The Centre has rushed an additional R172 crore to West Bengal for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), within a day of receiving the request from Kolkata.
Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh sanctioned and released the funds on Thursday — in the last month of the financial year — after West Bengal rural development minister Subrata Mukherjee wrote to him for more money to execute the job guarantee programme.
The sanction comes at a time when Trinamool chief and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee is keeping the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre on tenterhooks on her support.
West Bengal has got the money despite a discrepancy between its claim and reports of the union ministry.
While Mukherjee’s letter is stated to have implied that West Bengal had R702 crore as opening balance on March 1, 2012, for the job guarantee programme, the ministry found the amount was R895 crore — a difference of R193 crore.
“However, keeping in view your personal request, an additional R172 crore has just been sanctioned and released to West Bengal. This is more than adequate to cover MGNREGA expenditure in March and even April 2012, going by our calculations,” Ramesh said in his reply to Mukherjee.
Ramesh, who shares a good equation with Banerjee and is actively pursuing development projects in West Bengal including in Maoist-affected Jangalmahal, also assured that there would be no dearth of funds for the state for the job guarantee programme.
“If more funds are required, then I would request the state government to submit a fresh proposal with updated utilisation certificates.”
Ramesh, however, said release of the first installment for next fiscal depended on expenditure of funds already made available.
The Centre’s amiable gesture comes when Banerjee is fuming over the railway budget, which proposes fare hikes across the board. She has already asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to sack railway minister Dinesh Trivedi, an MP from her party.