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The Delayed Project Reports

- Delhi cash release held up because of state foot-dragging: Officials

Calcutta, Feb. 12: The main reason for the Centre’s alleged delay in releasing funds for the development of Bengal’s backward areas is the state government’s “procrastination” on the submission of detailed project reports (DPRs), Writers’ sources have told The Telegraph.

The Centre had announced in August 2011 that Rs 8,756 crore would be given to Bengal under the backward region grants fund but the state “dragged its feet” on the DPRs, the sources said. The first tranche of Rs 1,046 crore reached the state on February 8, about six months after the Centre’s announcement.

The murmurs about the state’s “delay” comes days after finance minister Amit Mitra and Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi got involved in a war of words over whether the Centre had given financial assistance to cash-strapped Bengal. Mitra had said Bengal had “not got a farthing” while Singhvi had furnished figures showing the amount given to the state. State government officials had pointed out that the figures included Bengal’s share of central taxes and schemes, which it would have got anyway.

“The state was able to submit DPRs for just Rs 5,500 crore, only 63 per cent of the total allocation, in late October after a delay of over a month. The reports were handed over to the Planning Commission by the ministries concerned in Delhi in December for deliberations before the release of funds,” a senior Writers’ official said.

He said the second set of DPRs, worth Rs 3,300 crore, were submitted between December-end and early February after a further delay of around three months.

“For the release of funds after sanction, a central empowered committee holds several rounds of deliberations on behalf of the Planning Commission and seeks queries and clarifications from the state. Between the sanction and the release, there is usually a gap of one-and-a-half to two months. Our delay pushed back the release by another two months,” the official said.

The empowered committee met in the second week of December to discuss the first set of DPRs.

The Writers’ sources said there was a rush to submit the remaining DPRs after the committee meeting. The panel is scheduled to meet again on February 22 for discussions on the second set of DPRs.

“Had we submitted all the DPRs on time — by late September — around Rs 3,000 crore from the package to develop 11 backward districts would have been released by early January,” the official said.

He said that although the second set of DPRs was likely to be approved, the delay meant that the next tranche would not arrive before April.

Finance minister Mitra termed the claims of delay “baseless”. “It’s baseless, trying to say that Bengal was slow in submitting DPRs. We submitted excellent DPRs for Rs 10,000 crore well within time.”

Although most ministers preferred to remain silent on the issue, panchayat and PHE minister Subrata Mukherjee admitted that there had been a delay by the panchayat department.

“I took charge of the panchayat affairs department recently. I don’t know the reasons for the delay. Soon after taking charge (on December 26), I made sure that the DPRs of the panchayat and rural development department were completed and sent immediately. Most of the DPRs of the public health engineering department were sent on time,” he said.

The tranche of Rs 1,046 crore is for a water supply project in Bankura, to be implemented by the PHE department.