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Centre pauses release of funds for Bengal over change in scheme names


KOLKATA:  The central government has paused the release of funds for West Bengal under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojona (PMAY) and Swachh Bharat Mission (rural), and sought clarifications from Nabanna, the state secretariat, on whether the state government has changed the names of the central schemes.

The state had sent an annual action plan under PMAY and Swachh Bharat scheme, demanding Rs 4,900 crore and Rs 2,700 crore, respectively, in January, but the Centre has sent queries on the change in the name of the schemes, said a state government official.

The Centre’s query has sent jitters in the state secretariat, as the Bengal government had changed the names of several central projects. In Bengal, the PMAY is known as Bangla Awas Yojona, while the Swachh Bharat Mission and Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojona are called as Nirmal Bangla Mission, and Bangla Sarak Yojona, respectively.

“Every year, the Centre sanctions the action plans by March-end or first week of April. We sent the plans for this year under the two central schemes but instead of sanctioning the funds, the Union government replied with a set of queries related to the change in names of the schemes,’’ a state official said.

Swachh Bharat Mission was launched by the BJP-led Centre in 2014 to improve solid waste management. The PMAY was started by the UPA government to build homes for the poor. It was earlier called Indira Awas Yojona before its name was changed to PMAY.

The Centre’s decision has landed the ruling Trinamool Congress in a fix, as most beneficiaries are from rural Bengal and the state will go to the panchayat elections in 2023. Sources in the state government said the withholding of funds under Swachh Bharat Mission is causing delay in starting solid waste management programmes in around 950 panchayats, while about  41 lakh applications are pending under PMAY.

The Centre gives 60 per cent of the total project cost while the rest is borne by the state government. TMC MP Sukhendu Sekhar Roy said the central government had first changed the name of PMAY. “They are now finding excuses to fulfil their political goal by depriving the poor of Bengal,’’ he said.