For the first time ever the Chief Minister of West Bengal presented the annual budget in the assembly on Friday. Incidentally, it was also the first time that a woman did so in the state.
The opposition was not impressed. The Congress and the Left stayed away because they felt that the opposition’s voice was being throttled in the assembly and the ruling Trinamool was dominating the space in the house.
“Was that a budget? It was a bluff on the people of Bengal,” said Congress MLA Manoj Chakravarti, adding this was supposed to be an interim one but Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is facing an election in two-three months, went ahead and presented a full budget which she should not have.
The BJP’s MLAs, who were present in the house when the budget session began, walked out demanding to know why the governor had not been invited to open the session of the assembly at the start of the New Year, which was a tradition. They said it was an insult to the governor.
In the nearly Rs 3 Lakh-Crore Bengal budget presented by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today just months ahead of the assembly elections, the priorities were clear and clearly poll driven.
Six different groups of socially, religiously, culturally and linguistically different groups of people were allotted Rs 350 crore for schools that would address their specific needs.
- Rs 50 crore for hundred new English medium schools for SC/ST and poor people.
- 500 new schools will be opened where language of the Santhals will be taught. Rs 100 crore for that.
- Rs 50 crore for 100 new schools for Nepali, Hindi, Urdu, Kamtapuri and Kurmali language-speaking students.
- 200 schools for Rajbongshi language speakers.
- Rs 50 crore for government-recognised but unaided madrassas in the state.
With this allocation, the Chief Minister has addressed the concerns of a vast set of people, especially the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe, who comprise 27% of the state’s population, next only to the minority voters.
The Trinamool, according to sources, believes the BJP is targeting the SC/ST community for the coming elections. Hence, Rs 500 crore have been allotted in the next financial year to build 20 lakh new houses for them.
Mamata Banerjee had announced free rations to the pandemic-hit masses till June 30, 2021. In the budget, she has allocated Rs 1500 crore for that.
“I am happy to announce that the free ration (scheme)n will continue even after June, 202,” she said
The other big-ticket allocations include Rs 1,000 crore for pensions for everyone in the state above the age of 60, and Rs 1500 crore for the health insurance card – Swasthya Sathi – that many believe may be a game changer in the upcoming elections.
The largest allocation has been made to employment generation. Rs 12,030 crore have been allocated for implementing programs like MNREGA and Matir Srishti Orland.