'Centre can't give special treatment to Bengal'
UPA constituent Trinamool Congress-ruled West Bengal, which has been demanding a special package, today did not get any assurance from finance minister Pranab Mukherjee who said he could not give preferential treatment to the state even though he himself belongs to it.delhi Updated: May 16, 2012 20:48 IST
UPA constituent Trinamool Congress-ruled West Bengal, which has been demanding a special package, on Wednesday did not get any assurance from finance minister Pranab Mukherjee who said he could not give preferential treatment to the state even though he himself belongs to it.
He said a committee has been set up to look into problems being faced by three debt-stressed states -- West Bengal, Punjab and Kerala.
Replying to a debate on the finance bill in Rajya Sabha, Mukherjee said, "I shall have to keep in mind that I represent West Bengal. Naturally, I will have an obligation to them. But as federal finance minister, I have equal responsibility for all 28 states."
West Bengal has debt burden of Rs. 2 lakh crore and it would have received the relief if the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act, which aims at bringing financial discipline, were passed in 2005 as recommended by the 12th Finance Commission, he said.
The minister said the 12th Finance Commission, which was mandated to address the debt problems of the states, had recommended states to bring amendment in their acts as per FRBM Act to receive concessions.
However, most of the states complied with the recommendations of the 12th Finance Commission, but West Bengal was very late, he noted.
"West Bengal was very late. I am saying it got late. It was done only in 2011," he said, adding that the state got benefit for only one year 2010-11.
The Mamata Banerjee government, which came to power in July last year, has been demanding special package in the form of interest moratorium.
Banerjee, whose party is a crucial constituent of the UPA, herself has raised the issue with the Prime Minister and even issued a veiled threat to the Centre.
Mukherjee said a committee has been appointed to look into issues related to debt-ridden states and suggestions made by the 13th Finance Commission, which recommended the government to "do something" as revenue realisation of some states was lower compared to others.
"We are exploring possibilities. We will work out acceptable solutions," he noted.