The war of words between West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra and his predecessor Asim Dasgupta continued here on Thursday when the latter reiterated that the figures presented by the State Government, when pressing the demand for a special financial package from the Centre, were “misleading”. 

At the recent meeting of the National Development Council (NDC) in New Delhi, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had said that 94 per cent of the State's income is spent on payment of salaries, pensions and interests on loans, leaving little for any planned expenditure.

Dr. Dasgupta had on Monday pointed out that according to the books placed in the Assembly during the Budget session, 74 per cent of the revenue income of the State is spent on payment of salaries, pensions and interests leaving about Rs. 33,000 crore for planned expenditure. A day later, Dr. Mitra retorted by saying that though Dr. Dasgupta had considered the gross receipts of the State, three categories of funds from the Centre – the non-Plan grant from the 13 {+t} {+h} Finance Commission, the grant for the Central Plan Schemes and the grant for Centrally-sponsored schemes – cannot be used for the payment of salaries, pensions and interest.

Arguments

“We all know that these funds cannot be used for the payment of salaries. But these funds can be used for planned expenditure in road construction, irrigation and the social sector. These should not be excluded from the analysis,” Dr. Dasgupta said during the day.

“When you are speaking about planned expenditure, you cannot leave out the funds that have been made available for planned expenditure,” he pointed out .

Admitting that any State can place a demand before the Centre that it does not have adequate funds for planned expenditure, Dr. Dasgupta said that but it must “present the correct picture” when placing such a demand.

Dr. Mitra's second argument was that Dr. Dasgupta had left out the amount spent in repayment of loans to arrive at the 74 per cent figure. Dr. Dasgupta pointed out the basic accounting principle that “the revenue account should not be mixed with the capital account” and said that if Dr. Mr. Mitra considers a capital expenditure, such as repayment of loans, he must also take into account capital receipts.  While certain other States have already expressed reservations about a separate financial package being set aside for West Bengal, Dr. Dasgupta reiterated that the State can claim nearly Rs. 5,000 crorefrom the Centre as arrears of coal royalty.

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