By Zaidul Haque,
Kolkata: In its new budget, Trinamul Congress led West Bengal Government has allocated Rs. 2033 crore for minority welfare, an increase of over seven thousand crore from last year’s budget.
On Friday afternoon, Finance Minister of the state Amit Mitra presented the budget for financial year 2015-16. The Government estimated the budget expenditure Rs. 49,507 crore, from previous financial year’s Rs. 42,694 crore.
WB CM Mamata Banerjee and Finance Minister Amit Mitra claimed that the allocation of Rs. 2033 crore for minority and madrassa welfare is highest not only in the state, but in the entire country.
The focus of this year’s budget appeared to be on school education, urban development, minority welfare, etc. Overall plan commitment of 2015-16 financial year increased 16 percent, but the plan expenditure of Minority Affairs and Madrasa education increased 17.04 percent.
Not only minorities, but the West Bengal Government has also stressed on the development and welfare of the backward classes. Against allocation of Rs 377.66 Crore in 2014-15, this year the government has proposed Rs. 438.50 crore for the welfare of backward classes.
In this year’s budget, Rs. 8055 crore has been allocated for school education against Rs. 6884.50 crore in the last year.
In the Budget Speech of 2015-16 Financial year State Finance Minister Amit Mitra said, “West Bengal’s economy is reaching new heights. The Government of India has from 2014-15 adopted a new evaluation method for growth determination of the economy. There are different opinions among economists on the new method of evaluation. The basic controversy is due to unexpected growth arrived at for the national economy. Despite this controversy, in 2014-15 as per the new evaluation method, the gross value added (GVA) of the state registered a 10.48% growth as compared to the country’s GVA of 7.5%,” adding, “Bengal is ahead and will remain ahead.”
Concerning the empowering of the minority communities Mitra showed some unprecedented achievements of the state government. He claimed in his budget speech that the TMC government has increased the minority development budget by over three times from the previous Left Front government (646.19 Crore) to Rs. 2033 crore.
Detailing the ‘achievements’ of his government, he said that since 2011, 75 Lakh students from different minority institutions were provided scholarships of Rs. 1392 Crore which is almost an eight times increase over the comparable period (2007-08 to 2010-11).
In 151 blocks of 16 districts with minority concentration, social infrastructure development projects worth Rs. 1126 crores have been taken up, he also reminded.
In last three years, West Bengal government has taken up the construction of 1870 boundary wall of public graveyards. The campus of the Aliah University is being built at a cost of Rs. 236 Crores in New Town, at the outskirt of Kolkata at a cost of Rs. 236 crore.
The third Haj House is also under construction in New Town at a cost of Rs. 97.67 Crore. 20 Minority Bhawans in all districts are being constructed, out of which 15 Bhawans have already started functioning.
123 Marketing hubs are also under construction for providing self-employment and marketing facilities to farmers and artisans from the minority communities. Besides, 279 hostels would be made which will benefit about 20 thousand minority students.
Substantial expenditure has also been made for grant of scholarships, distribution of bicycles etc. Mitra said, during 2014-15, 23 Lakh Minority students will be provided Pre-Matric and Post Matric Scholarship taking figure to 80 Lakh students since May 2011. More than 2.14 Lakh minority girl students are being given bicycles at a cost of Rs. 61.7 crore.
Mitra loudly said, Urdu has been made state official language in place where more than 10 percent people are Urdu speaking. The Urdu Academy in Kolkata has also been renovated and Urdu Cultural Centers are being set up in Asansole and Islampur.
Amit Mitra declared the increment in the amount given under `Kanyashri’ Scholarship from Rs. 500 to Rs. 750 and allocated for this project Rs. 850 crore.
State Finance Minister concluded his budget speech with a famous poem of Kazi Nazrul Islam.
Opposition parties, however, did not appear very happy with the new budget. The CPIM led Left Front and the Congress party called it non-practical budget.
Congress Legislative Leader in West Bengal Assembly, Dr Manas Bhuiya called it an aimless budget and wondered how the state government will meet the deficit of fund.
Former Finance Minister of the state, Ashim Dasgupta claimed that Mitra is giving fudged data, pointing that the government has not recruited 40 lakh youths as claimed by him.
Opposition leader in the Assembly, CPIM’s Suryakanta Mishra claimed that the state Government is misguiding people to show the previous achievement, pointing that several projects were actually started by the previous Left Front Government.
However, none of the Opposition leaders said anything about the increase in fund allocated for the minorities.