Centre’s economic package a “big zero”, says Mamata Banerjee

Published : May 13, 2020 22:45 IST

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Photo: Swapan Mahapatra/PTI

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee slammed the economic package announced by the Centre as a “big zero”, an “eye-wash” and nothing more than “fooling the common people even at a time of such distress”.

Addressing the media soon after Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the Centre’s Rs.20 lakh crore economic package, Mamata said, “The total economic package amounts to a big zero. The people of the State had expected after yesterday’s speech that perhaps the States will now get something for the unorganised sector, the MSME, and for building health infrastructure in the COVID-hit areas… but ultimately it was ashwadimbo (horse’s egg)…. Nothing has been given to the States. How will the states function?” She pointed out that the package made no mention of waiving farmers’ loans or putting money directly into the hands of the poor.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) countered that the real reason for Mamata being upset with the economic package was that it would directly go to the beneficiaries instead of being disbursed through the State. State BJP president and Lok Sabha MP Dilip Ghosh said, “The economic package will help the beneficiaries directly. This has annoyed the Chief Minister since there will be no scope to earn cut-money by depriving the poor.”

However, Mamata was not the only critic of the announcements made by the Union Finance Minister. Mohammed Salim, Polit Bureau member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said, “It was nothing more than a repeat telecast of all the old schemes of the Central government. Apart from one or two points, all the announcements that were made were useless, aimed at fooling people.” He asked why there was no package for the poor.

During her press conference, Mamata also announced a major project covering 50,000 acres of land and aimed at benefiting 2.5 lakh people. The project, christened ‘Maatir Shrishti’ (Creation of the earth) will involve the State government utilising unused, vacant land in the districts of Bankura, Purulia, Birbhum, Bardhaman, Jhargram and Paschim Medinipur, and set-up “income-generating programmes” there. “These 50,000 acres of land are of no use to anybody as the farmers cannot grow anything there, the land being very infertile…. Here we will set up projects like pisciculture, animal rearing and others…. The barren land of the local farmers, along with the government land, will be used together to set develop area-wise micro plans. Cooperative societies will be formed which will be aided financially by the Cooperative Bank,” said Mamata.

Meanwhile, nine more deaths due to COVID were reported in the State, taking the toll as of May 13 to 207 (including 72 co-morbidity deaths). As many as 117 new cases were confirmed in the last 24 hours taking the total figure to 2,173; of them 1,381 are “active” cases.