West Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra today said that the Centre has held back more than Rs 50,000 crore in dues to the state. Speaking at a press meet after presenting the state budget for 2020-21, Mitra said that in terms of devolution of taxes in the recent Union Budget, West Bengal has been denied close to Rs 11,200 crore in 2019-20. Further, in terms of grants, the state has been denied nearly Rs 37,973 crore. This apart, close to Rs 1,300 crore GST compensation is due in the present month alone to the state.
In total, West Bengal is being denied about Rs 50,486 crore by the Centre, said Mitra.
“When the chief minister met the Prime Minister, she handed over a list, where the dues to the state were pegged at Rs 38,000 crore. Now we know from the Budget that total dues are much more. If we add the dues of more than Rs 50,000 crore, the total dues will be close to Rs 90,000 crore,” Mitra said.
According to the West Bengal Budget document for 2020-21, the state’s share of union taxes and duties in revenue receipts is pegged at Rs 65,835 crore, against Rs 59,261 crore in 2019-20 (revised estimates), a rise of 11 per cent. Grant-in-aid from the Central government is seen at Rs 38,490 crore for 2020-21, against 34,174 crore in 2019-20 (revised estimates), up 13 per cent.
The 15th Finance Commission has recommended a 41-per cent share for states from Centre’s divisible pool in 2020-21, while making a special provision of one per cent for the new Union territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.
Budget rolls out sops
Ahead of Assembly elections in 2021, West Bengal today presented a Budget of nearly Rs 2,55,677 crore, an increase of about 7.44 per cent over last year. The sops include free electricity, tax benefits and housing for tea workers. In tandem, the state’s outstanding debt has risen to nearly Rs 4.75 trillion, an increase of 10 per cent against the revised estimates of 2019-20.
The state exceeded its own tax collection target for 2019-20. Against the budget estimates for state tax revenue of Rs 65,546 crore for 2019-20, the revised estimates pegs it at Rs 65,806 crore. Over the last few years, West Bengal has rolled out a slew of tax reforms, including digitalisation of taxation.
The state has also made electricity supply free for poor domestic consumers whose quarterly consumption does not exceed 75 units, in a move that is likely to benefit nearly 3.5 million families and comes with an outlay of Rs 200 crore. The state has also earmarked Rs 2,500 crore for the old-age pension scheme for schedule castes. For unemployed youth, the state has proposed Rs 500 crore as soft loan and subsidy for income generating schemes of up to Rs 2 lakh. It has proposed an allocation of Rs 500 crore for construction of houses for permanent workers in tea gardens.
West Bengal also rolled out a number of settlement schemes for taxpayers, including option to settle VAT, CST and other taxes which are due, by depositing 25 per cent of disputed tax by March 31 2020. According to Mitra, under the settlement scheme introduced in December 2019, nearly Rs 1,200 crore could be collected, benefitting some 30,000 taxpayers. Still, over 25,000 disputed cases are pending. The state has also come up with a scheme of penalty waiver on outstanding motor vehicle dues, waiver of interest on outstanding stamp duty, waiver of agriculture income tax in tea gardens, and reduction of stamp duty on amalgamation.
Mitra said, “At present, India’s GDP growth rate has touched its lowest—it has come down to 5 per cent in 2019-20 which is lowest during the last 11 years. In comparison, the growth in GDP in Bengal has reached 10.4 per cent, which is twice that of India.”
Also, the state received close Rs 4.45 trillion in investments by large industries in five years of the Bengal Business Summit. Also, in the last eight years, nearly Rs 22,267 crore has flowed in as foreign capital into the state, he said.