Mamata flays centre over fund squeeze

Kolkata, Oct 3 (IANS) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Thursday lashed out at the central government for reduction in funds to the state.

The chief minister was speaking at a function to launch the state-wide youth employment scheme "Yuvashree", under which the state government aims to provide unemployment allowance of Rs.1,500 per month to 100,000 unemployed youth every month.

The annual expense on the scheme would be Rs.180 crore.

Banerjee fiercely criticised the central government, accusing it of disabling the state financially, and failing to restructure the state's economy. She said the centre had let the erstwhile regime take loans, and as a result of the earlier lapses, her government has had to "suffer".

Speaking at the flagging-off of the scheme at the Netaji Indoor Stadium here, the chief minister said: "How will we create jobs if we don't have money? Where will that money come from? We are spending over paying off debts... we had repeatedly told the government that Bengal is number one in debts, so a restructuring is needed. Why did they allow the CPI-M (government) to borrow funds, whereas now they are not giving us any money and we are having to suffer?"

She stressed that despite the central government's move to hamper the state's economy, her government would not bow down, and would answer back through progress despite the financial crisis.

"Today they are helping other states... I am happy that other states are getting benefits, but why have they stopped our funding? They are trying to hit our economy... even then, they should know that it won't matter to us... we might break, but won't bend... we don't follow blackmailing practices... we know how to hold our head high and walk. When we are hit with bricks, we hit back with progress and development."

The state government initiative comes in the wake of the ailing financial situation of the state, which has affected employment opportunities for youth.

On the inaugural day itself, cheques were be handed over to 10,000 young people.

The state labour department has already selected 100,000 unemployed youth who have passed at least Class VIII and are in the age group of 18 to 45 years.

The beneficiaries have been chosen from those who registered their names in the employment bank portal floated earlier by Banerjee.

The youth would be required to use the allowances for vocational or other training that will make them fit for employment.

Holding the clearance of debts incurred by the CPI-M during its rule responsible for the current deficit, Banerjee said there would be a boom in the industrial sector.

"When we came in power two years ago, there were only debts to pay, courtesy the CPI-M," the chief minister said.

"Some people are shouting that they want employment, but how will new jobs be created without money? I don't have any issues in giving them jobs, but where are the funds," Banerjee asked.

"Why will our unemployed brothers and sisters go to Delhi or Mumbai and toil and live with 50 others in a tiny room? People are going abroad as they get good money because our state can't provide such lucrative offers, but gradually, industries are coming in, and opportunities are being created," she said.

The chief minister's remarks came in the wake of the recent submission to the union finance minister of the report of the Raghuram Rajan Committee, which recommended a method of allocation of funds from centre to states based both on a state's development needs as well as its performance. The proposal means that states that have shown improvement in development metrics would face proportionate reduction in central assistance.

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