The state administration has started working to ensure that unutilised funds of the 15th Finance Commission, lying with rural bodies in Bengal, are spent on construction and repair of rural roads.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had given a directive to this effect in Durgapur on Wednesday.
The Centre suspended the release of funds under the PMGSY (Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana), citing that Bengal had changed the name of the central project.
Mamata asked district officials to utilise half of the funds of 15th Finance Commission — 85 per cent of which reached rural bodies directly — to build and repair rural roads.
On Thursday, block development officers across the state intimated panchayat functionaries that leftover untied funds were only for building or repairing rural roads.
“As per direction of HCM 15FC leftover untied fund for which no work order issued till now should be used for construction/repair of road only. Accordingly, prepare a supplement plan as soon as possible and submit it to my office. Ongoing tender for untied fund to be cancelled,” read a message of a BDO in a south Bengal district.
Sources in the state administration said that this decision is being deemed significant ahead of 2023 rural polls.
“The rural bodies had received around Rs 7,000 crore in 2020-21 and 2021-22 financial years from the 15th finance commission. But around Rs 2,600 crore remain unutilised. Now, if 50 per cent of the funds are used for roads, it will boost rural infrastructure,” said a senior official.
Sources said this decision could give dividends to Trinamul ahead of panchayat polls but only if work on the ground was handled properly.
“If the chief minister can carry on with rural road work without central funds, she can send a message to the BJP-led centre. She can also attack the BJP ahead of rural polls for depriving the state,” said a source but added that the work needed to be done without any taint of corruption.
“If the projects are not monitored properly, charges of funds misappropriation could be levelled against panchayats, most of which are run by the ruling party,” the source said.