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Laggard state’s plan size faces slash

New Delhi, June 18: Bengal earned the dubious distinction of being the only state whose plan size for the year will be pruned by 40 per cent compared to the one approved by the Planning Commission last year.

This is not another instance of the Centre’s discrimination towards an Opposition-ruled state. The pruned plan size has been forced on the state as for the past several years it has “followed a practice of drastic lowering of its approved plan”. Faced with “huge deficits every year, it could never raise enough matching resources on its own”.

The state has to provide “matching grants” to every Central funds allocation but such has been the state of finances it has failed to generate money to provide its share.

Last year, despite an approved plan of Rs 6,307 crore, the state government pleaded in mid course that it be pruned by nearly 42 per cent to Rs 3,682 crore. The government was not in a position to pay its share for a huge Central contribution.

This year’s plan has consequently been pegged at a modest Rs 3,633 crore, 84 per cent of which will be provided by the Centre. The state will cough up just Rs 564 crore.

Sources in the plan panel said this happened after K.C. Pant, the deputy chairman of the commission, asked finance minister Asim Dasgupta earlier this year to keep his plan targets at “levels which could be achieved”.

The two will meet tomorrow over this pruned plan and to discuss the state’s finances. Pant is worried about the huge deficits the state is running up every year. This year, the deficit is estimated to be a staggering Rs 7,913 crore.

To bridge this deficit, and find the small contribution the state government is making to its planned effort towards development, the Left regime is mulling borrowing heavily like last year.

This year’s borrowing will be a massive Rs 10,250 crore, which includes Rs 807 crore “borrowed” from the coffers of the state provident fund. “This is something that no other state does and something for which a private company’s chief executive could well be placed behind bars,” a top plan panel official said.

This year’s loans will come on top of existing accumulated borrowing, which stands at over Rs 80,000 crore or nearly 10 years’ tax revenue for the state.

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