The Assam government headed by Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Tuesday initiated the process to provide one lakh jobs to the unemployed youth of the state and to evolve strategies to waive the loans given by the micro-finance institutions to the rural people.
Chaired by Sarma, the first Cabinet meeting in the second term of the BJP-led government was held on Tuesday, during which several decisions were taken, including providing one lakh government jobs and waiving micro-finance loans.
After the meeting, Health Minister Keshab Mahanta said that a committee headed by Finance Minister Ajanta Neog has been constituted to prepare a roadmap for providing one lakh government jobs to the youth of the state.
The committee would prepare a report which would be submitted to the government at the earliest.
Other members of the committee include the Chief Secretary, the Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, and the Principal Secretary, Health, Education and Home.
During the meeting, another committee headed by Guwahati Development and Urban Development Minister Ashok Singhal was constituted to assess the financial involvement arising out of waiver of loans given by the micro-finance institutions to thousands of people, mostly in the rural areas.
Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister and the Principal Secretary for Finance, Planning and Rural Development would be the members of this committee.
Industries and Commerce Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary said that the Cabinet has also decided to increase Assam government’s stake in the Numaligarh Refinery (NRL) from the existing 12.35 per cent to 26 per cent.
He said that the total financial involvement to increase the government’s stake would stand at Rs 2,187 crore.
“The Cabinet directed the Finance Department to release the remaining Rs 1,687 crore financial involvements thus arising from this enhancement as the government has already paid Rs 500 crore for enhancing its stake,” the minister said.
Set up in eastern Assam’s Duliajan, the NRL was commissioned as per the provisions of the 1985 Assam Accord, signed after six years of Assam agitation launched to eject “illegal immigrants” from the state.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Tuesday allocated the finance portfolio to Ajanta Neog, making her the first woman Finance Minister of the northeastern state.
Neog, who was elected to the state Assembly from the Golaghat assembly constituency in eastern Assam, would also hold the social welfare portfolio.
After assuming charge in the finance department, Neog said that Chief Minister Sarma had announced after taking the oath on Monday that the aim of the new government is to make Assam one of the top five states in India in the next five years, and she would work and plan accordingly to achieve the target.
She said Sarma was the Finance Minister in the previous government headed by Sarbananda Sonowal and he did a lot to boost the economy of Assam.
“Sarma performed outstandingly well in the finance department and increased the state’s revenue share. Hence, I have a serious responsibility to take forward his works for the all-round development of the state,” Neog told the media.
Neog also said that being the in-charge of the social welfare department, she will work for the welfare of women and backward communities.
“The social welfare department has always taken care of the hapless and poor women and the depressed class of people. I would see how the department can benefit the women and backward people by increasing their livelihood opportunities,” the minister said.
An influential minister in the previous Tarun Gogoi-led Congress government (2001-2016), Neog had left the party weeks before the March-April Assembly elections to join the ruling BJP.
A four-time MLA, the 57-year-old leader retained her Golaghat seat, defeating her nearest opponent Bitupan Saikia of the Congress by a margin of 9,325 votes.
Neog is the widow of former Congress leader Nagen Neog, who was killed along with eight others by the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom in 1996.
In all, 74 women candidates (7.8 per cent) contested the recently held three-phase Assembly elections and only six of them entered the Assembly — three from the ruling BJP, including Neog, one from Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and two from opposition Congress.