Bengal minister accuses Centre of intentionally delaying PMAY funds
The state set the March 31 deadline for the completion of the construction of houses for the rural poor after the Centre said the next instalment will be cleared only if the money sanctioned earlier is fully utilized.
West Bengal minister Chandrima Bhattacharya has accused the Centre of intentionally delaying payments to the state under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY). She said the funds sanctioned in November did not reach beneficiaries till January 15, posing a challenge for them to complete the construction of houses for the rural poor by March 31.
The deadline was set after the Centre told the state government this month that the next instalment of funds will be cleared only if the money sanctioned earlier is fully utilized and reports are sent to Delhi.
“The Centre is intentionally delaying the payment to Bengal to create trouble. We are ready with the state’s share of the funds but to date, no money has been deposited by the Centre into the bank accounts of the beneficiaries. How can they start building the houses?” asked Bhattacharya on Sunday.
She added even if the beneficiaries receive the money now, they will have only two-and-a-half months to complete the constriction by the end of the financial year.
The Centre pays 60% of the funds under PMAY for rural areas in the plains. Each beneficiary gets ₹1.20 lakh. In hilly states, the Centre gives 90% of the funds and a beneficiary gets ₹1.30 lakh. Grants are deposited directly into the bank accounts of beneficiaries.
In November, the Centre sanctioned ₹13,000 crore for 11,34,000 homes under the PMAY in Bengal, partially clearing an impasse following the suspension of funds for welfare schemes.
The Centre said it will pay its share of ₹7800 crore for PMAY projects provided the scheme is not renamed, new beneficiaries are not added and guidelines on eligibility are followed.
The conditions were spelled amid a tussle between the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) ahead of the panchayat elections.
The BJP has since 2020 been demanding that funds for all social welfare projects be stopped as the TMC government was allegedly misusing them and renaming Central schemes for mileage.
The PMAY was renamed Bangla Awas Yojana, prompting the Centre to stop the funds in March last year.
In July 2022, central officials examined the implementation of PMAY and other schemes in Bengal. The state government instructed district authorities to repaint all signboards with the changed names of the schemes.
On January 5, another central team visited south Bengal to probe alleged irregularities in the selection of applicants triggering an agitation and political slugfest.
The state completed fresh scrutiny on December 31. People who own houses or do not meet the other criteria for PMAY were found to have filed applications in 2017-18.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on January 5 announced out of 5 million applicants, 1.7 million were excluded during the scrutiny. “Our inquiries will continue and more names will be deleted. BJP leaders having two or three-storeyed houses applied as well.”
Bhattacharya said more names may be deleted amid reports that the Centre is sending more officials on Monday to inspect PMAY applications in five north Bengal districts. “The Centre will delete more names. They will come up with new clauses and excuses.”
Bengal BJP’s chief spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya denied allegations that the Centre was delaying the payments, saying it is accountable to the people first. “With new allegations related to misuse of PMAY funds arising every day, the Centre is duty-bound to look into these before making the payments.”