Friday, October 28, 2011

State has funds for development: Asim Dasgupta

TNN | Oct 28, 2011, 06.48AM IST

KOLKATA: Former finance minister Asim Dasgupta on Thursday pointed out "accounting fallacy" in his successor Amit Mitra's rejoinder to his slur against Mamata Banerjee. "In accounting propriety, revenue head shouldn't be added to capital head," said Dasgupta. He also turned down Mitra's request for a telephonic discussion on the fiscal calculations.

"Every number in this book speaks silently and I absorb every word. I stand by my own statement," Dasgupta said, holding up the "Trends of Expenditure and Growth Trajectories", tabled by the state government on August 11.

His second press conference in a week at the CPM headquarters turned out to be a classroom lecture (Dasgupta had taught economics at the ISI)to prove that Mamata had indeed talked out of her hat to claim that the Left misrule had cost the state so dear that she could only spend 6 paise for development out of every rupee earned.

Contradicting the CM's "misleading statements" at the National Development Council ( NDC) meeting in New Delhi to coax the centre for more bail-out funds, Dasgupta on Monday cited figures from the new government's financial statement to prove that the state, in fact, had 26% (not 6) funds reserved for development.

Less than 24 hours later, Amit Mitra jumped to the CM's defence to depict that a crucial category (loan repayment) had been omitted from the expenditure bracket. Resorting to the statistical legerdemain Dasgupta himself had often been associated with, Mitra said at Writers' Buildings on Tuesday: "His (Dasgupta's) presentation that the state's gross receipt is Rs 65,847 crore is true, but it boils down to Rs 59,462 crore because of the central grants that are barred from being used in the non-plan category." Mitra then invited his former Presidency college senior to telephone him for the clarifications.

On Thursday, Dasgupta said, "Quite so. These funds can't be used for paying salaries. But they can be used for development. Therefore, they must be added in the development expenditure category... If you start adding capital payment, you must also add the total capital receipt. Add Rs 21,794 crore to the revenue earning of Rs 65,848 crore and the sum soars to Rs 87,642 crore. After expending Rs 56,031 crore on salaries, pension, central loan repayment, transport subsidy etc, around Rs 33,000 crore would still be available for plan expenditure. This is no modest amount.

The low-down on the state's fiscal situation continued:

"This way, you would have spent 63% of the gross earning and are left with 37 paise from every rupee earned...You can't mix revenue and capital accounts. They (Mamata and Mitra) have combined the two in a glaring instance of accounting fallacy." These were his final words.

Defending the former Left Front government, Dasgupta said, finance minister defended the Left Front government's market borrowing spree, claiming that Rs 5,213 crore was raised in April-May alone "because tax receipt is low in the first quarter and the government had to resort to higher borrowing during this period,". He reiterated:

"The new government has borrowed Rs 10,000 crore in five months which is double of what we borrowed during the same period last year." He said he couldn't fathom why Mitra had added the Rs 3,000 "unpaid bills" in the spending bracket (it didn't figure in the financial statement tabled in the Assembly) since "payment is a continuous process and, thus, remained pending".

Shooting down Mitra's allegations that his government had left a Rs 4,800 crore DA burden on the new one, Dasgupta tom-tommed the Left Front's policy of including teachers, municipal employees and others within the purview of DA. He said, "In the last vote-on-account we had kept aside money for DA. It's for the present government to decide when it will be paid."

Finally, on Mitra's jibe that Bengal was the only state to extract coal royalty as well as cess, Dasgupta said, "Ours is the only state that has been discriminated against this revenue income. A Supreme Court ruling backs this. If Bihar and Jharkhand haven't claimed the money, it's because their Coal Cess Act was nullified."

What about coal royalty arrears? : Asim Dasgupta

The Hindu, October 25, 2011 00:00 IST

“Why no mention made of this legitimate demand by State?”
Even as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee pressed for a special financial package for West Bengal, the former Finance Minister, Asim Dasgupta, pointed out that the State government had made no mention of coal royalty arrears to the tune of Rs. 5,000 crore payable by the Centre. “The arrears in coal royalties are a legitimate right of West Bengal.
The order given by the Supreme Court establishes this right. At least Rs. 5,000 crore is payable but we find that this demand has not been made by the State,” Dr. Dasgupta told journalists here on Monday.
“No other State can make this claim as they have already received the royalty. West Bengal is the only State that has been deprived.”
As for the demand for a special financial package, Dr. Dasgupta said, “It was never done when the Left Front was in power, but we will be pleased if the Centre provides assistance to the State.”
However, the the State government, while demanding assistance from the Centre, had made statements that were “misleading and incomplete,” he said.
The State had claimed that it was paying 94 per cent of its total revenue as salaries, pensions and interest. However, according to the books placed during the Assembly budget session, West Bengal had spent only 74 per cent of its total revenue and only 63 per cent of its total income under these heads, he said.
Also, the State borrowed heavily from the market, Rs. 10,000 crore in the five months the new government had been in power.
The market borrowings of the Left Front government during the same period last year were Rs. 5,000 crore, he said.

