Budget confusing, visionless: Oppn NPF

Correspondent KOHIMA, FEB 14 (NPN) | Publish Date: 2/14/2020 12:53:14 PM IST

Opposition members on Friday described the Budget 2020-2021 placed in Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA) by chief minister Neiphiu Rio on Thursday as confusing, visionless, anti-farmer, anti-development and hollow. Initiating the debate on budget, opposition member Kuzholuzo Nienu termed it confusing, disturbing and visionless, adding Rio’s address was more like an Independence Day or Republic Day speech.

He also expressed concern over news that tourism properties were becoming VIP farm houses and individual properties of politicians, bureaucrats and government officials, including those retired. He demanded that the government should investigate without any reservation and bring to light those involved and book them, if found guilty, even as he stressed that comprehensive tourism policy was the need of the hour. 

And considering the annual expenditure to the tune of Rs 600 crore in transport department, as replied in his unstarred question, Azo said the government should put a total ban on purchase of government vehicles like Mizoram government had done. This would save government exchequer and the saved money could be used for development purposes

Taking part in the discussion, NPF legislator YM Yollow demanded completion of the Foothill Road project and stressed on concentrating more on such projects.

Pointing out how Nagas cleared Central civil service exams by using ST quota, he demanded that even within Nagaland, reservation should be made for the backwards.

He also wanted to know from the government the amount of money collected from issuing of ILP and what was done with it.

Opposition member Dr Chumben Murry mentioned that India was going through a fiscal stress and warned that Nagaland was bound to be affected.

He questioned whether the proposal to deduct salary from State government employees for developmental activities and ban on new appointments and purchase of vehicles was an indication of things to come. 

He suggested more austerity measures and opined that passing of huge supplementary demands for grants was not healthy.

Murry observed that though the government intended to develop human resource, double farmers income by 2022, achieve pork sufficiency and build good roads, yet the budget did not reflect how these was all going to be achieved, adding that the PDA government knew what was required but did not know how to go about.  

He explained that budgeting was usually of two types – simple incrementing budgeting and broad-based activity-oriented budgeting – and said the government talked about activity-based development but presented incremental budget with 16.86% increase over the previous year’s budget.

He said there were 78,367 unemployed Naga youths, of which 40,000 could be educated unemployed, and cautioned the government to have serious consideration lest these people take to insurgency.

Stressing that a budget should talk about growth and State’s GDP, Murry questioned the targets of the government and asked how it was planning to achieve growth. He said there were many unanswered questions in the budget.

While appreciating the move on tax reforms on heavy non-transport machineries and petroleum products, he asked why commercial buildings were not included.

Taking part in the discussion, opposition MLA Dr Chotisuh Sazo asked the government whether the career guidance and employability programme, hosting tournament, TAFMA were achievements when argi allied sector was not mentioned.

Sazo alleged that budget focused on singing, dancing, fashion, festivals and tours, but did not have any programme for the weaker section. He asked the government to maintain 37% reservation for the backward in jobs. 

On the proposal for declaring Nagaland an organic State, he maintained that it would be difficult to declare the whole State organic at one time, and suggested bringing certification agency and focusing on specific areas, which would help farmers fetch good market price for their produce. 

He said the government must pay more attention and improve existing pork breeding stock, instead of procuring pigs from the United Kingdom, as the State had good breed of pigs.

He described the budget as anti-farmer, anti-development and hollow. 

On his part, opposition member Yitachu appreciated the government for revealing the difficulties it was facing and for seeking support from all legislators. He exuded confidence that with the setting up of core committees the Naga political issue would be pursued with sincerity to achieve lasting peace. 

He maintained that equal opportunities should be given to all, else there would be negative impact. He said the government’s presence should be felt even in remotest areas of the State.

On the holy land tour mentioned in the budget, Yitachu opined that the government could instead name Molungkimong and Molungyimsen in Mokokchung district, the two villages on Naga soil where Christian missionaries first set their foot, as “Christian pilgrimage villages”. He urged transport minister to develop helipad in these two villages so that people from far and near could visit. 

Yitachu also stressed opening roads along international borders to take advantage of Government of India’s Act East policy as opening the roads would lead to increased trade with the neighbouring countries. He insisted that department of under developed areas (DUDA) should take this project and open roads as youth could get gainful activities for livelihood and the State’s economy would grow.  

According him, as the State did not have its own resources, sustaining huge government employees (1,25,255) would always be difficult. Pointing out that the figure had been further increased by 2,600, he cautioned that the fiscal burden would only increase.

Observing that demand for grant was placed in other charges, Yitachu said there was no clarity and asked whether the government intended to keep confusing the people without identifying what project was earmarked. He demanded that this trend of budget presentation should be stopped as it did not contain any progressive agenda, nothing for youth and lacked transparency on financial matters. 

Opposition MLA Imkong L Imchen remarked that some of the important and major departments did not find mention in the budgetary allocation. He backed his party colleague Yollow’s demand for Foothill Road, stating that the project was becoming more controversial and reminded the House that the project was initiated by TR Zeliang.

He asked Rio to clarify why the project had not been completed till date as the road was very important for the Nagas.

