Kolkata: At a time when the cash-strapped West Bengal government has been forced to curtail several emergency expenditures, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday announced an increase in the amount paid to different community Durga Puja committees this year, starting from the end of September.
At a preparatory meeting with the representatives of the different community puja committees here, Banerjee said that the payment will be increased to Rs 60,000 this year from Rs 50,000 last year. This means that this year’s payout to the 43,000 registered community Durga Puja committees will be Rs 25.8 crore.
While making the announcement, she herself admitted that she is taking this decision despite facing a severe cash crunch following the reluctance of the Union government in realising its dues to the state.
She said that this year she is determined to make Durga Puja a special one as the 5-day-long festival has been inscribed on UNESCO representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity. There will be a series of colourful tableaux – a procession on September 1 after covering a major part of Kolkata to thank UNESCO for the heritage tag – in which, tableaux from major Durga Puja committees of Kolkata, Howrah, and Salt Lake will feature.
However, according to economist P.K. Mukhopadhyay, the decision to increase the dole amount for the Puja committees is a wasteful one in the backdrop of the debt-ridden state exchequer.
“The debt to gross state domestic product ratio is already hovering at over the danger level of 30 per cent. In such a situation, such expenditures are really wasteful. It seems that the state government has lost track of its priority,” Mukhopadhyay said.
The opposition parties, especially the CPI-M, feel that this is a move to keep the members of the community puja clubs in confidence for the panchayat elections next year and Lok Sabha elections in 2024.