Assam cuts fuel tax, COVID-19 cess on alcohol ahead of polls

Petrol and diesel will be cheaper in Assam by ₹5 each and the 25% COVID-19 cess on liquor will be rolled back from midnight on Friday, Assam Finance Himanta Biswa Sarma announced in the 126-member Assembly.

The government would also be increasing the cash assistance to about 20 lakh eligible families from the current ₹830 to ₹3,000 a month, he said while presenting the vote on account for April-July 20-21 in the Assembly on Friday.

Dr. Sarma presented the last budget of the BJP-led alliance government and the announcement is believed to be with an eye on the Assembly elections scheduled by May.

The Opposition parties have been criticising the government for the “skyrocketing” prices of petrol and diesel, which currently are ₹90.17 and ₹84.82 a litre. The Congress had also been critical of the “meagre monthly amount” of ₹830 under the government’s Arunodoi scheme.

“Petrol and diesel prices in Assam will be the cheapest in the country,” Dr. Sarma said, adding the 25% COVID-19 cess imposed on alcohol almost a year ago to meat healthcare expenses amid the pandemic was no longer needed.

Meghalaya was the first of the northeastern States to cut the prices of petrol and diesel by ₹ 2 each. The reduction of tax a few days ago followed an indefinite strike by a coordination committee of its commercial vehicle operators.

Arunodoi scheme

The Minister said the Arunodoi scheme, rolled out in 2020 to help about 20 lakh families buy essential food items, would be increased to ₹3,000 a month. The government had assessed the requirement to revise the amount to be transferred to the account of each beneficiary.

Dr. Sarma also said the government was able to implement 68% of the proposals in the 2019-20 Budget. The expenditure included ₹2.5 lakh each to 8,756 namghars (Vaishnavite prayer halls), free rice to 59 lakh poor families, ₹1,000 a month each to 1,60,612 differently-abled people and financial assistance to “tea tribes” or Adivasis.

“Our government will soon announce the increase in the daily wages of the tea garden workers across the State,” he added.

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