West Bengal Finance Minister Chandrima Bhattacharya on Thursday claimed that the Centre was making contradictory statements on the state's GST compensation dues by deciding to release the balance for June 2022, and at the same time asserting that audited figures were not submitted.
Bhattacharya pointed out that Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, after the 49th meeting of the GST Council last week, had said in a release that West Bengal will receive Rs 823 crore for June 2022 as GST compensation.
"This is contradictory On one hand, it is said that we have not given the accountant general (AG) certificate and no calculation (of the dues) was done, and on the other hand, she (Sitharaman) says everything has been paid till May 2022 and this (amount of Rs 823 crore) is only for June 2022... My respectful submission is this makes no sense," the minister noted.
Bhattacharya was speaking at an interactive session here, titled 'Bengal's Fiscal Health in Post Pandemic: Road Ahead', organised by the Merchants' Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
Sitharaman had recently said in Parliament that GST compensation to states is released when the audited figures are provided, but West Bengal has not submitted those since 2017.
Replying to the assertions, the state government had said in a release, "The Union finance minister made a statement that West Bengal has not sent GST compensation cess claim with accountant general (AG) certificate since 2017-18 to 2021-22. The state government does not agree with the statement."
Bhattacharya also downplayed concerns of the central government over proper utilisation of funds granted to the state, and criticised the decision to withhold money for various welfare schemes in Bengal.
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She claimed that as per a survey in 2018, as many as 59 lakh families in Bengal had enrolled for the PM Awas Yojana (PMAY), but of these, 17 lakh were "omitted due to stringent terms" of the Union government.
"Of the remaining 42 lakh enrolments, approvals were given for 11.36 lakh, but the funds are yet to be received I also urge the Centre to revise the terms and conditions under the scheme," the minister said.
The West Bengal government had recently written to the Centre demanding the immediate release of funds under the PMAY, underlining that the state would fail to meet its March 31 deadline for building houses, if there is any further delay.
The ruling TMC has also been pressing for the immediate release of dues to the state under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
"We are not begging before the central government; it is our right, which is being infringed upon, Bhattacharya added.
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