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Irrigation minister trains gun on Centre over fund allocation woes

Kolkata: Rajib Banerjee, the state Irrigation and Waterways minister, launched a scathing attack at the Centre, by criticising its indifferent attitude towards Bengal in terms of releasing funds for different irrigation projects.
This comes at a time when the Centre is yet to release Rs 300 crore for the state, which the latter has already invested for flood management.
Taking a dig at the Centre, Banerjee said in the state Assembly on Thursday, that the flood management programme (FMP) of the Centre doesn't exist anymore. Instead, there is a combined budget of Rs 527 crore for the entire country. Only Bengal is yet to get Rs 300 crore for flood management.
It may be mentioned that soon after the change of guard in the state, the Mamata Banerjee government had chalked out several plans to stop recurrence of flood or flood-like situation every year.
The Ghatal master plan was prepared and sent to the Centre. Despite giving approval, the Centre is yet to sanction the funds required to implement the project. Neither is the Centre saying it clearly that it would not be possible for them to fund the project, nor are they releasing any funds for the same.
As a result, lakhs of people suffer every year during monsoon, despite the fact that the state government is willing to provide relief to them as early as possible.
Without depending on the Centre, the state government had taken all necessary steps for the Lower Damodar project, worth Rs 2,768 crore. Since in this case the Centre had clearly stated that it would not be possible for them to fund the project, the state government had approached the World Bank and soft loan for the same had been sanctioned. The work is expected to start after the forthcoming monsoon.
Giving a comparative figure of the work done by the state Irrigation and Waterways department, in the last five years of the Left Front government and the present Trinamool Congress government, Banerjee said in the Assembly that Left Front had strengthened only 150 km river embankment in a year on an average, compared to 436 km by the present government.
Similarly, dredging in rivers and canals took place in less than 100 km stretches on an average every year, while 200 km was done during the Trinamool Congress government. They had constructed around 20 bridges in the last five years, while in the past 6 years, the present government has constructed 264 bridges.
The planned budget of the erstwhile Left Front government for irrigation purposes was only Rs 252.37 crore on an average, while it is Rs 834.72 crore at present, which is four times more. Moreover, in the past six years, a total of 3.65 lakh acres of land has been brought under the system of irrigation.

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