Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday assured Trinamool Congress that the government would do everything possible to bail out debt-ridden West Bengal, as party MPs sought a three-year moratorium on interest payment.
A day after they placed their demands before Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee including restructuring of the “massive debt burden” faced by the state, a delegation of Trinamool MPs met the Prime Minister to raise the issue.
“The state is on the edge of a precipice. Its financial condition is very bad and the state government is facing grave difficulty,” Minister of State for Urban Development Saugata Roy told reporters after the 15-minute meeting at Parliament House.
Quoting the latest state budget, he said the state paid around Rs. 18,000 as interest and Rs. 7,000 crore as loan repayment last year. Bengal’s total debt was around Rs. 183,000 crore last year.
Mr. Roy blamed the erstwhile Left Front government’s “34 years of misrule” for the huge debt burden and said “unless the Centre does something immediately to retrieve the situation, the state will run into a deep crisis.”
Asked whether they had served a 15-day ultimatum to the Centre to take a decision, he replied in the negative and said “there is no arm-twisting, no threat and no bargaining. All this is being reported by the media only”.
The Trinamool leader and his senior colleague Sudip Bandopadhyay said the Prime Minister was “very positive” in his response.
“The Prime Minister told us that within the realms of possibility and constitutional limitations, the Centre will do everything possible for West Bengal,” Mr. Roy said.
Mr. Bandopadhyay said the delegation would report the entire discussion with the Prime Minister to Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Ms. Banerjee is due to meet the Prime Minister next week when she comes here to attend the Chief Ministers’ conference on National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), which is being opposed by the Trinamool in its present form, saying it would be an “assault on the federal structure”.