Kolkata, Jul 27 (PTI) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Monday requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to facilitate the clearance of the state's financial dues on the Centre, and said it would help her government fight the COVID-19 pandemic more effectively.
The opposition CPI(M) and the BJP, however, criticised the chief minister for seeking more funds, contending she should rather take measures to stem alleged corruption in her party and the state government.
Banerjee, during an online programme where Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated new testing facilities in West Bengal, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, also sought the creation of a separate fund for combating the viral outbreak.
She reasoned that the state disaster response fund was meant for tackling devastation caused by natural disasters such as flood and cyclone.
'I have two to three requests for the Centre. First, I would like to tell you (the prime minister) that the financial burden of the state is increasing every day. For COVID-19, we have spent Rs 2,500 crore so far, but have received only Rs 125 crore from the NHM (National Health Mission).
'Our state is yet to receive dues of Rs 53,000 crore from the Centre. I would like to request the PM to help clear at least a portion of the dues so that we can continue doing our work,' Banerjee said during the online programme.
The chief minister also told the PM that the state was yet to receive Rs 4,135 crore as GST compensation for April-May. She urged Modi to allow the states to borrow more money by raising the FRBM (Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management) limits.
Referring to the devastation caused by Cyclone Amphan, Banerjee said her government has got no financial aid from the Centre other than the advance assistance of Rs 1,000 crore.
'We have submitted our estimation of Rs 35,000 crore. A report was also submitted by the Central team which had visited the state after the calamity. We have released Rs 6,500 crore for Amphan relief but have not received anything other than the Rs 1,000 crore, which you (Modi) had provided us. So, I will request you to look into the matter,' she said.
'The Centre has asked us to spend money from the state disaster fund for COVID-19 expenses. What if there is a natural disaster tomorrow? Where will we get more money from? It would be better if a separate fund is created for the COVID-19 pandemic,' she stated.
Lauding the Centre for its efforts to open a new laboratory in the city, Banerjee requested the Union government to facilitate the setting up of more such laboratories in state-run hospitals.
During the virtual event, Banerjee also said that her government is planning to increase the number of daily COVID-19 tests to 25,000 by August 15 from the current around 16,000. On University Grants Commission (UGC) guidelines making it mandatory for higher educational institutes to conduct final-year exams by September 30, she requested the PM to direct the HRD ministry to take up the matter with the statutory body as the 'decision needs reconsideration'.
'The UGC had issued guidelines on April 29 stating that there was no need to make final examinations compulsory amid the COVID-19 pandemic. We had made preparations accordingly. Now the UGC revised its guideline and made final exams compulsory. How can students sit for examination when all educational institutions are shut?' she said.
Hitting out at Banerjee, state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said the claims made by her were 'baseless.
'The allegation that the Centre is not providing funds is completely baseless. The Union government has given enough... But the state government and the TMC are more interested in siphoning off the funds rather than helping the poor,' Ghosh said.
Echoing him, CPI(M) legislative party leader Sujan Chakraborty said the state government should release the names of cyclone Amphan beneficiaries along with other relevant details before seeking more funds from the Centre. PTI SCH PNT RMS TIR TIR