Respected Deputy Chairman,
Distinguished Members, Secretary
Principal Advisers, Advisers and Officials Present.
At the outset, I would like to convey my gratitude to the Planning Commission for extending their unstinted support to Assam during the first year of 12th Five Year Plan. I hope that this support would continue in this year as well and boost our morale for achieving a resurgent and prosperous Assam.
The projected growth rate of Assam in 2012-13 as per latest CSO estimate is 6.88 % which is better than the national average. Assam is in a
comfortable position to add further momentum to developmental activities by providing additional resources from its own kitty contrary to the prevailing scenario of expenditure compression to reduce fiscal and revenue deficits. Our prudent financial management has created this required fiscal space to propel the growth to even higher levels. Per capita income of Assam on the basis of NSDP (current price) in 2012-13 is estimated to be Rs. 42,036/- up from Rs. 37,250/- in 2011-12 (quick estimate). I expect an 8% growth rate in 2013-14 and more than 8% average growth rate in Assam during the entire XIIth plan.
We had ended the year 2011-12 with a revenue surplus of Rs. 927 crore. The fiscal deficit to GSDP ratio came down from 1.91% in 2010-11 to 1.43% in 2011-12, well below the target of 3%, as mandated by Fiscal Responsibility & Budget Management Act (FRBM). Assam’s debt as a proportion of GSDP has come down to 17.28% as in March 2012 as against prescribed limit of 28.3% by Thirteenth Finance Commission. Per capita debt and other liabilities of Assam stands at Rs.9359/- at the end of last financial year, far below the national average of Rs.18, 411/-.
For Annual Plan 2013-14, I had instructed all departments to prepare sector plan proposals rationally by benchmarking them with the resources available in Annual Plan 2012-13. I had also instructed them to drop the schemes that had served their purpose to be replaced by innovative and infrastructure development schemes to be financed through additional resources available after finalization of the Annual Plan.
I have proposed a detailed budget with a plan outlay of Rs.10550.60 crore along with an additional requirement Rs.5500 crore for innovative and infrastructure development schemes. Theseinnovative schemescover development sectors such as Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Fisheries, Rural Development, Handloom, Small & Cottage Industries, Health, Education, Women & Child Welfare, Welfare of SC & ST, Tea Tribes, Minorities and Other Backward Classes. These schemes are designed to meet specific targets. Scheme details are present in the Draft Plan documents already submitted to the Planning Commission.
Thus, for Annual Plan year 2013-14, I have proposed a total plan size of Rs.16050.60 crore.
I want to congratulate the Planning Commission for taking the step of introduction of flexible fund along with the restructuring of Centrally Sponsored Schemes and the schemes funded through Additional Central Assistance (ACA). However, I reiterate my suggestion made in my NDC speech to increase the flexible fund to 50% of total ACA as well as giving us flexibility of inter-schematic reorientation in a fiscal year based on mid-year performance review.
Utilization of plan fund had gone up from 78 % during Xth Five Year Plan to 86 % in XIth Five Year Plan. However, during first year of
XIIth plan i.e. in 2012-13, it went down to 75% due to unprecedented floods, problem of ethnic riots and implementation of Model Code of Conduct in Panchayat Election during the last quarter of 2012-13. It is also pertinent to mention thatthe amount shown in the Scheme of Financing for Annual Plan for most of the Central Earmarked Schemes and the amount released during the financial year does not match. I urge upon the Planning Commission to streamline fund release under Central Earmarked Schemes and under Special Assistance (SPA). I propose to introduce quarterly phasing of plan expenditure from the year 2013-14 to ensure full utilization of plan fund.
We cannot afford to just sit on our past achievements and we realize that we have to traverse a good deal more before we fulfill our vision. Development in all sectors backed by a strong sense of security with improved law and order is my mantra for progress. I have delineated my vision in detail in my NDC speech for XIIth Five Year Plan. Without going into intricate details of each sector, I wish to highlight the areas of Green Economy with sustainable growth, skill development, floods & erosion, education with employment generation, health and social welfare with focus on marginalized sections in my speech today.
