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Cash crunch in black & white

Calcutta, Dec. 13: The government will publish a document portraying its financial crisis and the reasons behind it within a month, finance minister Asim Dasgupta told the Assembly today while responding to Opposition demands for a white paper.

Two days ago, Dasgupta had conceded that the government was in no position to pay dearness allowance to its employees at the rate followed by the Centre. The state would, he had said, continue to pay DA at 41 per cent bonus rate, smothering hopes of an 11 per cent hike for its employees.

Replying to a motion moved by Trinamul Congress’ Sougata Roy, the finance minister said the financial crisis represented a “deeper national condition” that affects all 28 states.

Amid jeers from Trinamul, Congress and SUCI legislators, Dasgupta asserted that there was nothing wrong in the state securing loans to tide over the crisis. “If the Centre can borrow Rs 90,000 crore from the Reserve Bank of India to pay salaries and bonus to its employees, we can do the same,” he said.

Dasgupta said no state, barring Bengal and Kerala, provided bonus to employees. “See the improved condition of teachers who are being paid a handsome salary these days. In 1972, they were paid a paltry Rs 200 per month,” he added.

However, the motion was put to vote when a united Opposition disagreed with Dasgupta’s proposal to publish a document on the “crisis” instead of a white paper, as demanded by Trinamul.

Tabling the motion, Roy called for Dasgupta’s resignation alleging that he had imposed taxes outside the annual budget. He also accused the minister of not giving a clue to the four Ordinances that he had planned to introduce. “This is highly condemnable. Why was there no indication of the state’s financial crisis in the last budget'” Roy asked.

Leader of Opposition Pankaj Banerjee said the government should have made its “bankruptcy” public much earlier. “We are surprised there was no indication about the crisis in the budget speech. The government’s populist move to raise salaries of its employees is responsible for pushing the state into the financial black hole,” he said.

The Congress and the SUCI joined forces with Trinamul in demanding the white paper but the motion was defeated 64-38.

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