In a bid to partially offset the price hike of LPG cylinders, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee announced that her government has surrendered a cess income of Rs 16 per cylinder, thereby effecting an equal reduction from the hike of Rs 50 announced by the Centre from midnight of June 24.
"The government would sacrifice an income of Rs 75 crore. I have discussed the issue with finance minister Amit Mitra. The decision would come into effect from Friday night, when the price hike came into effect," said the chief minister on Saturday afternoon at the state secretariat.
With the cess waiver, consumers in West Bengal would have to shell out Rs 399 for a cylinder and not Rs 415 as announced on Friday evening.
"This is our contribution to try and deliver some relief to the kitchens of our mothers and sisters of Bengal," said the chief minister in her usual rhetoric before announcing the notification would be published on Monday.
"She deserves my thanks of the cess sacrifice," remarked CPI(M) central committee member and former housing minister of Bengal Gautam Deb, known for his vitriolic attack on Mamata during the Assembly poll campaign.
But perhaps bigger than the quantum of sacrifice was the Trinamool Congress leader's message to the Centre that she was not at all accepting the Centre's logic.
"I am pained, grieved at the price hike. I have told the Centre they should also reduce the hike. The common man's interest is of paramount importance," said Mamata, whose party the Trinamool Congress is the second largest constituent of the UPA government.
Mamata expressed her displeasure on Friday evening itself shortly after the decision to raise the prices of petro products was announced.
"I have vented my unhappiness at the proper place. We are against price rises," she had said on Friday evening.
Mamata laced her announcement with a dig at her predecessors. "We had repeatedly implored the Left Front government for sacrificing a part of their income from petro products to help the common man. But they never did it," said Mamata.
West Bengal is going through one of the worst financial crisis in its history. Its tax revenues are extremely poor compared to its expenditure, so much so that the state government spends 97% of its taxes on just paying salaries to its employees.
However, the West Bengal chief minister did not announce any surrender of revenue on the prices of diesel and kerosene, the prices of which were also raised from Friday night.