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War of words over MP fund release delay

Congress and Trinamul Congress MLAs on Saturday slammed the state government for its delay in releasing the area development fund for MLAs. Trinamul legislators, especially from Calcutta where they are in a majority, have been demanding the funds for the city’s development.

Participating in a discussion on this score at the Assembly, Trinamul Congress MLA from Dhakuria Saugata Roy said the government had failed to keep its commitment regarding disbursement of funds to the MLAs for development of their constituencies.

“The government is not sincere in releasing the fund for development of our areas. It is a breach of trust on its part,” Roy said, after tabling a motion demanding a discussion on the issue. The motion was, however, rejected by a majority vote.

Leader of the Congress Legislature Party Atish Sinha demanded one-time disbursement of Rs 25 lakh to each MLA immediately. The government now sanctions Rs 25 lakh in two instalments. Jyotikrishna Chatterjee of the CPM admitted that there had been a delay in releasing the funds.

Replying to the Opposition charge, finance minister Asim Dasgupta said the government could not disburse the funds to the MLAs as most of them had not submitted utilisation certificates for the money they had received in the previous years. “I am not supposed to explain to you why there has been a delay. It is planning and development minister Nirupam Sen who looks after the scheme. But since he is away on some urgent work, I am offering the explanation,” Dasgupta asserted.

The finance minister said the government had sanctioned Rs 43.72 crore for the MLAs’ funds during the financial year 2000-2001. In the first part of 2001-2002, Rs 23.75 crore had been had sanctioned. Initially, the government did not require a utilisation certificate for the funds released to the MLAs, but it was the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) who objected to the practice. Since then, the government is finding it difficult to sanction funds to MLAs who have not submitted the certificates.

The scheme was introduced in 2000 and, since then, the government had sanctioned a total of Rs 163.06 crore to the MLAs. “But we have received utilisation certificate for Rs 46.02 crore only, which is just 18 per cent of the money sanctioned so far. Most of the MLAs have not received the area development fund during the financial year of 2003-2004,” said Dasgupta.

Turtles rescued

The Government Railway Police (GRP) has seized 703 Gangetic turtles at Durgapur station since Friday from different Calcutta-bound trains coming from north India. No one has claimed the rare animals. All the turtles were bound for Calcutta markets. Acting on a tip-off, GRP officers raided the compartments of Calcutta-bound Poorva Express at Durgapur station and found 174 turtles on Friday.

On Saturday afternoon, 301 turtles of the same variety were seized from the Calcutta-bound Doon Express. Another 228 turtles were seized from the Down Toofan Express in the evening. All the turtles have been handed over to the forest department.

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