Union rural development minister Giriraj Singh said on Monday that the Centre had sent more than Rs 2 lakh crore to Bengal under various development projects in the past nine years and alleged lapses on the part of the state government to check corruption led to the pause on the release of funds under some schemes.
The ruling dispensation in Bengal rejected the claims.
“We did not discriminate… But complaints started coming up under the MGNREGA and the state refused to cooperate with the inquiry teams sent to Bengal. Moreover, when Aadhaar seeding (with job cards) was done, more than 25 lakh job cards were found to be bogus…. You have defaulted and you are proud of it (ek to chori, aur uppar se seenazori)?,” asked Singh at a news conference in Bihar on Monday.
Singh said Bengal had received more than Rs 54,000 crore under MGNREGA in the past nine years. He also said Bengal had received only Rs Rs 14,900 crore under the same scheme during the tenure of the UPA government.
Similarly, he compared the funds released by the NDA and the UPA governments to reject the allegation Bengal was being deprived of the grants by the Narendra Modi dispensation.
“Under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, while only Rs 5,400 crore was spent when the UPA was in power, more than Rs 11,000 crore has been spent during the tenure of the Modi government. Under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, only Rs 4,400 crore was spent during the UPA government, whereas the Modi administration gave Rs 30,000 crore to Bengal,” said the minister.
Singh also said the BJP-led Centre had released Rs 25,000 crore to Bengal under the finance commission grants whereas the state had received Rs 3,200 crore (under the head) during the UPA tenure.
However, the Bengal government sought to refute the allegation levelled by the Union minister.
“Every time the Centre sent teams to inspect the projects, the state extended full cooperation to them…. The state even implemented all recommendations made by the Centre to check alleged corruption under the 100-day job scheme. But despite all these, funds have not been released,” said a senior bureaucrat.
A bureaucrat aware of the developments said the Centre had delayed the release of funds under rural development schemes alleging that the state had not taken initiatives to recover the misappropriated amounts and had not acted against those involved in the embezzlement.
“The state had initiated the process of recovering some money and FIRs were lodged against some panchayat functionaries. The Centre should have released funds as the state started action as recommended by the Union government,” said the bureaucrat.
The Trinamul Congress also criticised the Union minister saying the increase in the release of funds under the schemes was not a charity by the BJP-led Centre but a necessity considering the changes in demography, economy and cost of living.
“The comparisons that the minister made giving reference to the UPA regime doesn’t mean anything.... He should have also spoken about the increase in the collections made through a variety of taxes and cess from Bengal in recent years vis-a-vis the collections during the UPA regime,” said a Trinamul leader.