Sir — From the budget speech of the West Bengal finance minister, Amit Mitra, it seems that he does not believe in accountability (“Tame effort”, March 26). In keeping with the populist stand of the chief minister, he has presented a budget to please the common man, based on unrealistic development targets. How can a budget set a target for expenses without giving a clear idea of the means of acquiring the resources? Mitra said that the estimated fiscal deficit in the budget is Rs 9 crore. Despite this, he has projected a plan outlay for 2012-13 that is almost 12 per cent higher than that of the last financial year. Mitra has not specifically explained how he expects to accumulate the additional income. He vaguely mentioned some policy measures and proposed to raise taxes. But these steps seem inadequate.
One reason for the drooping revenue figures of the state is the lack of a suitable environment to attract investment. The new government speaks of growth, but its attitude towards such issues as land acquisition is rather discouraging for prospective investors. The dearth of investments would result in the state losing employment opportunities and revenue. Mamata Banerjee’s reservations about special economic zones, and the fact that Infosys was prevented from getting the SEZ status show the government’s apathy towards the growth of industry and business in the state.
Mitra has proposed to increase taxes on luxury goods and the entry tax on goods. But it is unlikely that the increase in revenue through the tax on luxury goods will be meaningful, since the sale of these goods in the state is marginal. And West Bengal’s past experience with entry tax is not encouraging. Mitra’s predecessor, Asim Dasgupta, had to abolish this tax because the administrative costs of collecting it were high, and the state hardly made a profit from this tax. The re-introduction of the entry tax will only impose a heavier burden on the common man. The prices of food and items of daily use that are imported from other states will increase again. This step, therefore, contradicts Banerjee’s assertion that the government is trying to identify areas to increase income without taxing the common man. This budget has also been silent on unplanned expenditure, despite the fact that the present government has a penchant for ad hoc allocation of funds for various projects that end up being a drain on the exchequer.
The projection of a plan outlay of Rs 3,28,468 crore for the next financial year — which is significantly higher than the present outlay — may prove to be a recipe for disaster. With this expenditure plan, the entire revenue income will be spent on expenditure, leaving little for the state’s coffers. The government may even have to look for grants and other means of income to match this target. It has to be kept in mind that West Bengal already has a heavy burden of debt at present. If the government has to take more loans to match its expenditure target, disaster may not be too late in coming.
Mitra’s budget speech would have suited a public rally better. And the press conference after the budget speech was amusing. The chief minister stole the spotlight from the finance minister, and started answering all the questions that were supposed to be addressed to the latter. It was almost as if she was presenting her own ‘imaginary’ budget.
Amitabha Chaudhury, Calcutta
Sir — Soumitra Chatterjee is one of the best elocutionists of Bengal. He is also known for his passion for the stage but, most of all, for his versatile skills as an actor, displayed most remarkably in the films directed by Satyajit Ray (“Soumitra”, March 22). When such a legendary Bengali actor is selected for the highest honour in Indian cinema, one feels that the honour has not been wasted. Chatterjee has acted in numerous films, including those by Tapan Sinha, Mrinal Sen and Tarun Majumdar. He made his debut in 1959 with Apur Sansar, directed by Ray, the Oscar-winning filmmaker. Chatterjee then went on to star in 14 of Ray’s films. His relationship with Ray is often compared with the chemistry between other famous actor-director duos, such as that between Marcello Mastroianni and Federico Fellini. Chatterjee had been honoured with the Padma Bhushan in 2004. He has also received the Officier des Arts et Metiers from France, and a lifetime achievement award from Italy. The jury of the Dadasaheb Phalke award has done a commendable job by awarding a great artist like him.
Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee, Faridabad
Sir — It is heartening to know that Soumitra Chatterjee has been chosen for the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke award. Chatterjee is one of the few Bengali actors who have acted in films directed by all-time greats such as Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen and Tapan Sinha. Chatterjee’s portrayal of dynamic characters in films like Apur Sansar, Sonar Kella, Joy Baba Felunath, Shakha Proshakha, Khudito Pashan, Teen Kanya, Aranyer Din Ratri and Ashani Sanket will be remembered for a long time. I congratulate Chatterjee on his achievement.
S. Balakrishnan, Jamshedpur
Sir — I am delighted to learn that Soumitra Chatterjee has been awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke award this year. As a Bengali, I feel proud on his behalf. Chatterjee dedicated his life to acting. His histrionic skills have often been compared to those of Uttam Kumar. He has also invented a unique style of recitation.
Mukul Ranjan Chakraborty, Calcutta