(With additional inputs, BJP reax) Kolkata, September 22 (PTI) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has agreed to implement the central flagship Ayushman Bharat and PMKisan schemes on condition that the funds for the same should be channelized through the state administration.
The BJP came down heavily on Banerjee for her propoal and wondered if her adding the rider of routing the funds through the state was meant for indulging in 'corruption to fill the ruling TMC's coffers' before the state assembly polls.
West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, who is an ardent advocate of the two schemes, wondered whether Banerjee's proposal is to help the corrupt instead of the real beneficiaries.
Banerjee in separate letters written on September 9 to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said she is ready to implement the PM-Kisan Samman Nidhi and Ayushman Bharat schemes in Bengal if the funds for them are routed through the state government.
Both letters were released to the media on Tuesday evening.
In the letter to Tomar, Banerjee said the state government has already introduced the Krishak Bandhu scheme for farmers.
'However, we will be happy to provide benefits to the farmers under the PM-Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme, and in that case, the Central government may transfer the requisite fund direct to the state government for further disbursement with full responsibility to the beneficiaries through the state government machinery,' she said.
Under the PM-Kisan scheme, the central government provides Rs 6,000 annually to each farmer in three equal instalments. The amount is directly transferred to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries through direct benefit transfer (DBT).
To Harsh Vardhan, the chief minister wrote that the state government provides free treatment to the people of the state under the Swasthya Sathi scheme.
'Ayushman Bharat Scheme may be extended by the Government of India with entire 100 per cent expenditure for the scheme. In such a case, the entire funding for the scheme may be routed through the state government,' she said.
Billed as the world's most extensive government healthcare programme, Ayushman Bharat is funded with 60 per cent contribution coming from the central government and the remaining from the states.
Banerjee's letters were released after the BJP and Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar questioned her opposition to the farm bills when her government had not implemented the central scheme for the benefit of farmers.
The missives triggered angry reaction from the BJP, which accused TMC of 'planning to usurp the central funds to fill its party coffers'.
'The rule is the same for the entire country, so why does the chief minister want to make an exception for Bengal? The fact is the TMC wants to siphon off the funds to the party coffers before elections,' BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha said.
'There is no cut-money involved (for implementing the two central schemes) and so the TMC government in the state was not keen to implement it. Now they have made their intention clear,' he added.
Dhankhar, who had earlier in the day urged Banerjee not to shed 'crocodile tears' over the farm sector reforms and instead implement the PM-Kisan scheme, questioned the rationale behind the rider given by her instead of direct transfer of funds to beneficiaries as in other states.
'The cat is out of the bag. The chief minister's proposal will benefit non-state actors who are already in control of the corridors of power in the state,' Dhankhar, who is often at loggerheads with the state government, said at a press conference here.
The TMC, however, said both the Governor and the BJP are spreading canards against the state government.
'We all know that BJP has an aversion to verifying facts and is good at making baseless allegations against the West Bengal government.
'And no one takes our governor seriously. He has seriously compromised the governor's position,' senior TMC leader and MP Sougato Roy said. PTI PNT KK KK