January 26, 2013

Imams not keen to take Mamata Banerjee’s largesse

Indian Express, Posted online: Thu Jan 24 2013, 03:32 hrs

Kolkata: Religious angle Many feel imams and muezzins consider accepting government against Islam.

Last year, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee made a controversial announcement of giving a monthly financial aid to imams and muezzins. The Trinamool Congress government had hoped to receive a windfall of applications from the imams and muezzins across the state. However, almost nine months after the scheme was announced, the government has received only a trickle of applications from the community leaders.

Officials say the main reason behind the lukewarm response could be that a large number of imams and muezzins do not want to accept money from the government as they consider that Islam does not permit accepting financial aid from a non-religious body.

Unofficial estimates show that there are around 70,000 mosques in the state. The government, which announced Rs 2,500 monthly aid to imams and Rs 1,000 monthly aid to muezzins, had set aside Rs 126 crore — Rs 90 crore for the imams and Rs 36 crore for muezzins — for the current financial year.

A brief calculation could mean that government had set a target of enrolling 30,000 imams and 30,000 muezzins for this financial year. Till date, only 23,000 imams and 12,000 muezzins have submitted their applications to the Wakf Board.

“I have heard that a section of imams and muezzins do not want to accept money from the government since the fund does not come from a religious body. So, they consider accepting money from government as un-Islamic. At one point of time, we had expected applications from 3,000 imams of Burdwan district alone. But so far, we have received only 700 applications from that district,” said West Bengal Wakf Board Chairman Abdul Gani.

A senior official of Minority Affairs Department said imams in most of the interior parts of the state get food and other necessary material from the locals. “This may be another reason why not all the imams and muezzins have opted for the government money,” said the official.

When the government had announced the scheme, there was widespread criticisms with some alleging that Trinamool government’s bid to woo the minorities may flare up communal tensions in the state. Hindu outfits demanded that priests too be given such “honorarium”. To counter the allegation, the government said the money was being given to imams and muezzins as they help government agencies implement various social schemes like pulse polio drive and creating awareness among the community.

Mamata and her men stoke controversies as rivals ‘hiss’

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has a penchant for courting controversies, effortlessly stirred yet another when she wondered at a public meeting whether she should beat up the prime minister for getting her demands met.

As the Trinamool Congress supremo came under intense criticism for her remarks, she found an able comrade in ministerial peer Jyotipriya Mallick – now famous for bizarre prescriptions – who this time dished out a “venomous” decree.

The week began on a stormy note when Banerjee, while venting her ire on the Congress- led central government said: “What else can I do? Shall I go beat him up? Then people will call me a goon. But I don’t care. I can go to the very last mile for the people.”

She made the remarks at Canning in South 24 Parganas while stating that her repeated meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yielded no result on her demand to lower fertilizer prices.

The remarks gave the opposition – the Congress and the CPI-M led Left Front – the much needed fodder as they went ballistic in slamming her, with some of the leaders even questioning her mental health....


Vancouverdesi.com – Mamata and her men stoke controversies as rivals ‘hiss’ (West Bengal Newsletter)

West Bengal emerges as top borrower through RBI window

RBI data show state has raised Rs 17,300 crore through state development loan

Namrata Acharya / Kolkata

BUSINESS STANDARD, January 25, 2013, 13:41 IST

In continuation with the brisk borrowing spree, West Bengal has emerged as the top borrower this financial year too.

Data from Reserve Bank of India (RBI) show, West Bengal has raised Rs 17,300 crore through state development loan, so far in the financial year. This year, the state government has a market borrowing limit of Rs 22,821 crore, which leaves Rs 5,521 crore for the next two months for the present financial year.

Notably, in spite of a cushion of Rs 5,521 crore for the next two months, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, has been ruing that the state has been denied to raise debt.

“They (Centre) had allowed the Left to make so much debt, but they have been denying us the same. Why are you trying to snatch away our livelihood? The people of Bengal will have to assert their rights and demand that the centre stop taking away all the money,” Banerjee had recently said at a public meeting.

West Bengal is seeking a moratorium on interest and repayment totaling Rs 22,000 crore on its debt for the next three years, and formulation of a debt restructuring exercise over the interim period. The debt restructuring should include debt elimination, increasing repayment tenure and reducing interest rate on loans.

“Stop taking the interest. We want justice,” the chief minister had recently said.  

However, the opposition Left Front government has been quick to retort, when yesterday, Asim Dasgupta, former finance minister, West Bengal, said the burgeoning debt of the state  was on account of higher expenditure, rather than old debt.

"The new government has been making some misleading statements. If Rs 25,000 crore is spent on debt repayment and we add Rs 41,000 crore paid towards salary and pension, there would still be Rs 34,000 crore left out of the Rs 1 lakh crore receipt," said Dasgupta.

"The people of the state would like to know if there is extra-budgetary expenditure or are they unable to provide utilization certificates," he said.

West Bengal's debt burden of according to the last Budget document was Rs 2.08 lakh crore. The outstanding debt of the government is set to increase to Rs 2.26 lakh crore in the present fiscal, making it one of the most indebted state in terms of tax to GSDP ratio.

Last financial year, West Bengal availed of relaxation of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act  twice, pushing the borrowing of the state to Rs 22,423 crore.

The continual deterioration by the state of finances is also evident from a recent report on State Finances: Study of Budgets 2012-13.

In 2011-12 (RE), all states were able to contain their interest payment to revenue receipt ratio (IP-RR) to 15%, except in case of Gujarat, Kerala, West Bengal and Punjab. West Bengal had the highest IP-RR ratio at 27.20%, with Chhattisgarh recording the lowest at 4.5%.

According to the state budget document, this financial year, West Bengal's revenue receipt is projected to be  Rs 76,943 crore and expenditure is Rs 83,801 crore leaving a huge revenue deficit of  Rs 6,585 crore.  

West Bengal's expense on salaries alone is set to increase from Rs 28,899 crore to Rs 31,184 crore by the end of this fiscal, which is about 37% of the projected expenditure of the government.

Similarly, the cost of pension and other retirement benefits is projected to increase from Rs 8,385 crore to Rs 9,582 crore.