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Centre-Left govt unholy nexus behind Bengal's debt: Mamata

Source: PTI
December 27, 2012 15:19 IST

In a shrill attack on the Centre, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday accused it of an "unholy nexus" with the erstwhile Left Front government of West Bengal, leaving the state in a "disastrous" financial situation with a debt burden of Rs 2 lakh crore, and warned that her patience was running out.

"We have waited for a year and a half but the patience of our people is running out. I am hoping that with my presentation today, I will touch a chord in the heart of the government of India to move forward on the debt impasse," Banerjee warned in her speech at the National Development Council meeting.

"I must ask as to why the central government allowed the state of West Bengal to fall into a debt trap by becoming a party to years of profligacy of the Left Front government?
In retrospect, this unholy nexus has left our government in a disastrous financial condition," she said in her speech, read out in absentia by state Finance Minister Amit Mitra.

It was "unfortunate that the UPA-I and UPA-II governments permitted the Left Front government to rampantly borrow and build up the debt burden," Banerjee said.

She said it was imperative that before finalising the 12th Plan document, the "unbearable debt burden of over Rs two lakh crore thrust upon our government" needs to be mitigated by the Centre "here and now".

Banerjee also claimed that the Centre had allowed the erstwhile state government to borrow Rs 5,173 crore within 28 days, "just days before we took office."

This resulted in "a sharp reduction in the quantum of loan available to our new government, within the FRBM limit, thereby tying our hands behind our backs even further."

The chief of Trinamool Congress, which parted ways with the United Progressive Alliance in September, also called it ironic that "a state of 90 million people, larger in size than the combined population of Greece, France and Spain, has been left in the lurch while India pledged $10 billion to the International Monetary Fund for addressing the financial crisis of the Eurozone".

Banerjee said it was futile to speak on the draft Plan, calling for huge investments "in this environment of an oppressive debt burden".

"The debt service quotient of Rs 25,000 crore this year, which is expected to rise to phenomenal levels as we sink deeper into the debt trap, needs to be mitigated here and now," she said.

If India can pledge $20 billion to the IMF for the Eurozone crisis, "Should such action not begin at home? This is why I find it painful to discuss the draft Plan when my state has been forced into an unprecedented financial crisis for no fault of our government," the chief minister said.

Elaborating on the reform measures undertaken in the state and suggestions on development in several sectors, like education and healthcare, she said none of them, even if accepted, "would allow our state to turn around and move towards ascendancy unless the Damocles' Sword of the debt of over Rs two lakh crore is neutralised through debt restructuring."

She said these suggestions would not work till the debt service quotient of Rs 25,000 crore this year was mitigated through central intervention.

Demanding that the next Plan should focus on "three challenging regions" of West Bengal -- Jangal Mahal, Darjeeling and Sundarbans, Banerjee said special schemes for rapid development of these areas should be introduced.

She also sought development of new and defunct airports in the state to promote the aviation sector and two major deep-sea port projects to build infrastructure in the state.

The chief minister also sought a mechanism to regulate the cost of coal so that electricity prices remained within reasonable and predictable limits.

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