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No freeze, no arrears either for employees

Calcutta, Oct. 21: The government today said it did not have any plans to announce a fresh instalment of the arrears in dearness allowance because of its acute funds crunch.

“However, we are not freezing the DA. Even though we have slashed our bonus by half, let me tell you that except for Bengal and Kerala, no other state has paid it,” said finance minister Asim Dasgupta. He added that the government owes three instalments of the arrears to its employees.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said: “Now we have to mobilise our own resources to meet our expenses on non-plan expenditure. There is no point in relying on a bankrupt Centre. We have to stand on our feet.”

Consultants McKinsey would submit a report tomorrow identifying the areas in agro-business and information technology where the state can earn good money, the chief minister said. “I have asked McKinsey to suggest the names of the possible investors in these sectors. Pepsi has shown interest in agro-business and GE in the IT sector. I have convened a meeting of the ministers associated with these sectors to discuss the McKinsey report tomorrow.”

Back from the chief ministers’ meeting with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Dasgupta said the government would publish a paper explaining the dismal finances of the state and possible ways to get over the crisis.

The chief ministers’ conclave ended in deadlock on major issues like restructuring high-cost loans to states and increasing the overdraft facility time for the states to 21 days from 12.

If the Centre agrees to the states’ demand for a permit to tax the service sectors, it would be the only major concession to have been extracted at the meet. However, even if the Centre agrees, taxing telecom, insurance and banking would be possible only after a Constitutional amendment in the next fiscal.

Emphasising on the austerity drive that he has launched, Dasgupta said he had received several complaints on misuse of cars during the pujas. “I have seen some of the cars myself and noted down their numbers. Stern action will be taken against those who have used them,” he said.

The departments have been asked to send the details on their vehicles and their fuel consumption to the finance department by November 15. Those who fail to comply will not have their bills passed, Dasgupta said. The government spends about Rs 11 lakh every month to maintain its fleet of cars.

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