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Mobiles, laptops as sops in election year

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi has sought Rs 11,741.42 crore as estimated expenditure up to July 31 during the 2011-12 fiscal. A fraction of this sum is for mobile phones and laptops.

india Updated: Feb 01, 2011 19:43 IST

It’s raining gadgets in poll-bound Assam.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi has sought Rs 11,741.42 crore as estimated expenditure up to July 31 during the 2011-12 fiscal. A fraction of this sum is for mobile phones and laptops.

Presenting an interim budget on Tuesday, Gogoi announced a slew of schemes to accelerate the pace of development in Assam. The Opposition termed them populist, aimed at the Assembly election to be held by May.

The interim budget envisages providing mobile phones to 26,000 Asha (health) workers, 52,000 Anganwadi workers and an equal number of Anganwadi helpers for better connectivity.

Some 1,000 gaonburahs (village heads) have already been given medium-range handsets to “stay in touch”.

If that were not enough, the interim budget has also factored in laptops for accredited journalists as well as those who have completed 10 years in the profession. Scribes have also been offered an interest subsidy of 3% on housing loan obtained from the Assam Cooperative Apex Bank.

“The Congress-led government, it seems, is relying on gadgets to earn votes. But what about the basic needs?” said Asom Gana Parishad president Chandra Mohan Patowary.

“These (gadgets) are not at the cost of issues that matter more for the common man,” countered a government spokesman.

The new schemes, he pointed out, include providing nutritional support of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 for tuberculosis and malaria patients. Assam has one of the highest incidences of these fatal diseases in India.

Then there are free uniform to be provided to all students up to class 7, creation of Small and Marginal Farmers’ Development Corporation, Employment Generation and Skill Development Authority and a rehabilitation authority for erosion-affected people.