‘Rs.1,046 crore release but a part of the BRGF funds sanctioned for West Bengal'

Taking forward the ongoing spat with the Centre over the release of funds to the cash-strapped Mamata Banerjee government, West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra said he stood by his statement on non-receipt of funds.

“We have not received a single farthing from the Centre,” he said.

“Projects worth Rs.1,046 crore have just been sanctioned under the Backward Region Grant Fund [BRGF], but the State's pleas on a three-year moratorium on its Rs.22,000 crore debt service burden remains unanswered,” the Minister said.

He said he had so far not received any communication from Congress MP and spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who had stated that the Centre had indeed sanctioned funds for West Bengal government.

In a statement on Wednesday, Mr. Singhvi had sought to clarify that he had, while speaking here on Sunday, talked only about sanctions of funds and not disbursals.

“Nevertheless, between May 20, 2011 and Feb 6, 2012, around Rs. 23,695 crore has been disbursed/released by the Centre to West Bengal, including release for State sector schemes [including Rs.1,046 crore released on February 7 for the BRGF], Finance Commission Grants, the State's share in Central taxes, Central plan schemes, releases under other Central schemes like sanitation, MGNREGS, rural drinking water, rural housing, education and literacy programs etc.,” Mr. Singhvi said.

Mr. Mitra said the Rs.1,046 crore release was but a small part of the Rs.8,760 crore sanctioned for West Bengal under the BRGF, and these were project-related funds which could not be used for either anything big or payment of salaries or pensions. He reiterated that the State was managing somehow, paying salaries on time through cheques.

Pointing out that West Bengal had the highest per capita debt in the country, Mr. Mitra claimed that this was due to the large borrowings of the previous government, which had not passed the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, 2003.

“We have limits on our borrowings and we cannot violate the Act,” he said.