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April 23, 2019

Modi is derailment master, Rs 2 trn gone forever: West Bengal FM Amit Mitra

Modi is derailment master, Rs 2 trn gone forever: West Bengal FM Amit Mitra

In a rebuttal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s repeated “speedbreaker Didi” jibe, West Bengal Finance, Commerce & Industries Minister, Amit Mitra, has called him “derailment master”. In an interview with Ishita Ayan Dutt, he uses data to substantiate his claim. Edited excerpts:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has branded Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee “Speedbreaker Didi”. How would you respond to it?

Narendra Modi has called Mamata Banerjee “Speedbreaker Didi” and is going on repeating it. I would like to call him ‘derailment master’.

The GDP growth in 2015-16 was 8.15 per cent for India and then came the derailment due to demonetisation. In 2017-18, the GDP growth fell from 8.15 per cent to 6.7 per cent. Every per cent loss is a loss of Rs 1.5 trillion of the GDP on an estimated basis for India. So, due to the derailment of the economy, Rs 2 trillion is gone forever. There are other elements to derailment. In 2015-16, the industry was chugging along at 9.58 per cent growth. In 2017-18, it sharply dropped to 5.95 per cent.

Manufacturing was growing in 2015-16, at 13.06 per cent, but in 2017-18, it fell to a growth of 5.93 per cent. When Mr Modi came to office, NPA was at Rs 2 trillion. By 2017-18, the NPA rose to Rs 10 trillion.

Unemployment rate is the highest in 45 years. This is derailment of the first order. The estimate is that 20 million jobs were lost. According to the CMIE, in 2018 only, 11 million jobs was lost. This is a direct hit on the common people.

Has West Bengal done better?

With regard to West Bengal, either he (Prime Minister) is totally ignorant or it is purposeful political distortion. In 2017-18, when the GDP growth of India was 6.7 per cent, according to CSO and our own bureau together, the comparative figure for West Bengal was 9.15 per cent. This is what Mr Modi calls a speedbreaker. In 2018-19, India’s GDP growth 6.98 per cent and West Bengal’s GDP growth 10.71 per cent. In manufacturing, in 2017-18 India grew by 5.93 per cent, when West Bengal grew by 10.2 per cent. In construction, India grew by 5.6 per cent in 2017-18 and West Bengal 27.63 per cent. In industry 2017-18, India grew by 5.95 per cent, and West Bengal by 16.29 per cent. The story is very similar for 2018-19. India grew at 7.66 per cent (AE) in industry, and West Bengal by 11.35 per cent. During Mamata’s regime, the State Plan Expenditure grew six times. The capital expenditure grew 11 times and the state’s own tax revenue collection grew three times from Rs 21,000 crore to Rs 63,000 crore. This is the achievement of the Chief Minister of the state. If he cannot respond to this data, the Prime Minister must withdraw and apologise his statement on Speedbreaker.

You said unemployment rate is at a 45-year high. What about Bengal?

Data from the central government shows that the unemployment rate decreased 40 per cent. We created 10 million jobs (since coming to power in 2011).

The Centre has introduced many reform measures…

The approach of the Prime Minister and his government is to do things by chest-beating and not by consultation and analysis. Practically, no one knew about demonetisation.

There are three major plans that the government is tom-tomming about. Let’s take the case of gas connections under Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana. Crisil was given a project to find out the pros and cons. Three months before Crisil submitted the report, the Cabinet met and decided to launch it.

Three months later when the report came it said the refill would have to be subsidised or people would go back to burning wood and cow dung. Around 83 per cent said the price of refill was too high.

Gas connections went up by 16.26 per cent but gas cylinders went up by only 9.83 per cent. Moral of the story is the nature of failed governance. Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Housing for All (Urban) also failed. Only 1.2 million houses have been constructed, whereas 6.3 million were sanctioned in June, 2015. Even in the budgetary resources there was not enough budget for the scheme. This is a make-believe government. Again, the Swachh Bharat portal suggests that 27 of India’s 36 states and UTs are open defecation free (ODF) with 98.6 per cent Indian households having access to toilets. But the Research Institute for Compassionate Economics survey shows, 44 per cent of rural population in Bihar, MP, UP and Rajasthan still defecate in the open. And which is the first district in India to become ODF? It was Nadia, which received a Unicef award. This state doesn’t lie.

What about GST?

GST falls under the same category. I had repeatedly said GST should be deferred but they didn’t listen.

What kind of jobs has your government created?

Our government has created 10 million jobs and as a result the unemployment rate has come down by 40 per cent when the Indian unemployment rate is at a 45-year high.

For MSME lending, in 2017-18 I had given banks a target of Rs 38,000 crore, they ended up doing Rs 44,000 crore. This is another measure of employment.

Your critics would say that the focus is on MSMEs and not big-ticket investment.

That is not the case. Matix, which is an investment of Rs 7,700 crore is going onstream. Flipkart had indicated 10,000 jobs in their DPR, but a recent study says it may go up to 18,000.

BASF of Germany has come. Tata Hitachi is shifting from Tatanagar, JSW is expanding its cement unit and now work has started on a paints plant.

Reliance Jio has taken 40 acres in the Silicon Valley. TCS employs 41,000 people here and have taken an additional 20 acres, which will have a headcount of 15,000.

Source: Business Standard on April 23, 2019