Calcutta, Jan. 4: Work on several projects announced for Jungle Mahal by Mamata Banerjee have been stopped or are yet to take off as the cash-starved government cannot foot the bills of contractors.
The revelation comes at a time the chief minister will distribute Rs 3.89 crore among over 1,500 clubs during the youth festival in Midnapore town tomorrow.
The minutes of a meeting of the monitoring committee of special projects for Maoist-affected Jungle Mahal held last month reveal the status of Mamata’s pet projects. The meeting on December 7 was chaired by Jaya Das Gupta, the additional chief secretary of the planning department.
Senior Writers’ officials said work on the projects was halted because in the past few months, the finance department had failed to clear the bills of contractors engaged by the PWD.
Finance department officials said several departments had issued release orders to give money from their plan heads to the PWD, which is carrying out the majority of the development projects. But the finance department had failed to release the money by issuing letters of credit (LoC) in favour of the PWD because of a cash crunch.
“So the PWD is not being able to pay the bills of the contractors. Bills worth about Rs 500 crore are pending with the finance department. This is why the projects have been hit badly,” a PWD official said.
Sources in the finance department said the situation had not changed since the December meeting. “But we are hopeful about releasing funds for the Jungle Mahal projects in a couple of days,” an official said.
The government has also failed to recruit a single teacher in 2012 for the 215 secondary schools in the tribal-dominated areas of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia that were upgraded to the higher-secondary level. The cabinet had sanctioned 2,000 teachers’ posts and the recruitments were supposed to be completed last year.
The monitoring committee of special projects for Jungle Mahal has instructed the departments concerned to ensure that the executing agencies get funds on time.
The minutes of the review meeting noted: “In cases where the departments are executing the schemes through the PWD, they should also ensure that the funds are made available to the PWD on time. After issuing orders for release of funds, the departments should follow up with the finance department for clearance of LoC and making the funds available to PWD at the earliest.”
The Writers’ officials said it appeared that the chief minister had decided to distribute cash among the clubs to “divert attention” from the slow progress on the development projects at a time the panchayat polls are drawing near.
A cabinet minister said: “We accept we have failed to give momentum to various projects because of lack of funds. It is not our fault. The previous government created the financial mess. The clubs are being given money to improve sports facilities in the area. It has no connection with the slow progress of the projects.”
Each of the 1,556 clubs will be given Rs 25,000. Last year too, the government had distributed Rs 15.6 crore among clubs, a move that had drawn sharp criticism.