Mentioning that travellers between Kohima and Dimapur faced huge difficulties because of frequent landslide even as the State lost money, he suggested that the government worked out a formula of one-time dispensation for the Jotsoma by-pass by realigning and making it a two lane road. 

Opposition member Keneizhakho Nakhro raised water supply and traffic congestion issues in Kohima and Dimapur and appealed to the government to give attention on these two issues.

NPF member K Khalo raised the issue of discrepancies in appointments where backward reservation was not maintained. 

Taking part in the debate, PHE minister, Jacob Zhimomi pointed out that the state government was facing a resource crunch and therefore urged the 14th Finance Commission to give due consideration in covering the revenue deficit and recommending state specific grants to ensure minimum development in the state. 

Advisor I&PR, SCERT & Village Guards, Toshi Wungtung while supporting the budget gave a brief history of ILP, Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulations and its implications on the Nagas and the neighbouring States. He said that the Budget lays great emphasis on the projects and progress of Naga people also keeping in mind the Indo- Naga relationship.

The opposition members got a shot in the arm after minister G Kaito Aye who, during his participation in the discussion, pointed out various loopholes in the government, including non-appointment of administrative officers and touched issues in AH&VS, RD, School Education, Health and Road, though he concluded his speech by terming the budget as “good and people-friendly”. 

Opposition members, Amenba Yaden and YM Yollow also took part in the debate.

Budget without any specific policies: LoP

 Winding up the discussion on budget, Leader of the Opposition Party, T.R. Zeliang termed the Budget 2020-21 “empty bowl” without any specific policies of the government to be taken up in the current financial year.

Zeliang  said that the budget made no mention of any new investments or projects for economic development and generation of income. Other than the tax on heavy machineries and the hike in petroleum products, Zeliang said the budget speech was just like the 2019-20 speech which was focused more on entertainment.

On the Finance Commission team’s visit to the state, Zeliang regretted that there was no mention of any commitments given by the Commission, which proved that the state government failed to convince the Commission and get convincing answers from them to help the poor financial state of the State.

On Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), Zeliang demanded that the Assembly resolution of February 25, 2019 should be rectified because it was not an Assembly resolution but government resolution as opposition members had walked out of the budget session then to avoid confusion.

He opined that leader of the House (LoH) calling people, who had opposed PDA government’s stand vis-à-vis CAA, as “anti-Naga” was not right and advised the government to be careful in handling such sensitive issues.

He regretted that even though the opposition members had raised many pertinent points during the debate on the motion of thanks to governor’s address, satisfactory answers were not provided in the governments reply, particularly on CAA.

He said Nagaland should have rejected the Act, like the governments in Kerala and West Bengal, and boldly spoken out against it as its implications in the long run was known by all. 

On RIIN, Zeliang said he was disheartened to note that the government had failed to mention the status and the policies of RIIN.

LoO also questioned the status of Investment and Development Authority of Nagaland (IDAN) and wondered what role it had played in bringing more investment/revenue to the state.

Further, he alleged that goods transporters from outside the State were not willing to send their trucks inside Nagaland because of illegal taxation, which was going rampant, as the government had turned a blind eye. He said this had a major negative economic impact on the State, for which the government must pay attention and take corrective measures at the earliest.

He alleged that there was no mention of any policy or programme for improvement and enhancement in agri allied sector though FC had advised giving more focus on this sector during its members’ visit.

On Naga political issue, he appealed to the members to work earnestly and with all sincerity to help reach a solution at the earliest.

In road sector, Zeliang expressed delight that a committee was promptly constituted to look into the anomaly arising out of non-adherence to the specifications mentioned in sanction order for two-lane road reconstruction from Purana Bazaar to Golaghat road in Dimapur.

He also suggested to the government to let the committee look into the two-lane road that was constructed from Chümoukedima to Patkai bridge as the sanction order specifically mentioned that it had to be total reconstruction and not carpeting on top of the existing road.

Zeliang appreciated the government and advocate general for the favourable order of high court regarding Nagaland House in Kolkata and opined that the interim order of the court should now stop accepting of Rs 7 lakh per month which the tenants paid to the government and stick to the current market rate of Rs 2.20 crore per month.  

Regarding budget, Zeliang said from 2018-19 to 2019-20, Rs 570 crore was accumulated into the state’s overall deficit, while in 2019-20 the opening negative balance of the state was Rs 1,661.68 crore. However, Zeliang said in the 2020-2021 budget, the figure of negative balance was Rs. 2234.85 crore, which meant  that in a span of one year a total of Rs. 573.17 crore deficit was accrued.

For a small State like Nagaland, he said to incur such astronomical deficit figures within a span of one year would be disastrous and lead to a total breakdown of the State financial position.

Zeliang also said that the increased devolution would not be enough to rescue the State from the shortfall to take up developmental works.

He concluded by saying that the budget speech contained too much rhetoric and less substance and asked the government to seriously ponder and take up sustainable measures to improve the living standards of all the people in the State and not just a select few.

Meanwhile, LoH and chief minister Neiphiu Rio will reply on Saturday, after which the Budget will be put to vote.


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