To plead for fiscal relief for her debt-stressed state, chief minister Mamata Banerjee will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 9, capping a nearly year-long bitter relationship dating back to the 2014 Lok Sabha campaign trail.
On February 25, Mamata had announced in her Facebook post that she would be seeking an appointment with the PM to impress upon him the need for the Centre’s financial help so that development work in the state in not stalled. And on Tuesday, she told the Assembly that she would be meeting Modi with a team of Trinamool MPs.
Bengal is one of the worst debtstressed states in the country, and is groaning under a burden that is supposed to reach Rs. 3 lakh crore at the end of the next fiscal. More important, at the end of the next financial year, debt servicing requirement is to take away Rs. 32,000 crore from the government’s coffers out of which more than Rs. 23,000 are towards interest alone. Significantly, the debt servicing amount will be about 70% of the Rs. 46,000 tax revenue (budget estimate) of the state. Here’s another frightening statistic: The sum of salary, pension, subsidy and debt obligation will be more than 170% of the state’s tax revenues.
Incidentally, on the day of the Union budget state finance minister Amit Mitra had lashed out at the Centre for actually giving Bengal nothing despite the 14the Finance Commission recommendations. He also dismissed the special package as peanuts.
During the UPA-II regime, of which her party was the secondbiggest constituent for more than three years, the Trinamool chief stridently campaigned for debt relief but with little success. She had many meetings with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Union finance ministers Pranab Mukherjee and P Chidambaram and Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, but there was no relief. All leaders of the UPA-II government told her that there was no provision in the Constitution for preferential treatment to a single state.