Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim on Tuesday met Siliguri Mayor Asok Bhattacharya of the CPI-M over the latter’s demand for release of pending funds to Siliguri Municipal Corporation (SMC).
The near 25 minutes meeting took place at Hakim’s office chamber on the ground floor of West Bengal Assembly. The minister was in the Assembly as the House is in session.
The meeting comes nearly seven months after both Hakim and his Cabinet colleague, Public Health Engineering Minister Subrata Mukherjee, had dodged a meeting with Asok Bhattacharya on May 27 on the pretext of being preoccupied. Bhattacharya had then just become the Mayor of Siliguri after drubbing the Trinamool in the civic polls.
After Tuesday’s meeting, Bhattacharya said that the engagement was positive and the minister has been courteous in his approach.
“I told Hakim that I have come to him to seek the release of funds that are due to Siliguri, and not to seek any personal favour. There is around Rs 80 crore that SMC is to get from the state government but we have not got the money in the past six months. I have urged the minister to release the pending funds at the earliest,” the Siliguri Mayor said.
“The funds are due on account of slum development, road repair, staff pension, health, state and Central finance commission allocations, urban wage employment programme and housing etc,” he said.
Bhattacharya said that if the state does not release funds to Siliguri soon, he would launch an agitation over this in Kolkata in same fashion as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who has threated an agitation in Delhi for release of funds from Centre.
In his part, minister Hakim said that he has heard the Siliguri Mayor and would ensure that his justified demands were met soon. “Whatever funds are due to Siliguri would be released as unlike the previous Left Front government, our government does not differentiate between us and them,” Hakim said.
To this, the Siliguri Mayor said: “He has assured to release the funds, but I would keep my fingers crossed until that is done.”