W Bengal ministers seek excise waiver from Pranab

The delegation is led by West Bengal minister for industries, Nirupam Sen, reports Sutirtho Patranobis.

india Updated: Dec 21, 2006 00:34 IST

A multi-party delegation of ministers and MLAs from West Bengal met Union Minister for External Affairs and senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee and Union Minister for Commerce, Kamal Nath, on Wednesday to demand excise exemptions for North Bengal on the same line given to Uttaranchal, Himachal Pradesh and northeastern states.

The delegation was led by West Bengal minister for industries, Nirupam Sen. At the end of the 30-minute meeting, Sen said that both Mukherjee and Kamal Nath were positive and had assured the delegation that the demand would be discussed at a ministerial level.

Kamal Nath also mentioned that he was in favour of fixed criteria for extending excise benefits to industries being set up in hilly and unfavourable terrain. The proposal, of course, would have to be sent to the Finance Ministry for the final greens-signal.

Sen told HT that the West Bengal assembly in its last session had passed an all-party resolution to demand excise benefits from the Centre. "Excise benefits were earlier given to states in the northeast like Assam, Meghalaya, and Tripura and also to Jammu & Kashmir. In 2003, under the NDA regime, the benefits were extended to Uttaranchal and Himachal Pradesh," Sen said.

The NDA Government later passed a decree saying that such benefits would be given to industries being set up in hilly regions till the end of March in 2007. "After the UPA came to power in 2004, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee wrote to Centre asking for similar benefits for the six districts in the hilly regions of North Bengal. The Centre refused saying that last date was fast approaching and the benefits would not be given to any state," Sen said.

The situation, however, changed after the UPA government extended the 2007 deadline to 2010. "After the extension of the last date, there is no reason why the Centre cannot now extend the same benefits to North Bengal," Sen said.

EmailSutirtho Patranobis: sutirthopatranobis@hindustantimes.com

First Published: Dec 21, 2006 00:34 IST