The Assam state budget was presented in the state assembly by the state Finance Minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma on March 12. In the budget speech there are many references to Hindu scriptures, poems by distinguished Assamese scholars and also Robert Frost's "we have miles to go...". Though the Finance Minister acknowledges that the rest of India associates the image Assam with tea, there is no action plan in the budget to revive the struggling sector. The issues of flood and erosion, the major challenges for the state were not addressed appropriately.

Tea gardens and tea garden workers

The Finance Minister's speech had a number of references to the Tea garden workers. A number of welfare measures were announced. But most of these are ongoing schemes, and there is hardly anything innovative.The budget mentions that the tea industry is through uncertain times. Except for some relief measures to small tea growers nothing new is being envisaged. Assam's tea industry was established during the British Raj, but it is no more equipped to face the challenges of our times such as competition, labor dispute, and climate change.The government should have a more proactive role to ensure the survival of tea industry in Assam.

Flood control and erosion

Assam is ravaged by flood every year.

Many of its important towns and villages are already lost due to erosion caused by rivers such as Brahmaputra and Barak. Till recently the government publicized that dredging in Brahmaputra river will solve the problems of flood and erosion.But the budget speech indicates that the government only"contemplates" to do dredging in Brahmaputra and Barak rivers and "proposes" to purchase a "dredger" for the purpose.

Assam Tourism

The growth of tourism is crucial for the development of Assam. Priyanka Chopra, a well-known celebrity from Bollywood was recently hired as the brand ambassador of Assam Tourism.It was expected that the Finance Minister would present some cost-benefit analysis and way forward for utilization of the brand ambassador.

But unfortunately, the budget has no reference to Priyanka Chopra.

Power, industry and welfare measures

Like rest of India, the power scenario in Assam in dismal.While many Indian states have done well in power generation and renewable energy, Assam is yet to make any significant progress. The state discoms are in big losses, but the budget is silent on the path to recovery.The Finance Minister promises a revival of some already closed down industrial units, but the strategy is not spelled out.

The proposed stipend to young girls belonging to poor families for purchasing sanitary napkins is a good move. But we are not sure how will the government ensure utilization of the money for the intended purpose.