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Bengal beaten in funds race
- Maharashtra tops Centre dole-out list with Rs 834 crore

New Delhi, Feb. 21: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s Bengal has got a low share of central funds for development of small towns and highways compared with Chandrababu Naidu’s Andhra Pradesh.

Official statistics accessed by The Telegraph reveal that while the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government allocated Rs 578.5 crore for the development of small and medium towns to Andhra for the financial year 2003-04, it doled out a mere Rs 202 crore to CPM-ruled Bengal. This was roughly the same amount that Haryana, a much smaller state, got.

Andhra, ruled by BJP ally Naidu, was second only to Maharashtra which got Rs 834 crore. Gujarat was close behind with Rs 504 crore. Although the BJP is not in power in Maharashtra, it is a strong contender.

The disparity in allocation between Andhra and Bengal could be put down to the difference in size of the states, but its magnitude suggests other factors may have been at work.

Among the northeastern states, Congress-ruled Assam got Rs 40 crore while Arunachal Pradesh, where the BJP rules, has been favoured with Rs 192 crore.

The figures reveal that Bengal was among the more efficient states in the utilisation of central funds allocated for the development of mega cities over the past five years (1998-99 to 2002-03). It is more or less on a par with Maharashtra, with the two states having spent Rs 104 crore and Rs 105 crore. The money was used essentially for the development of Calcutta and Mumbai.

The schemes covered under this allocation include the development of infrastructure, such as roads, city transport, water supply and sewerage schemes and solid waste management.

Tamil Nadu utilised only Rs 87.7 crore and Andhra Pradesh did marginally better with Rs 94 crore.

But the efficient utilisation of funds did not help Bengal, where the BJP has no stake in the elections, get a larger allocation for the small towns category.

Central allocation for highways in Andhra Pradesh is also much higher than in Bengal. While Rs 3,354.65 crore have been allotted under the national highway development project for four-laning the golden quadrilateral in the southern state, Bengal gets only Rs 2,563.4 crore.

Again, Andhra has been given Rs 245 crore under the central road development fund while Bengal has been allocated Rs 130 crore for major district roads. Andhra has also been allocated another Rs 543 crore for developing other national highways within the state. Bengal has got Rs 273 crore for improving the link to its major port.

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