Chief minister Buddhadheb Bhattacharjee may be confident of paying May salaries on time but his optimism is not matched by Howrah municipalitiy who have sent a SOS to Writers' Buildings.
Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC), the second largest civic body in the state, has already written to Writers' Buildings on Friday, requesting funds for May salary of its 2,700 employees and 2,260 pensioners.
"We have requested the municipal affairs secretary to clear our dues on DA and pension relief. We will be facing a crisis if the department does not respond," said Howrah Municipal Corporation commissioner Nilanjan Chatterjee.
A senior official of the municipality said that around Rs 6.5 crore is required every month for salaries and pensions. The state government provides 50 per cent of the monthly bill and the municipality generates the rest. Complicating the scene for Writers is the news that the Howrah municipality's coffers are empty.
Sources said the municipality has asked for Rs 36 crore as dues in connection with DA for five years since 2003 and electricity bills worth Rs 10 crore. The state government pays the bills for electricity.
According to the finance department, the state government is not in a position to clear all dues claimed by municipality. Primacy has been given to salary and pension and all other dues have been withheld according to the directive of the department to treasury officials.
Howrah mayor Mamata Jaiswal has already met the commissioner and other officials. She has asked officials to generate revenue in order to meet salaries. The financial crisis in the corporation is so acute that the municipality has reportedly diverted funds under the JNNURM scheme to pay staff salaries. When asked about diversion of funds, Chatterjee said, "I have taken charge in March and there has been no diversion of funds since then. I have no idea of financial irregularities earlier."