Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday, 1 February announced investment in highways, and the health and development of tea workers in the poll-bound states of West Bengal and Assam. The Finance Minister was tabling the Union Budget 2021 in the Indian Parliament.
In what is seen as a gesture to capture Bengal's imagination, the Finance Minister started her budget speech by quoting literary luminary from the state, Rabindranath Tagore.
"Faith is the word that feels the lights and sings when the dawn is still dark", the minister quoted.
Video Editor: Rahul Sanpui
Roadways & Development of Tea Workers
The Finance Minister announced 6,700 km of highway roadwork in West Bengal, including the upgradation of the existing highways between Kolkata and Siliguri in North Bengal, worth 25,000 crore.
For Assam, the Finance Minister said that currently, 19,000 crore of highway works was currently in progress. Further, 34,000 crore of highway work covering over 1,300 km will be completed in the state over the next three years, she announced.
Further, 1,000 crore was allotted for the development and betterment of tea workers, especially women and children in Assam and West Bengal.
Both Assam and West Bengal go to polls in April-May 2021.
'Taking Economy From ICU To Ventilator': West Bengal Government
The West Bengal government launched a scathing attack on the Central government and the Union budget.
West Bengal Finance Minister, Amit Mitra, said that the Centre was taking the economy from the "ICU to the ventilator".
"Before the budget, the Indian economy was in the ICU. But after the budget, it will go straight to the ventilator. This is an anti-people and thoughtless budget that leaves people at the bottom of the pyramid in every way" , said Mitra.
"GDP growth is at an 11-year low. Private consumption is at a seven-year low. Investment is at a 17-year low. Manufacturing is at a 15-year low. Agriculture is at a four-year low. But none of these areas were addressed in the budget", he added.
He also criticised the revision of tax slabs for the middle class in the Budget.
"When one bought a little place to live earlier, at least the interest was tax deductible. Now there is no relief on interest. This will have a serious impact on the housing industry, which - in turn - will affect agricultural income spending because construction labour comes from rural areas. They will not come anymore", Mitra said, concluding that the Budget was not just paperless, but also "vision-less".
“I am shocked and appalled to see how the central government plans to ambush the heritage and legacy of public institutions. It’s the end of a sense of security. Is it also the end of an era?”, tweeted West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee after the Budget speech.
Later, at a festival in Siliguri in North Bengal, Banerjee once again hit out at the Centre.
"Today a budget was tabled, don’t worry, prices will increase. Centre takes away everything using cess. They have done nothing for farmers, they have still not repealed the farm laws. Every day, they keep hiking fuel prices. What kind of budget is this? It is a fake budget! Anti farmer, anti-people, anti-country. They are selling off everything. Will you even get your insurance money? Even bank deposits are not safe anymore. Today they said they are selling insurance. So, you can never be sure if you will get your money. Rail is being privatised, BSNL, Air India, and all PSUs being privatised. Jobs of those working in PSUs are no longer secure," said Banerjee.
"They want to develop highways in Bengal before elections. No, we don’t need it, go save the farmers. We will look after our own roads", the chief minister further said, reacting to the allocation for road works in the state.
She also made a veiled attack at the recent defections from her party to the BJP.
"They don’t have money to ferry migrant workers but those who have looted crores are being taken to Delhi in chartered flights," she said.