Constant Confrontation And Conflicts With Centre Costing Bengal Very Dear

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Jun 26, 2020 03:56 PM +05:30 IST
Constant Confrontation And Conflicts With Centre Costing Bengal Very DearPrime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
  • Centre plans temporary employment scheme for migrants returning home, and asks states to provide district-wise details.

    All states asked to provide information, comply. Bengal doesn’t.

    Result? When scheme is launched, labour of West Bengal misses out.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Atma Nirbhar Uttar Pradesh Rojgar Abhiyan today (26 June), lakhs of Bengal’s left-in-the-lurch and jobless migrant workers could not but have cursed the Trinamool government in the state for another missed opportunity.

The Uttar Pradesh abhiyan, which is part of the Prime Minister Garib Kalyan Rojgar Yojana that Modi launched on 20 June, is expected to provide 1.25 crore jobs across 31 districts of the state in 125 days.

But Bengal does not find a place in the yojana, which covers 116 districts in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Odisha. For that, the state has only itself to blame.

Much before launching the yojana that is specifically targeted at providing temporary employment to migrant workers who returned to their states due to the pandemic-triggered lockdown, the Union government had written to all states to provide a list of districts that have received more than 25,000 migrant workers who returned from other states.

But the Bengal government did not reply to the letter and provide the details on time, thanks to its notoriously lethargic bureaucracy and the highly politicised state machinery. Also, as per Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s standing instructions, all communications with the Union government has to be vetted by her.

This made senior bureaucrats who received the letter asking for names of districts that have received more than 25,000 migrant workers sit on it for many days. Any request for information made by New Delhi is viewed with suspicion by Bengal’s bureaucrats and their political masters.

A senior bureaucrat admitted that by the time the state government figured out that New Delhi made the request for a welfare scheme for workers which would benefit many of them in the state, it was too late. And Bengal missed out on yet another opportunity that would have ameliorated the continuing sufferings of its hapless poor.

The underlying reason for the delay in responding to the Union government’s query was the perennial combative stance adopted by Chief Minister Banerjee towards the Centre.

“When it comes to anything to do with New Delhi, bureaucrats and ministers wait for clearance from the Chief Minister. Since she also micromanages everything and not a single file moves without her express consent, things inevitably get delayed. The CM’s office has become a huge bottleneck,” said the joint secretary-level bureaucrat, who wished anonymity for obvious reasons.

After having missed this bus, Banerjee, true to her style, has started accusing the Centre of neglecting Bengal.

“There is no substance in her charge. Bengal never provides any information to the Centre and it is the poor people of the state who have to suffer as a result,” said Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state general secretary Sayantan Basu.

This is, however, not the only central welfare scheme that Banerjee has deprived the people of Bengal of. She has refused to make Bengal part of the nationwide Ayushman Bharat health insurance scheme.

As a result, lakhs of patients of Bengal cannot avail good medical treatment in premier hospitals outside the state and have been doomed to make do with the state’s pathetic health infrastructure.

Banerjee has refused to bring Bengal under the coverage of many other welfare schemes of the Union government.

“It is her ego that comes in the way. That is why central schemes meant for students, farmers, women and many other categories of people are boycotted by Bengal,” said BJP state president Dilip Ghosh.

Congress leaders recall that even when the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was in power in the Centre, Bengal under Banerjee had frequently adopted the path of confrontation and, as a result, the people of the state had suffered.

Even the few central welfare schemes that have been adopted by Bengal have been tweaked to make them appear as the state’s own schemes. And to make matters worse, Bengal has gained notoriety for not submitting accounts of funds spent under various welfare schemes in time. This leads to delays in the Union government releasing the next tranches of funds for those schemes.

“This has been a nasty ploy by the Bengal government. It does not provide accounts of funds it receives from the Union government for welfare schemes, and when there is the resultant inevitable delay in releasing more funds by the Centre, Mamata Banerjee starts alleging neglect by the Centre,” explained BJP national secretary.

Keeping Bengal out of the ambit of many central welfare schemes or engineering delays in the functioning of other schemes has caused immense suffering to the people of Bengal, says BJP state chief Ghosh.

“Banerjee’s unnecessary confrontations with the Union government has set Bengal back by many years,” he added.

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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