We aim to grow with sustainable Agriculture. I am delighted to inform you that the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India has put Assam among ‘Highest Ranked States’ category in production of food grains. During 2012-13, agriculture sector grew at 7.5% (Quick Estimate) with anticipated rice production of 55 lakh MT. In this sector we had an average growth of 4.81% during XIth Plan as against negative growth of (-) 1.7 % during previous Plan. It was possible due to increase in spot irrigation through shallow-tube-wells and sprinkler irrigation, seed replacement, supply of fertilizers & quality seeds and free tools kits to small and marginal farmer groups.
The production of rice is targeted at 61 lakh MT in the year 2013-14. Emphasis will be given for achieving self-sufficiency in production of pulses and oil seeds under ‘Mission Double Cropping’. Ongoing schemes for construction of rural go-downs and cold storages will be continued in the year 2013-14. For creating market access for surplus vegetables from remote areas, it is proposed to provide 166 four wheelers such as auto-van and mini truck to farmer groups at 50% subsidy.
Special emphasis will be given on ‘Farm to Market’ programme for the benefit of small and marginal farmers. To encourage them we have
introduced schemes to provide agricultural implements free of cost and granted 75% ~ 85% subsidy on tractors and power tillers. While both, RKVY and NSFM, are playing a vital role in augmenting resources, we urge upon the Planning Commission to allow us to grant subsidy as per our proposal to small and marginal farmers under RKVY. The fund under RKVY should be released in a single installment before monsoon i.e. at the beginning of financial year itself to ensure agricultural inputs in time. An intensive programme on Integrated Nutrients Management is proposed to be taken up. I also propose to strengthen seven soil testing laboratories and four soil testing mobile vans.
Augmentation of Irrigation facilities to increase agricultural production and for optimum utilization of arable land by multiple cropping has reaped us good dividends in last plan. During 2013-14, the
works of ongoing projects of Dhansiri, Borolia and Buridehing will be carried out with AIBP funding. Another five irrigation projects namely Puthimari, Buroisuti, Dikhow, Buroi and Sukla are proposed to be take
up newly. Under Minor Irrigation, we target to complete 60 ongoing schemes with irrigation potential of 31,000 hectares and take up 104 new minor irrigation schemes with NABARD’s assistance.
Under Veterinary department, this year’s focus will be on fodder cultivation in unutilized land for benefit to farmers. Town Milk Supply Schemes will be revamped during 2013-14, in consonance with the objective of converting Assam from a milk deficient to a milk surplus state. We plan to establish 40 Bulk Milk Coolers, incorporate 12 insulated Milk Tankers and establish 540 sale booths for milk products in major milk consuming areas. Special programmes for enhancement of milk production will be taken on a pilot basis in Sonitpur and Nagaon districts and Sadiya Sub-division of the Tinsukia district. A Government goat farm will be set up in Jorhat district. To increase meat and eggs production, existing government poultry farms would be developed and financial support will be enhanced.
In Health, Millennium Development Goals continue to elude us despite our stellar performance in last ten years. We are implementing innovative programmes to provide affordable and accessible health care to all. Tezpur Medical College and Hospital is expected to be functional during 2013-14. Required fund for construction of new medical colleges at Kokrajhar, Dhubri, Lakhimpur and Nagaon districts and a 200 bedded Cancer hospital at Guwahati will be provided. Moreover, from 2012-13, construction of new building has been initiated for TB & Chest Hospital at Kalapahar, Guwahati under funding from Special Plan Assistance. A new AYUSH Directorate has been established in 2012 for the medical education of Ayurvedic and Homeopathic stream. Special emphasis will be given on Ayurvedic treatment and steps will be taken to set up one
more Ayurvedic college. One orphanage for HIV infected/affected children has also been established during 2012.
