Mamata terms budget deceitful, her Assam counterpart is all praise

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said works on Kolkata-Siliguri road is already going on under a ₹ 32,000-crore project

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Sunday demanded Prime Minister Narendra Modis resignation for mishandling of the COVID-19 second wave | Photo: PTI

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, on Monday (February 1), said the Union Budget 2021, presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, is deceitful, anti-poor and anti-farmers, and claimed that it has nothing substantive for Bengal.

Her Assam counterpart, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, on the other hand, was all praises for the budget and said the focus on agriculture, connectivity and fishery etc would considerably help Assam.

Kolkata-Siliguri road already underway, claims Banerjee

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Banerjee said, while addressing a rally in North Bengal, that the allocation for road projects in Bengal was a mere announcement keeping an eye on elections.

“What new road projects they (the Centre) will build? Works on Kolkata-Siliguri road is already going on under a ₹ 32,000-crore project. So I say it is a deceitful budget,” she said.

Also read: Budget 2021: Winners and losers 

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

Banerjee said the ₹ 1000 crore package announced in the budget for the tea garden workers of Assam and Bengal is an election gimmick.

“Last year the government had announced the reopening of closed tea gardens. Without fulfilling that promise fulfilled, the Union finance minister has now come up with another promise,” Banerjee said.

West Bengal’s finance minister, Amit Mitra, elaborated on Banerjee’s claims and said the Trinamool government has already built over 88 thousand kilometres of rural roads and over 5 thousand kilometres of state roads, since coming to power in 2011. “Works are on in another 1165 kilometres of state roads,” he added.

“What did you (Centre) do? You have woken up before elections to announce the construction of 625 kilometres of road,” Mitra said in a mocking tone.

Also read: Budget 2021 bets heavily on a sharp recovery, and therein lie the risks

He said even as the Centre itself acknowledged that it is the states that have been fighting against COVID-19, the budget has no clear indication of allotment to the states to deal with the pandemic.

“West Bengal has spent ₹4000 crore to fight the pandemic, but it has received only ₹ 279 crore from the Centre. Even the budget has no mention about state allocations,” Mitra pointed out at a press conference.

The outlay of ₹64,000 crore for healthcare schemes is also misleading, according to Mitra. He said the finance minister announced the amount would be allocated over six years without clearing the current year’s outlay.

“Where is the break-up of outlay to be made over six years?” he asked.

Both Banerjee and Mitra claimed that the only clear roadmap in the budget was about how to “sell off government assets” and that the increase in the FDI limit in the insurance sector to 74 per cent has put the life insurance of millions of people in threat.

“This government is on a selling spree. At this rate, one day it will sell the country,” Banerjee said.

‘A disappointing budget’: Gaurav Gogoi

Stating that the budget is pro-poor and pro-middle class, Sonowal thanked the finance minister for making special allocations for Assam.

Congress leader and MP from Assam Gaurav Gogoi, however, differed with Sonowal’s assessment and said it is a disappointing budget focused on selling public-owned assets to 12-15 major corporate houses.

“Th rest of India, which is struggling with rising costs, unemployment and corruption has to reconcile with a meaningless ‘Atmanirbhar’ slogan,” Gogoi told media persons.

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