will also dedicate a four lane rail overbridge-cum-flyover at Ranichak, Haldia on NH 41 built at a cost of Rs 190 crore. Haldia dock complex is the main gateway for import and export of cargo destined/originating from eastern and north-eastern part of country as well as land-locked countries like Nepal and Bhutan.

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