Calcutta: Central minister Babul Supriyo today said the Bengal government’s failure to bring in reforms, such as scrapping land ceiling rules, was to blame for central funds drying up for urban development projects, targeting Mamata Banerjee where it hurts.
“I want the state government to comply with the Centre’s guidelines by doing away with the existing Ulcra (urban land ceiling and regulation act),” the newly appointed minister said.
“I will take up the issue with Bobbyda (state urban development minister Firhad Hakim) and urge him to implement the required reforms so that development projects can be taken forward,” Supriyo said at the state BJP headquarters on his first visit to the city since his induction on Sunday.
The first-time MP appeared to have done his homework. A senior official in the state government said the minister’s explanation of why Bengal was not getting funds was “right”.
According to the official, projects worth Rs 3,500 crore are pending. Reason: Delhi has not released money since January 2014 as the state has not implemented most of the reforms. The state government was to have also repealed Ulcra, imposed a tax on water supply and brought down stamp duty to 5 per cent by the 2013-14 financial year, officials said.
“None of the reforms has been implemented. Ulcra still exists and it is a tragedy that it exists only in Bengal. Some municipalities had started levying user charges on water, but that stopped after the new government came to power. The stamp duty has remained stuck at 6 per cent,” said an official.
Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, Trinamul had been accused of using police to harass Supriyo by levelling charges against him ranging from possessing arms to campaigning drunk. But Supriyo defeated Mamata’s handpicked candidate Dola Sen in a battle of nerves in Asansol.
In an interview to The Telegraph immediately after his November 9 swearing-in, Supriyo had said he didn’t want to remember those incidents. He spoke of the task ahead.
“We have a mission for Bengal in 2016. We want to liberate Bengal from Trinamul Congress misrule,” the 43-year-old had said.
At the media conference this evening, Supriyo gave an idea of how he would proceed when he held the Mamata government responsible for not getting central funds under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).
“I have got an idea from officers that many ongoing projects under the JNNURM in Bengal are pending as the state government has not done its bit to get further funds. Reform programmes have not been implemented by the state government,” he said.
Sources said Supriyo had expressed concern over several pending projects, including some meant for Asansol, Burnpur and Durgapur, a large part of which falls in his constituency.
“Pending projects include two from Calcutta. One is the renovation of the Tala tank and the other is a conservancy project. But the majority of the projects are meant for Asansol and its surrounding areas,” said an official.
According to Ulcra, the land ceiling act, individuals can hold a maximum of 500sqm in Calcutta. In areas like Asansol, Burnpur and Durgapur, the limit is 2,000sqm.
While a senior minister said the act was a safeguard for the poor and the middle classes in cities like Calcutta, Trinamul insiders said the government would go slow on it.
“Funds for the majority of the projects for Calcutta have already been sanctioned…. If projects for Asansol cannot be completed, the onus would be on local MP Babul Supriyo,” said a party leader.
A senior official said the Bengal government had no plans to implement the required urban reforms in the near future.