One eye on polls, Mamata focuses on welfare schemes, rural thrust in budget

Banerjee, who would be seeking a third term, said that unprecedented development had been observed in all spheres of the state in 2020 compared to 2011.
With an eye on the upcoming assembly polls, West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, presented a budget on Friday heavily focused on welfare schemes and rural development.

Banerjee began her speech highlighting the twin challenges faced by Bengal during the year – Covid-19 and the Amphan cyclone. 

“Bengal fought fervently against the challenges of the pandemic, Amphan and deprivation of the central government and remained undaunted and undefeated. Standing against all these odds, we have not only been able to check Covid-19 pandemic, but also been able to mitigate the losses arising from Amphan to a great extent and held the glory of Bengal,” she said.
The budget was presented by Banerjee as Finance Minister, Amit Mitra, could not, on health grounds. Banerjee presented a budget of Rs 2,99,688 crore, an increase of 17.21 per cent over last year. The allocation under panchayat and rural development at Rs 23,983.27 crore is one of the highest. 

About two million new pucca houses for scheduled caste and scheduled tribes will be built over the next five years. Sops were announced for farmers with an enhancement in financial aid from Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,000 and minimum aid from Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000.

A new scheme “Matri Bandana” under which 10 lakh new SHGs will be formed for poor women has been proposed. Banerjee said that Rs 25,000 crore loan will be provided to these SHGs in the next five years from banks- mainly cooperative banks.

The focus on building roads in rural Bengal will continue as Banerjee announced 46,000 kn new rural roads under “Pathashree scheme” over the next five years. Since 2011 (when the TMC government came to power), 89,574 km of new rural roads have been constructed. “We shall connect all rural roads with state highways in the next five years,” she said. 

The government is expecting a quantum jump in tax collection, as state tax revenue is pegged to increase to Rs 75,415.74 crore. 

In a Covid year, the state fell short of its own collection target for 2020-2021. Against budget estimates of Rs 70,807.00 crore for 2020-21, revised estimates was at Rs 58,142.72 crore. 
Banerjee, who would be seeking a third term, said that unprecedented development had been observed in all spheres of the state in 2020 compared to 2011. 

Gross state domestic product has increased by 2.7 times, state revenue has increased 2.9 times, state plan expenditure has increased by 7.2 times, social sector expenditure by 5.6 times, agri and allied sector expenditure by 6.1 times and physical infrastructure expenditure by 3.9 times.

Finance Minister, Amit Mitra, who later joined a press conference virtually added that state tax collection was Rs 21,128.74 crore in 2010, which has been estimated to increase to Rs 75,416 crore, a growth of 3.57 times. He also said that debt to GSDP ratio was 40.65 in 2010-11, which has been estimated to reduce to 34.81 in 2021-22.

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