In the year 2013-14, I propose to initiate a Corporation to attract private investment and expertise in medical education and health care sector. I propose to set up a Health Management and Research Institute in
order to keep abreast with the developments in modern medicines and health care technology.
Fluoride and arsenic contamination of drinking water sources is still a serious problem. During 2013-14, I propose to cover 3100 quality affected and 5025 uncovered habitations by providing safe drinking water. I also propose to up-grade and strengthen 30 piped water supply schemes. In tune with Rs.1400 crore in the Union Budget
2013-14 for setting up water purification plants, I plan to provide additional resources over and above central share to launch a frontal attack on the problem.
I recognize the need to make Primary Education attractive so as to bring all the children to school and to provide qualified teachers to impart education in an effective manner. For appointment of Graduate and Post Graduate teachers in Primary and Secondary Schools, Teachers Eligibility Test (TET) has been made compulsory. We have almost completed the process for appointment of 11,500 TET qualified elementary school teachers in Government and Provincialized Lower and Upper primary schools. During 2012-13, financial incentives were provided to 12,855 Non-Government elementary schools. Rs.50 crore has been provided to award scholarship to 1, 00,000 elementary school students as a special incentive.
25 new Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas will be established under Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) to bridge the gap between male and female literacy. Ongoing schemes such as supply of free text books,
scholarship to meritorious students, mid-day meal will continue. Besides this, establishment of Model Schools and construction of 100 bedded Girls Hostel in each of the 81 Educationally Backward Blocks of Assam is under process.
We are committed to laying a sound foundation for students at Secondary Education level. In 2013-14, I propose to provincialize 1500 Secondary Schools. Smart classes will be introduced in four Government Secondary Schools. Science and Commerce streams will be introduced in a phased manner. The ICT scheme will also be extended to cover the recognized and aided venture schools.
For creating a conducive environment for Higher Education, infrastructure is of utmost importance. 41 Colleges were provided with funds for infrastructure like digital classroom and digital library in 2012-13. We have provided substantial amount of fund towards infrastructure development of Gauhati University, Dibrugarh University, Bodoland University, K.K.. Handique Open University, Cotton College State University and Kumar Bhaskar Varma Sanskrit and Ancient Studies University. Such support will continue in this financial year as well. A new university in the field of technical education called Assam Science and Technology University has been established.
Implementation of project called ‘Infrastructure Development of Rural Colleges’ approved in the year 2009-10 with financial involvement of Rs.75 crore under Special Plan Assistance (SPA) will be completed by the end of current financial year.
Assam is primarily a rural and agrarian state. Naturally, for us Rural Development is of paramount importance. The National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) is functional in Assam. It is now renamed as Aajeebika. There are more than 2.50 lakh SHGs in Assam of which 1,85,841 has passed Grade-I and out of which 1,24,657 have taken up economic activities (they have been provided with Revolving Fund). 1,01,509 SHG has passed Grade –II. For NRLM an amount of Rs. 3000.00 lakh is proposed in the Annual Draft Plan 2013-14 to reduce the poverty among the rural BPL families.
The current BPL list was prepared on the basis of BPL Census of 2002 but though the percentage of people living below poverty line has decreased over the years, number of BPL families has actually increased due to increase in population and bifurcation of families in the rural areas. An ongoing Socio Economic and Caste Census, both in rural and urban areas, will throw actual light on level of BPL families and provide a sound basis for estimating the families in need of Indira Awas Yojana (IAY). Presently, I propose an amount of Rs. 12200.00 lakh for 2013-14 at the revised unit cost of Rs. 75000/- per unit.
Under MGNREGA, Assam has 39.37 lakh Job Card holders and we expect that 421.00 lakh mandays will be generated during 2013-14. We have taken steps to roll out wage payment through Biometric system by introduction of smart cards by signing a MoU with SBI, CBI and
AGVB banks. I propose Rs. 12300.00 lakh as outlay for Annual Plan 2013-14 in MGNREGA.
