West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra began his 2012 budget speech by blaming the erstwhile Left government for the dire state of the state finances.

He noted: “In a dozen years debt grew by a phenomenal 486 percent – almost 500 percent. In per capita terms, the debt was the largest in the country by far. Tragically each child born in West Bengal is carrying on his or her head a debt of Rs 21,000.”

The expectation from Mr. Mitra– a trained economist and also the former Secretary General of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce of India (FICCI) - was thus high. Not quite.

As IndiaSpend’s Dhritiman Gupta finds out, Bengal actually cut back outlays for the Departments of Panchayats and Rural Development, Urban Development, Women and Child Development and Social Welfare.

Bengal Hikes Culture Outlay

On the other hand, it announced a 129% hike for the Department of Information and Culture, a jump from Rs48 crore to Rs110 crore.

Perhaps the most interesting expenditure head is studios wherethe Bengal Government has set aside a staggering Rs 27.55 crore for acquisition and modernisation.

Incidentally, there are at least four Trinamool (Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s party currently in power) Congress politicians who still act in Bengali cinema. They include two Members of Parliament (MPs) and two Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA). They are Shatabdi Roy, Tapas Pal, Debasree Roy and Chiranjeet in that order.

Increased Spends On Awards

Moreover, the outlays on awards, including the Bankim, Vidyasagar and Rabindra Awards, have gone up to Rs1.1 crore. The amount spent on awards last year was Rs11.5 lakh.

Spending on fairs and festivals is budgeted to go up to Rs 5 crore as against Rs 50 lakhs last year. The amount to be spent on film festivals was increased to Rs 1 crore as against the Rs 60 lakhs spent last year.

An amount of Rs 15 crore has been set aside for the Construction and Development of the Rabindra Cultural Institution. Last year only an amount of Rs15 lakh had been spent. This year is poet and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary.

The ones to lose out, however, are those who perhaps need the money the most. The amount meant for distressed persons in the field of culture has come down from Rs 35 lakhs in the previous year’s budget’s estimates to Rs10 lakhs this year.

Let’s take a closer look at the state expenditures in the Department of Information and Culture.

Expenditure Of WB Dept Of Information & Culture

Department of Information and CultureActuals 2010-11 (in Rs lakh)2011-12 (BE) (in Rs lakh)2011-12 (RE) (in Rs lakh)2012-13 (BE) (in Rs lakh)
Few Heads
1. Bankim, Vidyasagar and Rabindra Awards-53.510
2. Construction and Development of Rabindra Cultural Institution-20151,500
3. Fairs and Festivals1575050500
4. Construction of Folk Village1002001001
5. Film Festivals0.50.80.61
6. Financial Assistance to distressed persons in the field of Culture7351510
7. Awards5158100
8. Construction and Renovation of Public Halls17294200800
9. Acquisition of Studios-52.41855
10. Modernisation of Studios/Laboratories.218290900

Source:West Bengal Budget 2012-13

Now, as we mentioned earlier, the outlay for Panchayats and Rural Development has been cut this year. Let’s look at a few areas where the cuts have happened.

Areas With Cut Outlays

Panchayats and Rural DevelopmentActuals 2010-11 (in Rs cr)2011-12 (BE) (in Rs cr)2011-12 (RE) (in Rs cr)2012-13(BE) (in Rs cr)
1. State share of expenditure on NREGS270195223135
2. Assistance to ZP for implementation of PMGSY scheme7.4186045
3. Assistance to PRB for sewerage and sanitation3029.86121.3
4. Assistance to PRB for running Sishu Siksha Kendra3.755019.3
5. Assistance to PRB for Madhya Siksha Karmasuchi3.752019.3
6. Assistance to PRB for implementation of PF scheme for landless agricultural labourers2.2774.6

ZP- Zilla Parishad, PRB-Panchayati Raj Bodies, PF-Provident Fund,NREGS- National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, PMGSY-Pradhan mantra Gram Sadak Yojana

Source: West Bengal Budget 2012-13

Rural Budget Slashed

The above table tells a peculiar story. For one the outlays for many important social schemes like Provident Fund for landless agricultural labours, for Primary and Middle school education, NREGS, PMGSY, sewerage and sanitation have been reduced.

The second and more important thing to note is that outlays have been reduced in the budget even though government keeps on spending more than budgeted on these schemes each year. There could be over runs this year too.

For instance, for Sishu Siksha Kendra and Madhya Siksha Karmasuchi there was an over run of Rs60 crore in 2011-12. Still only Rs 39 crore has been set aside for these heads in 2012-13.The government spent Rs31 crore over budget on sewerage and sanitation in 2011-12. Yet in 2012-13 only Rs21.3 crore has been set aside under this.

Proposed Overall West Bengal Outlay

As we had mentioned earlier, Information and culture got a 129 percent increase in the latest West Bengal budget. The table below shows the outlays in 15 of the 65 departments of the government of West Bengal.

Outlays In 15 Departments

Actuals 2010-112011-12 (BE)2011-12 (RE)2012-13 (BE)% change over 2011-12 (RE)
Major Heads
1. Agriculture29026723931531
2. Backward Classes Welfare3293814174425
3. Commerce and Industries27744034050047
4. Health and Family Welfare4738716631,04958
5. Higher Education10822016524045
6. Information and Culture7.56148110129
7. Irrigation and Waterways2111,4087121,568120
8. Minority Affairs and Madrasah Education11333028957097
9. Municipal Affairs1,0771,8351,3301,93345
10. Panchayats and Rural Development2,0452,5922,9712,716-8.5
11. Power and Non-Conventional Energy Sources4025205041010100
12. Public Works50268859379734
13. School Education1,6182,6862,4462,71310
14. Urban Development8651,6501,5301,233-19
15. Women and Child Dev and Social Welfare7159221,0811,015-6

(Figures in Rs Crore), BE=Budget Estimates, RE= Revised Estimates

Source: West Bengal Budget 2012-13