File Photo: Himanta Biswa Sarma

Assam government on February 12 announced rolling back of additional cess imposed on petrol, diesel and liquor during peak of COVID-19 pandemic to earn extra revenue for the state’s exchequer.

Presenting the vote on account in the state assembly, finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said: “Now, the pandemic has declined to a reasonable extent, the number of patients has reduced and the need for COVID-19 screening centres has gone down. The state cabinet has decided to withdraw the additional cess and taxes imposed during the COVID-19 period.”

Additional cess on petrol and diesel has been withdrawn and it will be cheaper by Rs 5 per litre from midnight (February 13), the minister said.

Similarly, additional cess imposed on various liquor categories during last year, averaging around 25%, has also been withdrawn.

‘No salary cut in Assam’

Sarma, who also holds the health portfolio, further said the COVID-19 pandemic presented unprecedented challenges before the state, with pressure on scarce resources.

Assam too faced adverse growth figures, especially in the first two quarters of this financial year and our revenue targets were affected. Our State, however, exhibited exemplary resilience and financial adroitness,” he said, highlighting that there was no salary cut of state government employees as was done in some other states.

He thanked the frontline COVID warriors as well as the general public for standing with the government to tide over the challenges, noting that the state has consistently maintained a high recovery rate of over 98 percent and low mortality rate at 0.5 percent.

Grants from govt agencies, public

Sarma also mentioned of the grants received from the central government and its agencies, as well as general public, to support the state’s fight against the pandemic.

The minister informed that the Assam government received a grant of Rs 72.73 crore for the year 2019-20 from Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

In addition, Rs 182 crore was received recently for the year 2020-21 for COVID-19 management.

“Further, for the rollout of the first phase of the vaccination programme for our frontline workers, Government of India has provided a grant of Rs 2.46 crore,” he added.

In addition, funds amounting to Rs 4.99 crore and Rs 8.36 crore were received from the Development of North Eastern Region (DONER) Ministry and GIZ India for management of COVID-19.

He further said: “I would also like to impress upon this august house that our government allocated an additional Rs 760 crore for the prevention and management of COVID-19 pandemic to the general budget grant of Rs 6126 crore allocated to the health department.”

Appreciating the generosity of the common people of Assam in making a financial contribution to Assam Aarogya Nidhi, Sarma informed Rs 116.89 crore was deposited in the account within a short span of time and said: “I would also like to inform this august house, as well as the people of Assam, that by God’s grace, we have not had to touch this fund so far. The entire fund has been kept intact and we will utilize it with utmost prudence to fight COVID in the coming times.”

The fight against COVID-19 also led to the enhancement of basic healthcare infrastructure in the state which will be useful adjuncts to the existing infrastructure in the state, he added.

The minister sought a vote on account for Rs 60,784.03 crore for the first six months of fiscal 2021-22, as the state goes to polls in the next couple of months.

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