Repeated conflict with Centre not good for State

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on May 15, 2020

West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar

Encourage people and enterprises to take benefit of economic relief package: Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar

Repeated conflict and an “adversarial position” against the Centre, is not the right approach for West Bengal government; whether it comes to fighting the Covid-19 outbreak or development of the State.

In fact, enterprises and people should be encouraged to take benefit of economic relief packages that the Centre announced to kick-start activities. Similarly, the State government should implement Central schemes that benefit farmers and expand scope of public healthcare, said West Bengal Governor, Jagdeep Dhankhar.

“Thanks to a well thought out mega package, at the end of Covid-19 tunnel there will be a floodlight of hope,” he maintained.

Push for MSMEs

The Governor, who has often reflected on the working of Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, maintained that objection to relief schemes of Centre discourages enterprises operating out of the State. For instance, the ₹300,000 crore collateral-free loan scheme for MSMEs means a huge liquidity boost and thrust to working capital requirements.

“The relief package is a game-changer for several sectors including the MSMEs. But, the Chief Minister calls this a big zero, instead of asking MSMEs to grab the opportunity. I don’t know why,” Dhankhar told BusinessLine.

MSMEs have been severely hit as a pandemic-induced lockdown led to liquidity issues and lack of demand.

“The thrust on micro, small and medium enterprises will provide impetus to the economy of West Bengal. These enterprises are a lifeline of the State,” he said.

On Friday, he tweeted: “Applaud efforts (by) @narendramodi to mitigate woes of farmers, migrants and street vendors. PM-KISAN beneficiary farmers will get ₹2 lakh-crore concessional credit boost through Kisan Credit Cards. Street Vendors will get initial working capital ₹10,000.”

Poor fiscal management

The Chief Minister has also criticised the package for overlooking demands of Bengal – clearing GST and other dues; increasing borrowing limits; absence of a specific Covid relief package. Revenue loss for April was ₹5,000 crore.

However, Governor Dhankhar maintains, a “lot is left to be desired on the fiscal management front here”. According to him, money is spent on multiple “unnecessary items” most of which are “self promotion material”.

“In the financial package of the Centre there is very little scope for external agencies to be involved for delivery of benefits,” he said adding that, this could be a problem for State governments where “external agencies are writing the governance script”.

Dhankhar claims, “Good economic approach is always pro-people governance.” The State government should focus on a “comprehensive industrial policy” to draw investments, targeting those manufacturing units planning to shift base from China to India. Bengal can be a natural destination for those trying to access South East Asia and similar export markets.

“But the Chief Minister, ever in election campaign mode, is permanently objecting to the Central scheme and policies,” he said.

“I have volunteered to help her; ensure that dues be cleared quickly by the Centre. But, she has never approached me on the issues. She has taken an adversarial position to the Constitutional head of the state,” Dhankhar added.

Implement central schemes

West Bengal’s failure to join the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana (PMKSNY) saw nearly 70 lakh farmers being denied a compensation package worth ₹7,000 crore, the Governor said. Bengal is the only state to not join this scheme.

In fact, the Union Minister of State for Agriculture, Kailash Choudhary, during a response in the Parliament said as on March 11, 2020, financial benefits under the scheme has been released to 869,79,391 beneficiaries; excluding those here.

“I have repeatedly urged the Mamata Banerjee government to adopt the PM KISAN scheme. Not joining is an anti-people action on her part. Moreover, why hurt farmers who are the backbone of our economy,” Dhankhar pointed out.

He tweeted: “Migrants will get free ration for two months: 5 kg grains per person & 1 kg chana per family per month. Urge @MamataOfficial to adopt PM-KISAN so farmers get assistance through Kisan Credit Cards.”

Similarly, had Ayushman Bharat – healthcare scheme – been adopted, there could have been a “healthcare infrastructure boom” with new hospitals coming up; an increase in focus on skilling and training paramedical staff and better upkeep of existing facilities.

The Covid outbreak has already brought to light “shortcomings in state’s healthcare facilities”; and with a number of healthcare workers / front-line workers being repeatedly affected, a lot needs to be done, he added.

Published on May 15, 2020

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