Demand to release central funds triggers fresh TMC-BJP row

Banerjee said the Centre had not released 100-day work funds for four months and, consequently, the poor in the state were facing problems
Last Updated 18 May 2022, 02:39 IST

The issue of releasing central funds to West Bengal for rural jobs and housing schemes has stirred afresh political bickering between the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the opposition of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

As West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee alleged that the Centre hadn’t released funds for implementing two of Centre’s important schemes—MGNREGA and PM Awas Yojana—the state arm of the BJP, in turn, has asked the Prime Minister not to consider the CM’s demands. The reason given by the state BJP was that the housing scheme was being offered in the state under a different name, and that the rural employment scheme was not free of “financial corruption”.

In an administrative meeting on Tuesday, Banerjee said the Centre had not released 100-day work funds for four months and, consequently, the poor in the state were facing problems.

Banerjee had written to Prime Minister Modi on May 12: “Fresh allocation of funds to West Bengal is pending with the Ministry of Rural Development and a long list of beneficiaries is awaiting sanction in the state.”

As uncertainty prevailed over the release of central funds, the Chief Minister asked the state Chief Secretary to form a committee and explore the possibilities of creating a crisis management fund using portions from select departments’ labour spends—public works department, irrigation, horticulture, agriculture, and panchayats.

According to the Chief Minister, wage payment—which must be paid to the beneficiary within 15 days—was pending for more than four months. She stated that the Centre had not released nearly Rs 6,500 crore in funds. This included Rs 3,000 crore against wage liabilities, and Rs 3,500 crore against non-wage liabilities, she added.

In reply, BJP’s co-in-charge in West Bengal, Amit Malviya had used Twitter to allege that Banerjee had renamed the PM Awas Yojana as Bangla Awas Yojana, and that there were complaints of corruption involving jobs offered under the MGNREGA.

BJP MLA Suvendu Adhikari, who is Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly, wrote to the Prime Minister on May 14 asking him not to consider Banerjee’s demand. Instead he requested that Modi direct the state government to use PM Awas Yojana for the housing scheme instead of the Bangla Awas Yojana. Adhikari also alleged irregularities in the state under the rural employment scheme. He added that while the Centre was offering schemes, the state government was taking credit for it.

Bengal’s finance minister Chandrima Bhattacharya, however, told DH that other states, too, had implemented the housing scheme under different names, and that West Bengal was no exception.

(Published 17 May 2022, 17:26 IST)

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