Senior West Bengal Congress leader and former Minister Manas Ranjan Bhunia said here on Tuesday that the Trinamool Congress’ criticism of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre might satisfy its “political ego” but would not help bail out the State from the financial crisis it was going through.

Instead of criticising the Centre, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee should sit for discussions with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram to defuse the State’s fiscal crisis, he said.

Pointing out that while Ms. Banerjee stayed away from the National Development Council meeting held last month in New Delhi, and sent Finance Minister Amit Mitra on her behalf, Dr. Bhunia said she should refrain from unnecessarily criticising the Centre. “In the new year do not create an atmosphere of confrontation,” he said.

Describing the financial situation in the State as “serious,” Dr. Bhunia said the Rs. 2.03 lakh-crore debt the State government inherited had now surpassed Rs. 2.30 lakh crore.

He also expressed concern over the proliferation of chit funds in the State, which, according to him, had resulted in a significant decrease in savings in the State.

“The chit funds operating in the State are violating the regulations of the Securities and Exchange Board of India and the Reserve Bank of India. Lakhs of people will be victims of these chit funds in the years to come,” Dr. Bhunia said.

Refuting allegations of irregularities in setting up a panel of contractors during his tenure as the Irrigation Minister, he said that so far no panel of contractors had been formed, so the question of irregularities did not arise. “During my tenure as the Minister, e-tendering was started for the fist time in the State government,” Dr. Bhunia said, adding that the department had functioned transparently when he was the Minister.

Dr. Bhunia’s successor in the Ministry, Rajib Banerjee, had pointed out irregularities in setting up a panel of contractors in the department and said the body would be scrapped.

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