· No special package was given when Left Front was in favour
· In pressing demand, Mamata government has made ‘misleading' claims

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Attacks in Bengal: Wake-Up Call for Indian People

Editorial, People's Democracy
September 04, 2011

IN the midst of the country’s and parliament’s pre-occupation with Anna Hazare’s fast and the Lokpal Bill, the serious attack on democracy and civil liberties in West Bengal is not receiving the required and necessary attention. This is not surprising given the congenital anti-Left attitude of the corporate media. Recollect that a few months ago, people in numbers that were exponentially larger than those who collected at Ramlila Maidan, marched to the parliament at the call of the central trade unions. These equally patriotic Indians were protesting against both price rise and corruption. The only reference in the mainstream media to this huge mobilisation was the traffic dislocation that this caused in the capital! The electronic media decides its content on the basis of TRP ratings and not on the worthiness of the news. Showing the ‘wretched of the earth’ protesting price rise and corruption may not influence TRP ratings positively. Such is their logic!

It is this very mindset that reflected in the virtual black out of the news, by the mainstream media, of a dharna staged by more than 1500 sitting and former elected representatives from Bengal on August 25, 2011. A 17-member delegation met the prime minister on behalf of this dharna and presented a detailed memorandum listing the serious violent attacks against the Left Front cadres, offices and homes in West Bengal.

A summary of this report reveals that 30 Left Front leaders and workers [CPI(M) : 28, RSP : 2] have been killed and seven more were abetted to commit suicide during this period; 684 women were assaulted physically, 508 molested and 23 raped; 3785 persons had to be hospitalised for the treatment of injuries suffered by them and many more were forced not to lodge complaint and seek hospital treatment. There had been 2,064 cases of arson and looting of houses and 14,081 persons were evicted from their place of living. Around 40,000 in total had to leave their home under threat. To buy peace and stay in their home, people have been forced to pay money to the local AITC leaders and workers. According to a conservative estimate, total extortion amount thus paid might exceed Rs 277.7 million. 758 Party, trade union and other mass organisation offices were either attacked, ransacked, burnt, forced to close or captured. 77 student union offices have been captured. Their office-bearers have been driven out, some of them forced to resign and even others denied to appear for their exams. There has been a widespread attack on the rights of the peasantry where by 3,418 ryots were denied the right to cultivate their own lands amounting to 9222.73 acres. Besides 26,838 patta holders and sharecroppers have been forcibly evicted from 9222.02 acres of patta and barga lands.

Despite such serious and unacceptable attacks on democratic rights and civil liberties, not a whimper was heard from any section of the so-called civil society. These very luminaries were in the forefront, in collaboration with the Maoists, in highlighting the blatantly fabricated attacks against the Left Front and the state government on the issues of Singur and Nandigram. Now, given the seriousness of these attacks in Bengal, they choose to remain silent. Need anything more be said about their ideological predilections?

This, however, is not surprising. It brings back memories of the decade of 1970s. For full six years from 1972, a semi-fascist terror was unleashed against the CPI(M) in West Bengal. This was aimed at seeking to decimate the Communist-led popular movement in the state. Over 1,400 comrades were martyred and 22,000 Party families had to be relocated during the successful resistance defeating this semi-fascist terror. Only when such attacks on democratic rights was generalised for the whole country with the imposition of internal Emergency in 1975 did some other sections wake up to the dangers of authoritarianism. The people finally triumphed in defeating the serious assault on India’s democracy in 1977. Likewise, contrary to the hopes and machinations of the ruling classes, the people of West Bengal had not only reposed faith in the CPI(M)-led Left Front in the 1977 elections but continued to repose, in an unprecedented manner not found elsewhere in the country, such faith in seven consecutive elections.

Such a bitter experience and the imposition of misery and agony on the people through attacks on their democratic rights and civil liberties cannot be allowed to repeat. During the past four decades, the consolidation of the Indian Republic has moved forward and the Indian people will not tolerate such attacks and refuse to take them lying down.

These attacks in Bengal and resistance against them must be seen as a wake-up call for the Indian people as a whole to be vigilant and rise together to ensure that such anti-democratic authoritarian trends are defeated.

(August 31, 2011)