Mamata Banerjee on Thursday made it clear that her government would work to include more beneficiaries in welfare schemes but underscored the need to explore new areas to generate revenue to run such plans.
“Those who are left out of schemes like Lakshmir Bhandar, old age pension and widow pension can be added to the list of beneficiaries at the next Duare Sarkar camps.… But we need to generate more revenue, else, how would we run schemes like Lakshmir Bhandar for which Rs 4,073 crore has already been spent?” asked the chief minister during an administrative review meeting held at Netaji Indoor Stadium here.
She explained how the number of beneficiaries under various schemes could be expanded.
“Another 1.5 lakh beneficiaries could be added to the list of old age pension beneficiaries. Similarly, another 1 lakh could be added to the widow pension scheme... Now, over 1.5 crore women are getting benefits of Lakshmir Bhandar scheme. Those who are left out could be added to the list of beneficiaries at the next Duare Sarkar camps,” she said.
Then, Mamata took care to explain that her government needed to generate revenue from new areas to run the schemes smoothly.
She said all truck termini located at the land ports along international borders in Bengal would be run by the transport department.
“The revenue generated from these units would come directly to the treasury…. The unused infrastructure like the Krishak Bazars and Patha Sathis should be utilised properly so that revenue could be generated from them,” the chief minister said.
A section of government officials said those truck termini were being run either by municipalities or zilla parishads. Earnings from the termini do not come to the state exchequer. The local bodies handle this fund.
“Now, as funds generated from these termini would come directly to the state exchequer, the government can earn up to Rs 100 crore annually,” said an official.
Sources said the chief minister had felt the need for higher revenue generation as the state exchequer was really stressed after the Lakshmir Bhandar scheme was launched. The state needs to spend nearly Rs 20,000 crore annually to run its welfare schemes, including Lakshmir Bhandar.
“The figure could reach Rs 23,000 crore if more beneficiaries are brought under different welfare schemes by March this year. So, the state needs to fund out ways to generate more funds to keep the schemes running,” said an official.
The chief minister also expressed displeasure over the slow progress of one of her pet schemes — Student Credit Card.
“A total of 1.74 lakh applications have been received under the scheme, but only 14,000 of them were approved and another 25,000 were provisionally approved. This is happening because of the non-cooperation of banks,” said Mamata.
She then asked the cooperation department to ensure that the applicants got the loan from cooperative banks in case the scheduled banks didn’t come forward.
During the meeting, the chief minister also asked the officials to complete projects on time. “Some PWD, PHE and health department projects are being carried out for over seven to eight years. These should be completed on time,” said Mamata.
A bureaucrat said the chief minister wanted the projects to be completed on time to save money as expenditure stacked up because of the delay.
She also asked the director general of police and the health department to complete the pending recruitment at the earliest, which would also add to the revenue expenditure of the government.
Mamata asked the officials to visit the doorsteps of those who did not take the second dose of Covid-19 vaccine to complete the inoculation drive at the earliest.