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State falters on central funds
- Govt to lose Rs 2,600 crore for failure to use cash

Calcutta, Feb. 28: The Mamata Banerjee government could not secure at least Rs 2,600 crore from the Centre this fiscal because of its failure to utilise the money released earlier, senior Bengal officials said today.

The revelation comes at a time the Bengal government has been vocal against the Centre for not releasing funds for the state.

“But one cannot deny that the state government cannot shift the entire blame onto the Centre. In this case, the state failed to utilise money released by the Centre under the Backward Regions Grant Fund (BRGF),” said an official, requesting anonymity.

According to him, the Centre released only Rs 300 crore of the Rs 2,900 crore Bengal was supposed to get in 2013-14 under the special BRGF package.

The package of Rs 8,750 crore was announced by the Centre after the change of guard in Bengal in 2011. The state is supposed to get around Rs 2,900 crore a year for three years.

In 2011-12, the state had received the full quota of Rs 2,900 crore. The departments for which funds were sanctioned started faltering from the second year, the official said.

“This year, only Rs 300 crore has been sanctioned under the package as no department other than public works submitted utilisation certificates for the funds released. Last year, the state had received only Rs 1,700 crore. The remaining amount could not be claimed for the same reason,” another official said.

The health, power, higher education, public health engineering and public works departments have been allotted the maximum amount of money.

The health department was allotted Rs 2,200 crore to develop 34 super-speciality hospitals across the state, while the power department was given around Rs 2,000 crore to undertake rural electrification. The PWD was allotted around Rs 1,800 crore for widening and strengthening of roads in 11 backward districts.

“All the departments, except public works, have failed to implement the projects on time. That is why the departments could not submit utilisation certificates,” the official said.

Senior state government officials said failure to secure the full quota of allotted funds was a “perennial problem” in Bengal.

Officials said the performance of the health department, which is under Mamata Banerjee, in utilising the funds was “ particularly less than satisfactory”.

“As the department could not utilise the first instalment, it could not claim the second tranche,” an official said.

The power and PHE departments could not secure the third instalment.

Senior state government officials said although the departments still had a month’s time to claim funds by submitting utilisation documents, there was “little scope” of using the window as it would be difficult to get Delhi to sanction money once the Lok Sabha elections are announced.

During a visit to Calcutta in March 2012, Sudha Pillai, the then member secretary of the Planning Commission, had cautioned Bengal officials about the delay in implementing projects.

Job scheme ire

Mamata today criticised the Centre’s proposal to increase the number of workdays under the rural employment guarantee scheme to 150 from 100.

“The Central government has stopped funding even for 100 days’ work and just to give a lip-service to the people, they have decided to increase it to 150 days. Is it not just a sham to extract political mileage?” she said in a Facebook post.