We introduced CM’s Jeevan Jyoti Swaniyojan Yojana in the state plan which is a self employment generation programme implemented during the XIth Plan with a total outlay of Rs. 14600.00 lakh. During the year 2011-12, Rs. 5000.00 lakhs was spent for imparting training and materials for self employment among the rural BPL families. For Annual Plan 2013-14, an amount of Rs. 4000.00 lakhs has been proposed.
Another scheme out of state plan in the year 2013-14 is development of Model Gram Panchayat in each district with a unit cost of Rs. 500.00 lakhs.We have decided to name it after Srimanta Shankardev. It will involve concerted and integrated development of a backward GP by convergence amongst all development departments.
My Government is committed to empowerment of women and protection of child rights. Child Rights Commission in Assam and Juvenile Justice Board (JJB)/ Child Welfare Committee (CWC) in 27 districts have been constituted. Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls (SABLA) has been implemented in 78 ICDS Projects. Under Mukhya Mantrir Mahila Samriddhi Achoni, assistance is provided to Women SHG for various income generating ventures. In financial year 2013-14, assistance will be provided to 500 Women SHG.
We have noticed rise in the violence against women and children in the recent past. I intend to deal crimes against women and children with a very strong hand. I have sanctioned additional posts of women police to strengthen the women police cells. I plan to provide a mechanism for free legal aid to victims and establish fast track courts to try such cases.
I propose to set up a special fund in the year 2013-14 with an initial corpus of Rs. 5 crore for rehabilitation of victims of crimes related to women and children. I also propose to provide for exclusive women’s banking facilitythrough Assam Grameen Vikash Bank and other scheduled banks.
Under Social Welfare sector, we have achieved 100% target set by Government of India for Anganwadi Centers (AWC) by constructing 62,153 AWC by March-2013. Nutritious food stuff was provided for 201 days in 2011-1212 and 159 days during 2012-13 upto December-2012 under Supplementary Nutrition Programme. Assam is committed to universalizing ICDS and about 95% of children population is already covered. There are isolated pockets where more coverage is required. Necessary support is being provided to improve early childhood and pre-school education. Moreover, the statutory provisions under various Acts shall be addressed by my Government in terms of Child Care and Protection.
Floods disrupt AWC activities every year. Moreover, inflation has tossed aside the cost norms as fixed by Government of India for calorific values. Most AWCs lack proper infrastructure facilities like toilet, safe drinking water and separate kitchen for cooking. Government of India provides only Rs. 1.75 lakh as cost of each AWC as against Rs. 6.34 lakhs provided for construction of a AWC under Multi-sector Development Programme (MSDP) in minority dominated areas. I urge Planning Commission to revise cost norms both for SNP as well as AWC construction in-tune with the market prices.
My Government has accorded high priority to all-round development of SC/ST and OBC who constitute more than 44% of Assam’s population. Several schemes, namely, family oriented income generating schemes as well as distribution of tractors and power tillers were taken up for economic upliftment of BPL families in these categories during last year. Funds were also provided for infrastructure development. All these schemes will continue in 2013-14. We have also constituted eighteen Development Councils for backward and OBC communities for which Rs.49 crore was provided in 2012-13. I urge upon the Planning Commission to consider assistance for socio economic development of these communities on the lines of Special Central Assistance for SC and ST.
We are committed to welfare of tea tribes for which various schemes have been taken up with a special focus on skill development and employment generation. 51 skill development training centers have been set up with a capacity to train 5000 beneficiaries every year. For providing training especially to illiterate unemployed women, 100 handloom and handicraft units will be taken up in 2013-14. Schemes of sanitation under WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) will be continued in 2013-14.
