Mitra denies Sitharaman's claims, says sent migrants data the day it was sought
Kolkata: Coming down heavily on Union Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman for speaking deliberate lies to confuse people and cover up her own faults, state Finance minister Amit Mitra on Monday demolished her allegations made on Sunday, claiming that Bengal sent the required information on migrant workers the day it was sought by the Centre.
Referring to the press conference addressed by Mitra, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said: "The state is being blamed on a regular basis. False information is being circulated every day by a section of people in Delhi." Criticising the electronic media, she said: "Why are you not showing Amitda's press conference when you show anything and everything against Bengal in detail."
Addressing a virtual rally for the people of Bengal on Sunday, the Union Finance minister had criticised the Bengal government saying that it could not be made a beneficiary of the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan (GKRA) as it had not provided any data on migrant labourers. She also attacked the state government for its failure to control the spread of COVID-19 and neglect of the farmers and those working in the health sector.
"It is very unfortunate that the Union Finance minister is not speaking the truth. It could be either that she was misinformed or that she was not aware," Mitra said at a virtual news conference.
He said the state government had received two letters from the Centre seeking district and block-level data on migrant workers of Bengal.
"We had given our responses on the day of receiving the letters and mentioned that there are 20 districts in West Bengal where migrant workers are located. However, we find that the Central scheme did not include a single district of the state in the list of beneficiaries," Mitra said.
The Centre has said the GKRA will implement 25 categories of works/activities in 116 districts, each with a large concentration of returnee migrant workers, in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Odisha.
"The state's districts were ignored in the Centre's list," he said, adding the statements of Sitharaman are "politically motivated".
He also termed as "absolutely untrue" the Union Finance minister's assertion that the Centre had provided the state with Rs 10,000 crore to fight Coronavirus, saying "West Bengal did not receive a single paisa".
Mitra further added that regarding her charge of the state government not handling the pandemic situation properly, he said initially, the PPE kits sent by the Centre were defective which was admitted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) later. So, for two days they asked the state government not to conduct tests and took time to replace the kits.
The state government has so far spent Rs 1,000 crore to combat the pandemic and more will be spent. There are 78 COVID-19 hospitals with a total of 10,774 beds. The recovery rate from infection which was 37.64 percent on May 27 has gone up to 64.76 percent on June 27.
He also claimed that Bengal is much better off than several BJP-ruled states like Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, while Gujarat has the highest death rate.
Demolishing her allegations that the state government did not send entire data on migrant workers to the Centre and hence they could not be included under the GKRA, Mitra said the state government had replied to the Centre's letter on June 23 on the matter, which is the same day, in which district-wise names of migrant workers were incorporated. Again, on June 27, their block-wise names were sent to the Centre.
Mitra said Mamata Banerjee had sent letters to 18 Chief Ministers requesting them to look after the migrant workers from Bengal who had been staying in their states. Again, Rs 1,000 was given to each migrant worker under "Sneher Parash".
They were brought to the state by 309 trains and the state government paid for their tickets. The Prime Minister could have paid their tickets from the PM Cares Fund where the total amount deposited would be around Rs 9,000 crore, he maintained. The state government has done skill-mapping of the migrant workers, the only of its kind in the country.
Criticising Sitharaman for her statement that the farmers have been neglected, Mitra said under the Krishak Bandhu scheme, the farmers have been given assured income along with death benefit and even the sharecroppers are included. The state government has also given Rs 2 lakh each to 9,440 farmers who died prematurely. Under the Pradhan Mantri Kishan Samman Nidhi, there is no premature death benefit for the farmers and share-croppers are not included. The state government pays 100 percent crop insurance under the Banglar Sashya Bima. More than 45 lakh farmers have registered themselves for it.
Commenting on the devastation of Amphan, Mitra said the estimated damage would be around Rs 1.05 lakh crore whereas the Centre has given only Rs 1,000 crore.
Under the Swasthya Sathi scheme which was introduced in 2016, 7.5 crore people have been benefitted. In Ayushman Bharat which was introduced in 2018, the Centre's share is 60 percent while the state governments pay 40 per cent.