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Asim asks DMs to get cracking on tax trail

Calcutta, Jan. 3: Reeling under a crippling cash crisis, the government today asked the district magistrates and senior police officials to step up revenue collection drives.

Finance minister Asim Dasgupta asked the magistrates to mop up at least Rs 600 crore by March from motor vehicles tax, stamp duty, excise and land revenue at a meeting today. Dasgupta also asked the police to be on alert for tax evaders.

The magistrates have been asked to hold fortnightly meetings with the officers concerned to assess their performance in the next three months.

Dasgupta said the government is trying its best to increase its revenue collection to wriggle out of the crunch and talks are on with the Centre to find a way out.

“We have undertaken an austerity drive, restricted the use of cars, telephones and fuel consumption. We have received information from the departments on how they have implemented the austerity measures. On the basis of this information, budgetary allocations for the departments have been slashed by 10 per cent,” said Dasgupta.

The financial crisis has come to such a pass that there has been an embargo on new development projects. Industries minister Nirupam Sen, who is also the chairman of the State Planning Board, told the ministers on December 17 that no new development project would be sanctioned in the next plan.

Sen had held a series of meetings with ministers of various departments to draw up a “realistic plan outlay for 2003-2004”. The planning board chief had also suggested a 75 per cent cut in the plan allocations and asked the ministers to be satisfied with enough funds to keep the ongoing development projects alive.

Officials said next year’s plan outlay would be made more realistic by pruning it to about Rs 513 crore from this year’s Rs 1,980 crore.

Some of the ministers, who met Sen to ask about their departments’ plan allocation in the next fiscal, complained that they had already spent the “matching grant” from the Centre for various projects. They had received the Central assistance on the basis of the finance department’s written assurances on the release of the state’s share, the ministers said.

“But, now in the last quarter of the financial year, we are being told that the state’s share will not be available. We have already spent a good part of the Central funds and are in a fix about submitting the utilisation certificates to the Centre in absence of state’s grants,” said a minister.

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