Calcutta, April 1: Bengal industry minister Partha Chatterjee today sought the Centre’s help in bailing out the debt-ridden state.
Urging Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee to chart a possible bailout route for the state burdened under a debt of over Rs 2 lakh crore, Chatterjee said, “We look forward to the finance minister and the Prime Minister to take care of the situation. We have always voiced our protest against this debt even when we were in the Opposition. There must at least be a scheme to help out the state.”
This was in keeping with a similar demand made by Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
Chatterjee was speaking at a seminar organised by Assocham here today. The programme was attended by the finance minister, Reserve Bank deputy governor Subir Gokarn and Manas Bhunia, Bengal minister for textiles, MSMEs, irrigation & waterways.
“We hope the Centre will help in relieving the burden for which this government is not responsible. Something must be worked out whereby we could pay the principal amount and not the interest. There should also be schemes to check under-development and unemployment in the state. The Union should also take note of the fiscal indiscipline. I am hopeful that Pranabda, being at the helm of affairs, will bail out Bengal,” he said.
Mukherjee, however, did not respond to Chatterjee’s demand during his speech.
Chatterjee also drew the finance minister’s attention to the strike by gold traders ever since the budget proposed a hike in the import duty of gold bars and coins to 4 per cent from 2 per cent.
“The chief minister has already written to the finance minister. We have about 50 lakh people engaged in the sector in Bengal and about 5 crore in India. Something must be done to get rid of their agitational mood. Poor people engaged in handicrafts must be protected,” he said.
The Fifth Pay Commission’s recommendation to increase the salary of government employees has also eaten into the state finances.
Chatterjee emphasised the need to tap the intellectual talent of the state. “Bengal is in the cuffs of a new phase of growth with a sizeable domestic market, strategic location and abundant mineral, human and agricultural resources.”
He said on April 13, Mamata will inaugurate the trans Damodar coal mining Project, a block allotted to West Bengal Mineral Development and Trading Corporation Ltd, along with the Barjora IT hub and a medical college being set up by the SPS group.