Bengal’s demands will be examined: Jaitley

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley after the meeting West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at Nabanna in Howraha on Saturday. State Finance Minister Amit Mitra is also seen. Photo: Sushanta Patronobish  

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday held a crucial one-hour-long meeting with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee – the first such meeting between a senior member of the Narendra Modi government and the Trinamool Congress supremo.

The meeting took place at the temporary State Secretariat at Nabanna in Howrah at a time when the Trinamool government is facing the heat of the probe into the Saradha scam.

Later, Mr Jaitley told reporters that the Chief Minister had written a letter on the outstanding amounts under various schemes. “These are the dues of the government and we will examine them” Mr Jaitley said.

He also said that he had received the nod from the State on the Goods and Services Tax (GST). “In principle they have accepted the Goods and Services Tax”, he said. Rollout of the GST is among Mr Jaitley’s top priorities.

“I have given you a gist of what we discussed” he said. Further discussions are likely to be held once State Finance Minister Amit Mitra visits New Delhi, he said.

Soon after the meeting, the Trinamool tweeted that Mr Jaitley had agreed to look into the demands of the State.

It may be mentioned that for quite some time Ms Banerjee has been flagging the issue of funds being held up by the Centre at a time when the State was facing financial distress.

However, it could not be ascertained the outcome of the moratorium issue in the discussions. West Bengal is among the top financially stressed States of the country. Its outstanding debt to the Centre, inherited from the previous government, stood at Rs 1.8 lakh crores in 2010-11 when the Mamata Banerjee government came to power. This has increased and is projected to be over Rs 2.5 lakh crores by the end of this fiscal.

Saradha scam

The meeting also attains criticality in wake of the ongoing investigations into the multi-crore Saradha scam. The probe has gathered momentum with at least one minister of the Mamata Banerjee government already being questioned by the Central investigating authorities.

Soon after the meeting, Ms Banerjee left the Secretariat with AITC general secretary Mukul Roy, although it could not be confirmed whether he was present at the meeting with Mr Jaitley.

“A lot of pushing and pulling is going on”, Left Front chairperson Biman Basu said in a significant comment earlier in the day. He also feared whether the probe will reach its logical conclusion.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 1:14:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/bengals-demands-will-be-examined-jaitley/article6346434.ece

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