I am also concerned about welfare and all round development of the people in hill areas. Having considered the need to protect the fragile hill ecology, the focus during successive plans was to induce the hill people to give up environmentally degrading practice of shifting cultivation through various schemes under Control of Shifting Cultivation. But, Planning Commission did not allocate any fund for this in Annual Plan 2012-13, which adversely affected various ongoing schemes. Of late, there is a suggestion for providing fund out of RKVY ,but I fear that this will delay the timely implementation of schemes. I urge upon the Planning Commission to continue earlier system and provide fund for the programme separately.
For Schedule-VI areas of Karbi Anglong, Dima Hassao and Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), I have been categorically stating on various platforms that they receive much less per capita central assistance as compared to a comparable population in the states carved out of Assam such as Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram. The share of Normal Central Assistance (NCA) of Assam provided to these areas during 2012-13 is much lower than the assistance received by Meghalaya at Rs. 3939 crores, Nagaland at Rs.2300 crores and Mizoram at Rs. 2300 crores. This anomaly has resulted in dawdling development of these areas and has resulted in development deficit and unrest. I urge upon the Planning Commission to resolve this anomaly by raising the Central Assistance under Hill Area Development Plan (HADP), to make up for this deficit.
My Government wants balanced regional growth within Assam. Lack of sufficient infrastructure in the Barak Valley and the areas bordering our neighboring states has development deficits that should be addressed for overall stability of the region. I have already announced Rs.1000 crore package for infrastructure development of Barak Valley. Rs.25crore out of SPA fund is allocated to a project for development of roads and bridges of Tinsukia District. I want to create infrastructure for skill up-gradation of youth particularly of Adivasi and Tea Tribes to provide employment in various sectors as well as to make them employable. Left Wing Extremism has sprouted in seven districts of Upper Assam region due to its development deficit. We have strong indications that these elements are especially strong in Tinsukia, Dhemaji, Golaghat and Dibrugarh districts. I recommend that these districts should be included under Integrated Action Plan so that their targeted development could be achieved.
My Government is aware of the social and economic problems caused by large scale Unemployment and it is determined to tackle the issue with a two pronged attack – firstly, by creating employment opportunities and secondly, by making our youths employable in varieties of skills and vocations. We have taken up skill development schemes for making youths employable in the organized and unorganized sectors. 2574 unemployed youths were trained during 2012-13 under career-coaching-cum-training programme. Steps have been taken up for extending facilities of Modular Employable Skill (MES) Schemes through the Assam Skill Development Initiative Society.
Collaborative arrangements are made between ITIs and automobile houses like Hyundai and TATA Motors to train unemployed youths. 22,868 youths have been trained by 107 registered Vocational Training Providers (VTP) and ITI. We will also take up various welfare schemes for the workers engaged in informal sector. 20,434 beneficiaries have
already been registered under Building and Other Construction Workers Act, till February 2013 for taking up various welfare schemes. Special drive has also been undertaken for prevention and identification of ‘Silicosis’, an incurable occupational disease.
Similar to National Skill Development Corporation, I propose to set up a State Skill Development Corporation involving corporate sector participation. Under the ongoing Multi-Disciplinary Skill Development scheme, training in various trades will be imparted at the block level. Various incentives will be provided to Small Tea Growers (STG) with the help of Tea Cess Utilisation Policy.
I believe thatMSME Sectorhas highest potential to generate self-employment particularly for the educated unemployed youths. As per estimation, there are more than 20 lakh unemployed people in Assam. Youth unemployment is also one of the key underlying
causes of social unrest and insurgency. Prominent industrial houses in the country have offered to help us for creating investment at grass root level for improving rural entrepreneurship, skill up-gradation, rural employment and financial inclusion. Appreciating this gesture, my government would like to set up Rs.10 crore Angel Fund for micro enterprises for inclusive growth in Assam which will be operated through financial institutions. Rs.1.5 crore will be provided for a Special State Capital Investment Subsidy upto a ceiling of Rs.3 lakh per unit for micro units set up by women and first generation entrepreneurs belonging to the SC, ST and physically handicapped categories.
