New Delhi: The Centre will spare no efforts in aiding the development of West Bengal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today as she met him to seek debt waiver and other financial support.
Banerjee's first meeting with Modi after he became Prime Minister comes against the backdrop of acrimony between her party Trinamool Congress and BJP.
Seeking a special financial package, including moratorium on loan payment for her debt-ridden state, Banerjee first met Modi in Parliament House and then along with a delegation of party MPs.
During the meeting, Modi said he is fully committed for the development of West Bengal, a PMO statement said. The Prime Minister said no stone will be left unturned for the development of West Bengal, it added. On the issue of debt waiver, Modi acknowledged that Banerjee's government had “inherited a large burden”.
He told her that his government too had “inherited a large burden” and “the Centre and states have to collectively find a solution to this”, the statement said.
According to a TMC MP who was part of the delegation, Modi was non-committal on the debt waiver issue.
Modi said, “In any case, the 14th Finance Commission has taken into account the interest burden on states and has fully compensated the revenue deficit arising as a result of this.
This is why, West Bengal is getting an additional Revenue Deficit Grant along with only two other non-Special Category States. Therefore, interest burden should not affect development activities any more in future.”
Modi also said the Union government has decided to give West Bengal the royalty on coal and other minerals. This will provide a benefit of Rs 1,600 crore to the state annually.
In addition, West Bengal will get Rs 11,200 crore from the coal blocks that have been auctioned so far and there will be even more revenue in future.
Modi maintained that West Bengal and Kolkata have to develop for their own sake and for the benefit of the region.
“That is why we have an ‘Act East' policy. The region has talented people and a lot of resources,” he said.
In the current scenario, West Bengal is better placed as compared to the past and has adequate funds to meet its development needs fully, the release quoted Modi as saying.
The West Bengal Chief Minister, who voiced concern over the funds pending for schemes like MNREGA and ICDS, said Modi praised the state's financial performance in raising the revenue and assured her of help in maintaining fiscal discipline.
“The PM said that Bengal's loan was maximum in comparison to other states. But he appreciated our efforts in keeping the financial discipline... He also praised our efforts and hoped that financial situation will improve further.
“He (PM) said we will try (to help) because the country is also facing a crisis on financial front. ‘We will try to see how we can help the state' he said,” Mamata told reporters after the meeting.
The Prime Minister said he is a firm believer in cooperative federalism and has constantly been stressing that only strong states can make a strong India. Therefore, states must be strengthened to meet the development needs of their people, he said.
At the meeting, Banerjee raised the debt problem, which she has said was mostly a result of the actions of the previous Left government.
“Today, all our party MPs met PM and before that I also met him. We apprised him of Bengal's financial situation. We came to power in 2011 and the loan was taken before that.
“The loan was about Rs 1 lakh crore from RBI. It was not our fault. The loan was not taken by us but by the previous Left government,” she said.
Saying that the debt burden, leading to high interest payments, was affecting the development expenditure in West Bengal, she asked for debt relief and relief from interest payments.
“The Centre takes away all the money, so how will the state develop and how will the poor benefit? Road (building) work, food procurement, 100-day minimum work... how will it work? Banerjee said.
“We have sought waiver of the loan for carrying out development work,” the chief minister said.