Guwahati, Feb 12 (PTI) A host of women-centric schemes were doled out by the Assam government on Monday in its Rs 2.9 lakh crore budget for 2024-25 that included financial aid to educate 10 lakh girls up to post-graduation level to eliminate child marriage. In a year when the country will vote to elect the next central government, Assam Finance Minister Ajanta Neog did not levy any new tax on the common people or commercial establishments as well.
In an attempt to bring every family in the government job's network, she proposed a new law for giving five per cent weightage in total marks of a candidate applying in Grade-3 and Grade-4 posts if his or her family does not have anyone working in government or PSU firm.
She estimated an aggregate budget receipts of Rs 2,90,155.65 crore in 2024-25 against a proposed expenditure of Rs 2,88,560.71 crore, resulting in an estimated surplus of Rs 1,594.94 crore.
"This, together with the opening deficit of Rs 2,369.41 crore will lead to a Budget deficit of Rs 774.47 crore at the end of the financial year 2024-25," she added.
Talking about the size of the state economy, Neog said the GSDP is estimated to touch Rs 6.43 lakh crore during the next financial year as against Rs 5.7 lakh crore (advanced estimate) in 2023-24.
"We are not imposing any burden of additional tax on the people of Assam in the current budget," she added in her 100-page budget speech.
The Lok Sabha elections are likely to take place across the country, including Assam, in March-April this year, and the ruling BJP claimed earlier that the NDA will win 12 seats out of 14 from the state.
Announcing a new flagship scheme Mukhya Mantri Nijut Moina (MMNM), Neog in her Budget speech said that 10 lakh girls will be supported with financial grants as admission incentive to continue their education to higher secondary, graduation and post-graduation studies.
"This is to bolster the government's mission to eliminate child marriages. Apart from punitive and regulatory measures, we need to empower girl child to decide about when to marry," she added.
Neog, however, said the students will be eligible for this benefit only if they study in any government institute and are unmarried.
The girls will be provided an admission incentive of Rs 10,000 to girls for joining Class 11, Rs 12,500 for graduation first year and Rs 15,000 for the previous year of post-graduation, and these will be in addition to the existing benefits like free admission and providing scooty.
"I propose to set apart Rs 240 crore towards this scheme in this budget," Neog added.
She also said that the Assam Police is committed to combat child marriage, which is a severe violation of human rights, and arrested over 4,000 people in more than 5,000 cases during special drives under relevant laws.
In another flagship scheme for women -- Mukhya Mantri Mahila Udyamita Abhiyaan, the state government will provide an entrepreneurship fund of Rs 10,000 to each of 39,67,743 members of Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in rural areas, the Finance Minister said.
"Once they avail this benefit, we commit to facilitate a bank loan of minimum of Rs 25,000 to each beneficiary. Furthermore, upon the prudent utilisation and timely repayment of the loan amount, a capital subsidy of Rs 12,500 will be provided to the beneficiary.
"Thus, each beneficiary would get a minimum of Rs 47,500 as grant, subsidy and loan together," she said, adding the programme will be extended to urban areas also to cover around 2.5 lakh SHG members.
On the poverty alleviation scheme Orunodoi, which deposits Rs 1,250 monthly to women's accounts, Neog said 2.5 lakh additional beneficiaries will be added to the existing lot of 27 lakh recipients, taking the total reach to more than 30 lakh households in the state.
Earmarking Rs 3,800 crore for the scheme, she said the government will start linking Orunodoi beneficiaries with National Food Security Act (NFSA) with the help of their ration cards, besides considering insurance coverage under Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (PMJJBY) and Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY).
The Finance minister also announced the third phase of micro finance loan waiver scheme worth Rs 550 crore and said support will be offered to those poor women borrowers, whose accounts became non-performing assets before March 31, 2021 and have an outstanding principal amount between Rs 25,001 and Rs 50,000.
On the job front, she said one lakh government jobs will be provided during the NDA's five-year tenure from May 2021 and already 94,506 youths have been recruited till January 2024.
"Further, advertisements for 35,910 posts have already been published, taking the total jobs created to 1,30,416. You all agree that this is perhaps the first time such a record-level recruitment has taken place within the shortest possible time," she added.
Neog further said that there are many government jobholders in one family, while some families do not have even a single government employee, and opined that the presence of government employees in as many families as possible will augur well in terms of social equity in the recruitment.
"Keeping this in view, I am glad to announce that the government will provide 5 per cent weightage in total marks to the candidates from families who do not have even a single employee from the government or public sector. This shall be applicable in recruitment of all Grade-III and Grade-IV posts.
"In this regard, we shall come up with a new legislation during the current year," she added.
Neog said that the government in next financial year will construct 5,000 model Anganwadi centres with an outlay of Rs 1,250 crore, thereby completing the commitment of constructing 10,000 such units in the state. PTI TR PYK RG