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Rahul misinformed, says West Bengal Minister

Special Correspondent

KOLKATA: Reacting to the comments of AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi on the West Bengal government's ‘utilisation' of funds given by the Centre under the Rural Employment Guarantee Schemes, Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta said the Congress leader had been given incorrect information.

“Political statements should be countered politically but at an administrative level, I can say that the picture is the opposite of what is being portrayed,” Dr. Dasgupta told journalists.

Pointing out that the State was awaiting the release of Rs. 1,400 crore, which was its due from the Centre on the rural employment guarantee schemes, he said the people were suffering. “It is no case for petty politics.”

“Shortage of funds”

The truth was that the State was facing shortage of funds and some pancahayat bodies and zilla parishads has had to raise loans for Rs. 25 crore just to meet payment obligations to the rural folk, some of whom are in acute distress due to the drought which has hit 11 districts.

In the wake of the drought, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had written a letter on the pending payments to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Following this, Rs. 170 crore was released.

“Irresponsible”

CPIM) Central Committee member Mohd. Salim on Monday dismissed as “irresponsible” AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi's remarks at a rally here about the siphoning off of Central funds, including those for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) in West Bengal. Mr. Gandhi should instead focus on why the parallel scheme guaranteeing employment in urban areas had not been formulated, he said.

Mr. Salim said a complete audit of the funds released under the MNREGS was conducted by the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India as well as by third parties such as NGOs.

As a parliamentarian and senior leader of the Congress, Mr. Gandhi should have read the CAG reports and consulted the concerned Minister before making “such irresponsible statements,” Mr. Salim said.

“The State government has not been able to implement the scheme because the Centre has not been able to release funds. Finance Minster Pranab Mukherjee himself admitted recently that there had been delays in the allotment of MNREGS funds,” Mr. Salim said.

Mr. Gandhi should instead focus on why there had been no progress in the introduction of a similar scheme guaranteeing employment to the unemployed in urban areas, Mr. Salim said.

Mr. Salim was also critical of Mr. Gandhi's remarks predicting the demise of Communism in the State comparing it to the fall of the Soviet Union.

The rank and file of the Congress was depleting in West Bengal under the influence of the Trinamool Congress. This should be of greater concern to the party, he said.

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