Achievement of desired growth in XIIth plan is contingent upon the growth and development of industry and specially MSME sector. It is heartening to note that in 2012-13, credit flow to MSME sector grew by 32% compared to previous year. However there are few issues which require RBI’s intervention. It should sensitize financial institutions to give special emphasis on credit needs of MSME. In spite of the fact that banks are mandated not to accept collateral security for loans up to Rs. 10 lakhs to MSME under Credit Guarantee Scheme, we have come to know that a good number of banks are insisting on collateral security. Though, all public sector banks were advised to open at least one specialised branch for MSME in each district, the progress appears to be far from satisfactory. It is, therefore, necessary that RBI should intervene and fix definite timelines for banks to comply with this requirement.
The recommendations of the Prime Minister’s Task Force for providing credit to MSME sector at the concessional rate of interest should be implemented by the banks. All India norm of 90 days for declaring a loan as NPA should be revised to 180 days in case of Northeast India given the constrains faced by the entrepreneurs in establishing industries in this region.
Moreover, since release of subsidy by Government takes some time even after sanction, banks should make a provision of ‘bridge loans’ against receivable incentives under NEIIPP or State Industrial Policy for industrial units as an interim arrangement based on the sanctions given by Government authorities. This will go a long way in improving cash flow and in prevention of industrial sickness. We are committed to full support and cooperation including government grants and subsidies. Finally, as good a number of young entrepreneurs in Assam are of first generation, the banks should develop a suitable strategy for supporting them as a special case. Perhaps it is time that the banks should come up with a shelf of viable and bankable schemes and place them in the public domain for the benefit of young entrepreneurs.
My Government would like to facilitate development of two Logistic Hubs at main thoroughfares of Assam, one at Noapara in Bongaigaon district on the National Highway~31 and the other at Jagiroad on the National Highway~37. Accordingly an amount of Rs. 10 crore is proposed to be provided for preparation of DPR and incubation through Assam Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) Ltd.be considered.
Flood prone area of 31,500.00 Sq Km as assessed by Rastriya Barh Ayog is about 39.58 % of Assam’s total land area. This is about
9.40% of total flood prone area of India. During 2012-13, unprecedented floods in three successive waves in all 27 districts of Assam affecting
36 lakh people has had a devastating and crippling effect on the lives of the people and economy. However, I consider Riverbank Erosion a bigger culprit in dragging Assam’s economic growth. Not only has it consistently played havoc in the life of people but it has also resulted in loss of large land mass. Assam probably has the largest population anywhere in the world displaced by erosion and staying on embankments. Task-Force constituted by Government of India has evaluated that cumulative loss due to flood and erosion since 1954 is Rs.36,000 crores (2004 price level). Therefore, there is an urgent need for a permanent solution to protect Assam from further erosion and floods. Unfortunately, we can not avail of assistance from State Disaster Response Fund as erosion is not included in the list of calamities. As without erosion control, the problem of floods is only half addressed, an integrated flood management strategy needs to be taken up at the earliest. I request that river bank erosion be included in the list of calamities for funding under SDRF in the interest of stability in the region. A Special Package to tackle erosion effectively outside the Plan should be considered.
In this connection it is also worth mentioning that though Planning Commission reflects a considerable amount under Scheme of Financing for Annual Plan but its timely release needs immediate attention. Out of total Rs. 1500 crore shown in SOF for Annual Plan 2012-13 for AIBP, an amount of Rs. 1050 crore was allocated for flood management project out of which, an amount of Rs.535.50 crore was kept for legacy schemes and balance of Rs. 511.50 crore was allocated for new schemes. However, Government of India has released only Rs. 2.50 crore for legacy schemes and absolutely no fund for new schemes. The reason cited was that in 2012-13, the Empower Committee meeting on Flood Management Programme (FMP) Schemes under Ministry of Water Resource, Govt. of India was not held. Moreover due to involvement of multiple players like Brahmaputra Board, Central Water Commission and Planning Commission, the clearance of FMP schemes under AIBP takes about two years. All the schemes under FMP should be cleared by Ministry of Water Resources, in all respect by month of September to help us avail full working season for their execution.
