Kolkata, Jun 12 (IANS): The West Bengal government's spending behind north Bengal's development had been sharply declining during the last few years. Is that a major reason for the rise of grievances among the people of the region that prompted a section of the political forces to raise the demand for a separate statehood for the region? That's precisely the question that is doing the rounds in the corridors of power in the state.
A quick look through the budget allotment and subsequent expenditure figures by the state government behind north Bengal's development during the last few years shows how the expenditure to budget allotment ratio has declined over the last few years.
As per state budget documents during the last financial year 2021-22, the budget allocation for north Bengal's development was nearly Rs 776.51 crore. However, the estimated expenditure during the same period under that head is nearly Rs 271 crore, which is just around 34 per cent of the budget allocation.
During the previous financial year 2020-21, the budget allocation under the same head was Rs 731.76 crore. However, the expenditure during the same period under this head was Rs 274.44 crore, which is just around 37.5 per cent of the budget allocation.
Now going back to the financial year 2016-17, the budget allocation for north Bengal's development was nearly Rs 527.32 crore and the expenditure was Rs 399.74 crore or around 75 per cent of the budget allocation.
Now the question here automatically comes whether the constant decline in the state expenditure for north Bengal's development was the reason that Trinamool Congress has slowly eroded its base in the region which went in favour of the BJP since the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The question also arises on whether this declining expenditure and growing public anguish over lack of development in north Bengal prompted elected BJP Lok Sabha members and MLAs from the region to fuel the separate statehood demand.
According to professor of economics, P.K. Mukhopadhyay, one reason behind the sharp decline in the expenditure behind north Bengal's development during the two financial years 2020-21 and 2021-22 could have been the pandemic and prolonged lockdown behind the period.
"It cannot be denied that several development projects, not just in West Bengal, but throughout India, could be implemented timely because of the pandemic situation. At the same time, I doubt that a portion of the budget allocation for north Bengal's development might be diverted to meet expenditures of other departments of the state government," he said.
Expert in north Bengal and Northeastern India Affairs and writer of the book "The Buddha and Borders", Nirmalya Banerjee, said that demands of separate statehood for north Bengal is not very recent.
"Previously, separatist groups like Kamtapur Liberation Organisation have raised similar demands. Undoubtedly the long deprivation of north Bengal on the development front has prompted this demand to erupt from time to time," he added.