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Asim austerity lesson

Calcutta, June 5: Finance minister Asim Dasgupta today came to Writers’ Buildings not in his Ambassador but in what usually functions as a pilot Jeep, and would like bureaucrats to follow his example in fuel austerity.

Dasgupta usually travels in an Ambassador, shadowed by a pilot vehicle. Today there was just one car.

The minister, who has tried to ease the fuel-hike pain for Bengal by reducing sales tax on petrol and diesel, said: “We shall ask everyone (except the ministers) to help reduce the additional burden on the state because of the rise in fuel prices. Government vehicles should not be used on weekends and holidays unless there is official work.”

He added: “In any case, government vehicles should not be used for personal purposes. I myself travelled to work today in the pilot car instead of my office car. It’s not that difficult.”

But the minister’s words appeared to upset the babus. “Hardly anybody uses government vehicles for personal purposes,” a senior bureaucrat, who did not wish to be named, said. “The reiteration from the finance department was unnecessary.”

The department’s directive today asked all those entitled to government vehicles not to use them on weekends and other holidays unless they had urgent official work to finish. Ministers stood exempted.

The finance ministry has issued a circular to all departments and the state treasury.

The sales tax cut will face the government with a revenue loss of Rs 500 crore this financial year.

The Centre yesterday raised the price of petrol by about Rs 5, that of diesel by about Rs 3 and that of cooking gas by Rs 50 a cylinder. Because of the sales tax slash, consumers in Bengal will get a relief of Rs 2 on petrol and Rs 1.38 on diesel.

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