Electricity is the engine of growth and development for improving quality of life. The peak demand of electricity in Assam is 1300 MW presently but the average power availability from our own sources and central sector allotment is 950 MW only. This situation is expected to improve after commercial production of first unit of ONGC Tripura Power Company Ltd, Palatana and commissioning of Bongaigaon Thermal Power Station of NTPC.
I propose to set up two solar power and storage project of 1 MW each at selected remote villages for agricultural purposes for which Rs.1.5 crore will be made available as the state share. 3 MW Stage –II and 6 MW Stage-I of Myntriang Small Hydro Electric Project will also be commissioned in 2013-14. Construction of 120 MW Lower Kopili Hydro Electric Project will also be initiated. As coal linkages are critical for implementation of thermal power projects, I seek intervention of Planning Commission for early allocation of coal and gas linkages. We have already furnished point wise data and information on fuel availability affecting power plants to Planning Commission as suggested in the 57th meeting of NDC held on 27th December, 2012.
After successful implementation of APDRP, Govt. of India initiated another programme called Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reform Programme (R-APDRP) to reform distribution sector during XIth Plan. In this the central share is made available through Power Finance Corporation (PFC) and the state share will have to be provided through the Annual plan. Funds under APDRP will be provided by Govt. of India as loan and would be partly converted into grant depending upon the achievement by states. I feel that such funding pattern would adversely impact upon progress in Assam. I request Government of India that 90% grant pattern as before should be continued in this programme. Further, the towns with population of 5000 may be brought under RAPDRP scheme in NE Region instead of all India benchmark of 10,000.
The world has crossed the infection point in urban population and now more than 50% of the total world population lives in urban environment. In Assam too, I see a similar trend. There are total 90 Urban Local Bodies (ULB) with total population of 33.24 lakh as per 2011 Census. These ULBs are mandated to provide and maintain infrastructure but face two restraints in the form of lack of resources and of managerial capacities.
We are strengthening ULBs through financial devolution from the State Finance Commission but we expect that additional resources would also flow from Central Finance Commission. ULBs are also being strengthened by legislative measures so as to give them the funds, functions and functionaries as mandated by the 74th Constitutional Amendments. We have initiated the reforms in property tax and accounting methods. Further, a bill has also been enacted to give effect to these reforms and also to provide 50% reservation for women in ULBs. I also propose to set up a Guwahati Metro for catering to the needs of this million plus city. However, I feel that these reforms will not be adequate to bring in the massive private investment required in infrastructure and consequently huge public investment is required to take care of infrastructure deficit in urban areas of Assam. The state’s resources alone would not be sufficient to meet this requirement. I urge you to continue and expend programmes like JnNURM by incorporating liberal norms and by committing 10% of the total resources for the North Eastern States.
Investment required for Infrastructure Projects in XIIth Plan is estimated at Rs.15000 crore. Typically, it will be phased over a period of 2~8 years. The projected fund requirement from Annual Plan 2013-14 is of Rs. 2500.00 crore. My Government has taken a number of initiatives for the improvement of the road infrastructure. 5000 KM of road works and 1250 RCC bridges are under various stages of construction. Special initiatives have been taken for conversion of existing timber bridges into RCC ones and construction of
roads along the interstate border. I would also like to reiterate my demand made in NDC meeting that construction of RCC Bridge should be funded up to the length of 100 metre under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) programme instead of the current norm of 50 metre.
In Assam, Ministry of Road Transport & Highways has declared two National Highways, one from National Highway No.1278 starting from Srirampur to Dhubri in Assam connecting Phulbari of Meghalaya and another National Highway No.315A starting from Tinsukia connecting Naharkatia- Hukanjuri and terminating at Aruanchal Pradesh. But the investment decision for construction of these two highways is yet to be taken. The proposal for up-gradation of Dhodar Ali to the standard of National Highway has been agreed in principle by Ministry of Road Transport & Highways but the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure is still awaited. These roads should be completed expeditiously.
