New Delhi: Poll-bound states — Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal — have received a massive infrastructure boost in Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s Budget 2021.
In her Budget speech in Parliament Monday, Sitharaman announced specific road infrastructure plans for all four states, as well as welfare schemes for tea workers in Assam and West Bengal.
The upcoming assembly elections are crucial for the ruling BJP, which is hoping to come to power in West Bengal by toppling incumbent Mamata Banerjee and retain its government in Assam. In Tamil Nadu, it is an ally of the ruling AIADMK, while in Kerala, it is looking to grab a foothold.
Giving details about the highway projects in these states, the finance minister said that Tamil Nadu will see an investment of Rs 1.03 lakh crore for building 3,500 km of roads, including the Madurai-Kollam and Chittoor-Thatchur corridors. Construction for these will start next year.
Kerala will get Rs 65,000 crore for 1,100 km of roads, while West Bengal will get Rs 25,000 crore for 675 km, and Assam will get Rs 34,000 crore for 1,300 km.
“To further augment road infrastructure, more economic corridors are also being planned… (such as) 675 km of highway works in the state of West Bengal at a cost of Rs 25,000 crore, including upgradation of the existing Kolkata-Siliguri road,” Sitharaman said.
“More than 13,000 km of roads, at a cost of Rs. 3.3 lakh crore, have already been awarded under the Rs 5.35 lakh crore Bharatmala Pariyojana, of which 3,800 km have been constructed. By March 2022, we would be awarding another 8,500 km and complete an additional 11,000 km of national highway corridors,” she said in the Budget speech.
Vijaywada in Andhra Pradesh, another state where Sitharaman’s party is looking to gain a foothold, is the focal point of numerous projects too.
“We will undertake future dedicated freight corridor projects namely East Coast corridor from Kharagpur (West Bengal) to Vijayawada, East-West Corridor from Bhusaval (Maharashtra) to Kharagpur to Dankuni (in West Bengal) and North-South corridor from Itarsi (Madhya Pradesh) to Vijayawada. Detailed project reports will be undertaken in the first phase,” said Sitharaman.
The Budget also saw announcements for Kochi Metro railway phase II and Chennai Metro Railway phase II.
Sitharaman said seaweed farming will be promoted, and announced a multi-purpose seaweed park that will be established in Tamil Nadu.
“Seaweed farming is an emerging sector with potential to transform the lives of coastal communities. It will provide large scale employment and additional incomes. To promote seaweed cultivation, I propose a multipurpose seaweed park to be established in Tamil Nadu,” she said.
The finance minister announced a special scheme for tea workers in Assam and West Bengal. “I propose to provide Rs 1,000 crore for the welfare of tea workers, especially women and their children, in Assam and West Bengal. A special scheme will be devised,” she said.