Pranab listens as Mamata says state coffers are empty

Days after attacking the central government for being insensitive to the state's financial crisis, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Friday chose a public platform she was sharing with union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to again complain about empty coffers.

“We are working for the development of the state under very tough financial conditions. We don’t have money to work properly. We are in a very poor financial condition. The previous Left Front government has siphoned all the money,” Banerjee said at a programme in East Midnapore, about 130 km from Kolkata. Mukherjee was one of the speakers.

According to the Trinamool Congress, West Bengal has debts of over Rs.2.3 lakh crore and 94 percent of its earnings go towards salaries, interest payments to the centre and pensions.

Banerjee has repeatedly requested the central government for an interest holiday for three years and an out of turn financial package. But officials said both requests had been turned down.

And on Friday, the chief minister minced no words in criticising the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government she is part of.

“Most of the money is spent in paying interest (to the centre), but still we are working because it is our challenge. Many people are hatching malicious conspiracies so that the government can’t work properly,” said Banerjee.

Earlier this month, Banerjee had launched a scathing attack on the central government. "If the state doesn't gets its dues, the people of Bengal know how to get it," she had said.

On Friday, she also announced several projects for the East Midnapore district and said the state government will take necessary steps for the overall development of the district.

“Everything will be done for the development of the district. We will take up projects of digging up ponds in the area so that the water stored in these ponds during the monsoon can be used for irrigation. This will also create employment,” she said.

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