The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Finally, govt gets ready to count the jobless

Calcutta, Nov. 14: After groping in the dark for years on the 'real' number of unemployed in the state, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's government is making an attempt to find out the figure.

'We are asking the Indian Statistical Institute to make an estimate of the number of unemployed in the state,' state finance minister Asim Dasgupta said, adding that the available figures range from 22 lakh to 70 lakh.

According to data from the National Sample Survey, the number is around 22 lakh though the figure for registered unemployed stands at 70 lakh. 'The latter assumes that those who get jobs do not get their names removed,' Dasgupta said.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had claimed on November 7 that the industrialisation drive had helped the government address the problem of unemployment. 'We are often told that there are 70 lakh educated unemployed in Bengal, but who has counted them' he had asked. 'That's a myth. At least three lakh people have found employment in the past five years.'

Dasgupta today said five lakh people had found employment every year in the state during the past two years.

Delivering a lecture on November 9 at MIT University, on 'An Alternative Approach to Economic Reforms: Experience in West Bengal', the finance minister had said unemployment is the main problem in Bengal.

Dasgupta said gross domestic product could not be considered a yardstick for development if people stay at home because of lack of jobs. There must be employment-led growth, he added.

Dasgupta reacted sharply to Union finance minister P. Chidambaram's critical views on the Bengal government.

On Friday, Chidambaram warned the state of a fiscal mess and emphasised an urgent need to adopt the Fiscal Responsibility and Management Act, as suggested by the 12th Finance Commission for promoting growth.

'Bengal has not yet adopted the discipline of fiscal responsibility. It is one of the most debt-stressed states. Interest payment by the state alone accounted for 48 per cent of the revenue collection last year. It has an unsustainable revenue deficit position,' Chidambaram said at the 105th annual general meeting of the Bharat Chamber of Commerce.

Dasgupta said the main burden for the state was in relation to small savings for which a high rate of interest ' 11.5 per cent ' is paid.

He said a committee had been formed to review the matter and see if it is possible to reduce the rate. 'When it is still to be sorted out, the Union finance minister should not have made such statements.'

Dasgupta said the state had not taken overdrafts in the last 10 months and hoped not to do so in the current financial year.

Dasgupta said the budget of 28 states taken together is Rs 5 lakh crore while the Centre alone has a budget of Rs 5 lakh crore.

However, the cumulative debt of the state governments is Rs 10 lakh crore, while that of the Centre is Rs 20 lakh crore.

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