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No takers for Bengal: CM

Calcutta, Dec. 12: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee today said that Bengal’s financial condition was such that if it was put up for auction, there would be no takers.

“We have a hand-to-mouth existence. Aage janle ei jaigai aashtam (had I known this, would I be here)? If the state is put up for auction, nobody will buy it,” Mamata said at a police event in Calcutta’s Nazrul Mancha, referring to the “financial mess” the Left Front government had left the state in.

She added: “Every day, I wake up thinking how I will pay my employees. I have to pay Rs 26,000 crore as interest every year on debts the Left Front government had accumulated. We have no funds for modernising the police force. We find it difficult to buy jeeps for rural police stations. Despite this financial crunch, all employees have been given their salaries in the past 18 months.”

The chief minister said the clashes in Loba and Tehatta last month were “mistakes”.

“We made two mistakes — the Loba clash and the police firing in Tehatta. But that does not mean the police are always wrong,” she said.

In Birbhum’s Loba, villagers demanding higher land prices had clashed with the police over an earth-moving machine they had seized. Residents claimed the police had opened fire.

In Tehatta, one person was killed during alleged firing by the sub-divisional police officer.

Mamata said that if any policeman above 55 years wanted voluntary retirement, the government would consider giving someone from his family the job.

The chief minister, who also looks after the home department, said the number of police personnel was inadequate. “After every incident, some people start talking about lack of security. How can I provide security? Where are the police personnel?” she told the gathering.

The chief minister admitted she had failed as Opposition leader to understand that there was a shortage of security personnel.

Mamata said her government had initiated a process to recruit 40,000 policemen, of which 15,000 would be from Jungle Mahal.

At the annual investiture event today, 55 policemen were honoured by the chief minister for their excellence in different categories. For the first time, four personnel were selected as best investigating officers and awarded Rs 50,000 each.

Five persons were given Rs 10,000 each for saving several lives in different incidents.