For the first time after three decades of unchallenged rule in West Bengal, the leaders of the Marxist communist party are now scared to lose the support of the Muslims during the ensuing panchayat poll scheduled to be held in May this year. The scare has been clearly reflected in the state budget proposals for 2008-09 that the finance minister, Asim Dasgupta had placed in the Assembly on March 17. As advised by party'sstate committee, Dasgupta has allotted Rs 313.53 crore for the Muslims alone only to win back their support in rural Bengal. Such a large amount of money was never allotted in the state budget for one particular community since Independence. Dasgupta, among other things, has proposed to set up 200 primary schools, 300 secondary schools exclusively for the Muslim students and various employment schemes for the Muslims under the state minority community financial corporation. He has also proposed to provide free or highly subsidised boarding lodging and education for the Muslim students.
However, the Muslims in West Bengal have little faith on the assurances made by the Harvard educated high profile finance minister in his budget proposals. They are now openly seeking answer from Dasgupta through numerous letters, published in various Kolkata newspapers, why not a single madrasa was opened during the last financial year despite his categorical proposal in the 2007-08 budgets that Rs 40 crore had been allotted to set up 400 new madarsas in the state.
In fact, Dasgupta has a habit to forget most of his major assurances that he made in his budget proposals every year. There are several instances of his forgetfulness after placing budgets during the last financial year. Last year, the finance minister had given top priority to employment. He had assured that the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) would be engaged to find out the actual number of unemployed in the state. But the task was never assigned to the ISI so far. Dasgupta said that over 3 lakh unemployed youths would be given suitable jobs during the 2007-08 financial year. Now, the finance minister is blaming the labour department for its failure to provide the actual figure of employment last year. The fact is that the government has failed miserably to provide even 3,000 jobs last year.
He has also proposed last year to distribute 30,000 acres of vested agricultural land to landless farmers. But the government could distribute only about 8,000 acres of land to them. Dasgupta had proposed last year that agricultural loan to the tune of Rs 5,500 crore would be provided to 200,000 small and marginal farmers in the state. However, only about 2,000 needy farmers had actually received agricultural loan at 4 per cent interest from the government so far. Similarly, the state finance minister had assured in his last year'sbudget proposals that the state-run power generation agencies would provide additional 1,945 MW by July, 2007. But only 245 MW could be added during the period under review.
In 2006-07 budget proposals, Dasgupta had claimed that the main objective was to develop various small industrial units all over the state. He had proposed Rs 3,000 crore government loan for this purpose. He had also assured that the government would set up 45 clusters to help develop small industries in West Bengal. However, not a single cluster had emerged so far thanks to forgetfulness of the finance minister. According to the national economic survey report, released by the Union Finance Minister while presenting his budget proposals in the Parliament, West Bengal stood 18 in order of positions among all states in the matter of implementing Central development projects.