Assam has a forest cover of 35.30% as per the State of Forset Report, 2009 published by Forest Survey of India (F.S.I.) and forest and tree cover of 37.33% of the geographical area both within and outside the notified forest area. This is more than 33% of the total geographical area that India aspired to achieve by the end of XIth Plan. We are making serious efforts to conserve bio-resources for sustainable use. Local biodiversity Management Committees (LBMCs) are being constituted. Serious efforts are also underway to protect the wildlife, more particularly Assam’s famous one horned rhino.
It is high time that we adapt to the changing climatic conditions by resorting to Green economy practices for environmentally compatible and long term sustainable development. We have taken steps to fill up the existing vacancies at various levels for better protection of forest and wildlife. Agreement for the Assam Project on Forest and Biodiversity Conservation was signed on 8th June, 2012 between Assam Government and the French Development agency. It is being implemented in all Forest Divisions covering 200 JFMCs and 28 Eco-Development Committees over a period of 5 years.
We are also implementing centrally sponsored schemes of ‘Project Tiger’ for preservation of tiger population of Manas, Nameri & Kaziranga Tiger Reserve, development and management of Assam State Zoo and scheme for integrated development of Wildlife Habitat. The funding pattern of these schemes is 50:50, though the Government of India has converted the funding pattern of other Centrally Sponsored Scheme to 90:10 between Union and the States. I recommend that the funding pattern of these schemes should also be converted to 90:10.
I have tried to express my concerns as succinctly as possible. The list is long and the path arduous. I hope that our plan size would be enhanced by Rs. 5500 crores to support holistic development of Assam. We have shown a steady improvement in utilization of plan funds. Our development indicators should always be seen in the background of difficult geo-social atmosphere that we are operating. These difficulties prompt me to ask for enhancing the flexible fund to 50% of total ACA as well as flexibility of inter-schematic reorientation, provision of 75% ~ 85% subsidy on tractors and power tillers to small and marginal farmers under RKVY and release of fund under RKVY in a single installment before monsoon. In order to achieve Millennium Development Goals, I ask for enhanced infrastructure support for health and education sector and revision of cost norms both for SNP as well as AWC construction. Assam’s social imbalances should be substantially addressed through special assistance for socio economic development of backward communities on the lines of Special Central Assistance for SC and ST and by raising Central Assistance under Hill Area Development Plan (HADP) proportionate to population in other states of the North-East India. I have proposed to rectify regional imbalances through infrastructure development of Barak river Valley and Naxalism affected region. The discontent amongst unemployed youth should be adressed by implementing recommendations of the Prime Minister’s Task Force on MSME for providing credit at the concessional rates of interest. Assam’s dwindling geographical area, human displacement and ethnic tensions has no remedy other than reduction in river bank erosion. It can be done through inclusion of erosion in the list of calamity for funding under SDRF and a Special Package to tackle erosion effectively outside the Plan should be considered.
For fixing the infrastructure sector woes, I want coal linkages for power sector, funding pattern under R-APDRP to be revised to 90% grant pattern as before and inclusion of the towns with population of 5000 instead of existing benchmark of 10,000 in NE Region. Under road sector I insist on construction of RCC bridges under PMGSY be funded up to the length of 100 meters instead of current norm of 50 meters.
Wisdom tells us that money in itself does not solve a problem; it is merely an aid to the solution. We have the resolve and vision to take Assam to newer heights with balanced and accelerated growth but we require your support in this noble cause. Planning Commission has always been supportive to us and, as a renewed gesture of that support, I urge the Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission to consider granting us an amount of Rs.16,050.60 crore proposed for the Annual Plan 2013-14.