Amit Mitra denies Nirmala Sitharaman's claims; says West Bengal gave migrants data to Centre

Amit Mitra denied that the Centre had given Rs 10,000 crore to the state to fight COVID- 19, as claimed by Sitharaman.

Published: 29th June 2020 11:39 PM  |   Last Updated: 29th June 2020 11:39 PM   |  A+A-

Union Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman addresses a press conference in New Delhi. (Photo|EPS/ Shekhar Yadav)

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman (Photo| Shekhar Yadav, EPS)


KOLKATA: Rejecting Union minister Nirmala Sitharaman's claims that West Bengal did not provide data on migrant workers to the Centre, senior state minister Amit Mitra on Monday said the government had sent the required information the day it was sought.

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."

Addressing a virtual rally for the people of West Bengal on Sunday, the Union finance minister had said the state could not be made a beneficiary of the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan (GKRA) as it had not provided any data on migrant labourers.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on June 20 launched the GKRA to provide livelihood opportunities in areas/villages witnessing a large number of returnee migrant workers.

"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, the state finance minister, 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 West 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'.

According to him, while countries such as Spain, Portugal and Italy had given four days to allow the demographic flow before imposing the lockdown, only four hours were given in India.

"It seems that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not aware of the existence of migrant workers in the economy," Mitra quipped.

The minister said 14 lakh migrant workers have come back to West Bengal after reverse migration.

He also stated that the administration provided 4.5 lakh of such workers with jobs under the 100 days programme after doing skill mapping.

He added that the state government had announced immediate cash support of Rs 1,000 to them.

The state finance minister also denied that the Centre had given Rs 10,000 crore to the state to fight COVID- 19, as claimed by Sitharaman.

"This is absolutely untrue. The Centre has not given a single paisa while West Bengal had already spent Rs 1,000 crore from its own resources," he asserted.

Mitra alleged that Sitharaman, instead of keeping her own house in order in view of the plunging economy, chose to target West Bengal by making statements which are far from the truth.

He claimed that the COVID-19 recovery rate in West Bengal is better than several BJP-ruled states like Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, while Gujarat has the highest death rate.

On the Centre's stimulus package which Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said would be 10 per cent of GDP, Mitra alleged that only one per cent of the country's GDP was given as fiscal stimulus, while the balance nine per cent was in the form of loans.

Referring to Sitharaman's comments on West Bengal government's opposition to issues like CAA, NRC and NPR, Mitra said, "Why is she raking up those points in the times of severe crisis? "NRC, NPR and CAA are packages of hate and discrimination aimed at isolation of one community," he said.

Quoting the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) data, Mitra said the unemployment rate in the country was 24 per cent in May, which was 17 per cent in West Bengal.

On another charge of Sitharaman that the state had not participated in the Centre's Ayushman Bharat scheme, the minister said the West Bengal government has already devised a similar scheme 'Swastha Saathi' in 2016 and 1.5 crore families have been benefitted from it.

He also claimed that the state's Krishak Bondhu scheme was better than PM Kisan Samman Nidhi as the former had an assured income plan and death benefit, which was absent in the Centre's programme.

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