October 26, 2011

Demand coal royalty from Centre, Left’s Asim tells govt

Express News Service Posted online: Tue Oct 25 2011, 05:56 hrs

Kolkata : Amid Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s demand for a financial package from the Centre, Asim Dasgupta, the former finance minister in the Left Front government, on Monday said the state government should demand Rs 5,000 crore coal royalty from the Central government.

He said other states too have been getting coal royalty from the Centre and thus they cannot oppose the West Bengal government's demand. The state government's demand for a financial package from the Centre had angered other states like Gujarat and Tamil Nadu whose chief ministers, Narendra Modi and Jayalalitha respectively, had alleged step-motherly treatment by the Centre.

Addressing mediapersons in Kolkata, Dasgupta said the Centre has not given the state any royalty for the coal dug up from Bengal since 1991. “Moreover, there is a Supreme Court order on giving coal royalty to the states,” he added.

Dasgupta, who had been handling the state's finances for nearly two decades said the incumbent government has not highlighted the coal royalty while demanding financial aid from the Centre. He even termed that some of the claims made by the Mamata Banerjee-led government on the financial status of the state as “misleading”. “The total revenue receipt of the state government is Rs 65,848 crore of which 74 per cent and not 94 per cent, as claimed by the present government, is spent on paying salaries, pensions and interest,” said Dasgupta, who called the new government as “incompetent”.

Dasgupta said the total income of the state government stands at Rs 87,643 crore, and out of this 63 per cent is spent of salary, pensions and interest to the loans. He said the remaining, Rs 32,713, crore be spent by the state to meet various expenses.

Alleging that the incumbent government has not been able to manage the state’s finances effectively, Dasgupta said the Left Front government had borrowed Rs 5,000 crore from the open market last year, but the new government has borrowed Rs 10,000 crore in the same period this year. He also said that while last year the state government had been able to increase the tax collection to 29 per cent, this year the growth has been only 19 per cent against a target of 30 per cent.

He also rejected the government's claim that the state has “humongous” debt. The former finance minister said that while Bengal has a debt of Rs 1.92 lakh crore, other states like Maharashtra has a debt of Rs 2.36 lakh crore and UP has Rs 2.35 lakh crore as debts as on March 31,2011.

Asim data duel with Mamata

THE TELEGRAPH, Issue Date: Tuesday , October 25 , 2011

Calcutta, Oct. 24: Former finance minister Asim Dasgupta today opened a war of numbers with Mamata Banerjee by calling into question the data used by the chief minister to seek special assistance from the Centre to overcome Bengal’s financial woes.

During her meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week, Mamata had highlighted that the state government was left with only 6 paise from every rupee it earned to fund development and blamed the crisis on the Left’s 34 years of “misrule”.

“Out of one rupee, 94 paise are spent on salary and other responsibilities of the state. Only 6 paise are left for development. How will we do with such little money? The Centre has to think,” she had said in Delhi.

Dasgupta said that according to the financial statement (Abstract of the Annual Financial Statement 2011-12 and Trends of Expenditure and Growth Trajectories) tabled by his successor Amit Mitra, the state’s outgo on salaries, pension and interest payment constituted 74 per cent of the revenue receipts.

No one from the government was available to explain the accounting Mamata had used to arrive at the 94-paise figure.

“I don’t know how the figure of 94 was arrived at,” Dasgupta said.

“If the Centre extends help to the state government, it will be good. But what was said while seeking extra assistance was misleading and incomplete,” he added.

Dasgupta has held several news conferences in the past five months to rebut Mamata’s claim that the Left’s misrule had plunged Bengal into bankruptcy. On all such occasions, the attempt was to defend the Left record and its policies by rolling out economic data.
Today, he went on the attack, first questioning the numbers that form the basis of Mamata’s strident demand for special central assistance, the absence of which even after five months in power appears to be frustrating her. Non-Congress states have opposed a special package for Bengal, alleging this would amount to discrimination against them.
“This government had set a target of 30 per cent growth in tax revenue collection, but till now the growth has been only around 19 per cent. In the corresponding period, we had achieved a growth of around 29 per cent last year,” said Dasgupta.

The former finance minister also mentioned that the new government’s market borrowing had touched Rs 10,000 crore — the highest among all states — in the five months of the current fiscal year while the Left Front had restricted it to Rs 9,500 crore for all of 2010-11.

“Government employees have not received even one instalment of the dearness allowance this year,” he said. The issue of arrears and DA for government staff is sensitive as the state employs over 10 lakh people.

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