Special Correspondent

Kolkata: Presenting the 2008-09 budget, West Bengal Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta on Monday announced the creation of a Rs.100-crore Special Assistance Fund for people who give their land for setting up big industries.

He said that employment creation was the main objective of the budget and if realised the measures would result in the creation of over 8.5 lakh jobs.

In an effort to keep inflation at bay, he also announced the setting up of a new marketing corporation for procurement of commodities at fair prices through self-help groups. He also opened his purse strings for helping the poor girl child, and for providing at least one meal to the disabled in rural and urban areas who could not participate in the employment generation programmes.

Presenting a Rs.2-crore deficit budget, Dr. Dasgupta announced many measures aimed at increasing employment in the rural and urban areas, while also increasing the food subsidy bill by Rs.90 crore for additional procurement of rice and wheat, the allocation of which has been reduced by the Centre.

He also proposed a three-fold increase in the plan outlay for the Department of Minority Affairs and Madrasa Education saying that a corpus of fund has also been set up for allocating funds for development of general and social infrastructure in areas where there is a concentration of minority population. This initiative is the first of its kind in the country, he said.

On the ticklish issue of land for industry, he said that while it was necessary to proceed after consultation with land-owners, it was the responsibility of the industrial establishments to pay compensation. However, in some cases, problems might continue after that and to take care of such cases a fund was being created for imparting job-oriented training and helping land losers in other ways too.

In a record two-hour sixteen minute long budget speech, the State’s longest-serving Finance Minister proposed a Rs.100-crore new programme for providing cooked food to poor people in rural and urban areas, who were too weak to participate in the employment generation programmes. This programme would be implemented through the panchayats by self-help groups of local women.