Budget 2021: Sitharaman’s 2.25k crore infra push for 4 poll-bound states

Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala and Assam are the major states going to polls in April-May this year and the budget comes at the time of farmers agitating at Delhi bor-ders against the new farm Bills
People watch finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman presenting Union Budget 2021-21 on television sets, at an electronics store in Prayagraj on Monday. (PTI)
People watch finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman presenting Union Budget 2021-21 on television sets, at an electronics store in Prayagraj on Monday. (PTI)
Updated on Feb 01, 2021 08:38 PM IST
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By Divya Chandrababu/Tanmay Chatterjee/Utpal Parashar/Ramesh Babu

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s 2021 budget had special focus on the four election-bound states with allocation of 225,000 crore for infrastructure projects in these states.

Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala and Assam are the major states going to polls in April-May this year and the budget comes at the time of farmers agitating at Delhi borders against the three farm Bills passed in the monsoon session of Parliament in 2020.

Of these states, Sitharaman announced maximum 1.03 lakh crore for Tamil Nadu, where this money would be used in the next five years for infrastructure. The projects for which money will be used includes a Madurai-Kollam corridor and Chittoor-Thatchur corridor which connects Tamil Nadu’s districts with neighbouring states of Kerala and Andhra Pradesh.

The construction of the controversial Chennai -Salem corridor of 277 km expressway will start in 2021-22. The project has been opposed by farmers since its announcement in 2018 but the Supreme Court, in December 2020, upheld the land acquisition notifications.

The 278 km Bengaluru-Chennai expressway will also be initiated in the current financial year and construction will begin in 2021-22, the document showed. Sitharaman said coastal Tamil Nadu will also benefit from a multipurpose seaweed park proposed to be established to “promote seaweed cultivation” and “provide large scale employment and additional incomes.”

Coastal city of Chennai is also among the five major fishing harbours, announced across the country, to be developed as a hub of economic activity. “I am proposing substantial investments in the development of modern fishing harbours and fish landing centres,” said Sitharaman. The other harbours will be in Kochi, Visakhapatnam, Paradip, and Petuaghat.

Also read | Budget 2021: 75,100 cr allocated for farmers; agri credit target raised

Tamil Nadu could also benefit from additional infrastructure push through 600 km section of Mumbai- Kanyakumari corridor in Kerala, which passes through western coast. This was part of the projects announced for Kerala at the cost of 65,000 crore. Central funding will be provided to Chennai Metro Railway Phase-II of 118.9 km at a cost of 63,246 crore, the minister said.

Kochi Metro would get 1,957 crore and the existing network will be extended by 11.5 kms. Kochi sea port will also be converted as a major business hub, the minister said. The FM has doubled the cap of no double taxation for non-resident Indians from 5 crore to 10 crore to sway about three million NRI population from the state.

Opposition leaders said some of the provisions were part of earlier announcement. “It is disappointing without a road map for acceleration. It was just an extension of the minister’s earlier announcements. Sell-out of the PSUs has been accelerated,” said Revolutionary Socialist Party leader and MP, N K Premachandran.

For West Bengal, the FM proposed 25,000 crore for road infrastructure development and renovation of roads connecting Kolkata to Siliguri, the biggest town in north Bengal. In north Bengal, the BJP had won seven of the eight Lok Sabha seats in 2019.

Sitharaman also announced that 675 km of roadway will be developed and there will be freight corridors between Kharagpur in West Midnapore district and Vijaywada, and between Dankuni in Hooghly district and Gomo in Bihar. A 1,000 crore package for development of tea industry in Bengal and Assam was also announced in the budget.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee reacted sharply, saying that the BJP makes such announcements for states just before polls. “This is an anti-farmer, anti-people, anti-country budget. They are selling all PSUs. My finance minister Amit Mitra said it is disguised and camouflaged to deceive people. We do not need money to build roads. We will make our roads. Give this money to farmers. And why announce another 1,000 crore for tea industry when you have not kept your old promises,” she said.

For poll-bound Assam, Sitharaman announced a sum of 34,000 crore for construction of 1,300 km of national highways in the next three years. This is in addition to the nearly 19,000 crore worth of work on national highways in the state at present.

Reacting to the budget, Assam Congress president Ripun Bora tweeted, “The BJP government has made Parliament the place to launch election manifestos for assembly elections. This budget is nothing more than an election manifesto full of ‘jumlas’.”

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Tuesday, October 19, 2021