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Jaitley mum on financial help

Calcutta, Aug. 23: Union finance minister Arun Jaitley heard about Bengal’s financial problems during a 50-minute meeting with Mamata Banerjee and Amit Mitra at Nabanna this evening, but did not make any commitment on immediate out-of-turn favours to the debt-stressed state.

“The chief minister has given me a letter mentioning in detail the funds due from the Centre on various projects. When the finance minister (Mitra) comes to Delhi, we will have a meeting there. At that meeting, I will call related departments for discussions,” Jaitley said after the meeting.

The state government maintains that the Centre is yet to clear Rs 14,360 crore in dues. Senior state government officials, however, said the reason Bengal did not get instalments of central funds on many occasions was its failure to submit utilisation certificates.

An official said Jaitley’s approach showed a “marked shift” from Union home minister Rajnath Singh’s assurance before the Lok Sabha polls that the Centre would consider a special package for Bengal should the NDA come to power.

At two campaign rallies in Bengal, Singh had supported Mamata’s demand for a moratorium on repayment of past loans and interest.

Today, Jaitley did not respond to questions on a moratorium or a special package. “I will answer questions related to the meeting,” he said.

“We are aware of the difficulties of this state,” the Union finance minister said in response to another question on the possibility of a moratorium.

Jaitley said the state government has accepted the Centre’s proposed goods and services tax.


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