By bappaditya paul
Notwithstanding the financial crisis that West Bengal is passing through at present, the state finance department has allotted Rs 150 crore for conducting Assembly election in the state in the 2011-12 fiscal ~ a year which has no Assembly poll on the cards.
This even as the state Home Constitution and Election Department, responsible for managing election to the state Assembly, needed a provision for only Rs 75 crore this fiscal.
The Rs 150-crore allotment was made through the Finance Bill 2011-12 introduced recently in the state Assembly by state finance minister.
As provided for in page 12 of the Budget Publication No. 19 (see scanned copy), the finance department has kept aside the amount under Demand No. 27 as “Charges for conduct of Election to State Legislature”. This is a Non-Plan allotment.
According to sources in the Home Constitution and Election Department, back in November 2010, the department had placed a requirement of Rs 200 crore for conducting the general Assembly election in the state due in May.
Consequent to this, the state finance department released around Rs 125 crore in February this year and another Rs 65 crore was released in April, just ahead of the Assembly poll in the state.
The money was released as per allocations made in the Revised Estimate (RE) for 2010-11 and the Vote-on-Account that the outgoing Left Front government placed for the first quarter of 2011-12 in view of the Assembly election.
“Out of the Rs 200 crore budget that we had asked for, we got Rs 190 crore by April. Thus, in actual sense, we need only around Rs 10 crore more. However, since Rs 65 crore out of the total amount released till April came from the Vote-on-Account, there was the need to appropriate this by making a provision for Rs 75 crore in the Budget 2011-12. But instead, the finance department has allotted Rs 150 crore,” said a senior official in the state Home Constitution and Election Department.
On discovering the anomaly, the election department has now written to the state finance department informing they would not require the extra Rs 75 crore and the amount be “re-appropriated” for some other department that is in real need of funds.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman,India. This report originally appeared in The Statesman on 9 October 2011.)