TT, New Delhi, July 27: Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee met Prime Minister Narendra Modi today and is said to have iterated the state’s demands regarding debt restructuring and flood relief.
Describing the meeting as “very good” to journalists outside Parliament, Mamata said: “Certain norms have to be followed. Obviously, both sides spoke. I spoke more than him because I had gone to him with a long list of demands. He heard me out.”
Asked if the Prime Minister offered any assurance on her demands, the chief minister smiled and said: “Let’s wait for the results.”
Sources in Trinamul later said Mamata had pointed out to Modi that the state had suffered a loss of around Rs 20,000 crore because of floods last year and had sought Rs 8,750 crore from the Centre. Of the Rs 765 crore that was sanctioned, the state is yet to receive “even a paisa”, the sources said.
“The chief minister requested the Prime Minister to ensure the prompt release of the Rs 765 crore, besides sanctioning and disbursing the remaining amount. It’s been a year since the state sought the money. Most of the relief and rehabilitation work was carried out from the state’s meagre resources,” a Trinamul Lok Sabha MP said.
Mamata said she had also asked Modi for a restructuring of the state’s debt or to consider a soft loan to address the issue of Bengal’s cumulative debt burden, which is expected to cross Rs 3 lakh crore this fiscal.
“I told the PM the Centre has to consider either a debt restructuring or a soft loan…. We are unable to repay our inherited debt and carry out development simultaneously. I pointed out that a similar situation is being faced by many other states,” she said later.
Bengal, which has to pay Rs 32,000 crore to service the debt this financial year, had requested a write-off of the outstanding loans from the Centre, a three-year moratorium on interest obligations on open market borrowings and a special purpose grant for servicing current outstanding loans from the National Small Savings Scheme.
Mamata said she had requested Modi to ensure the immediate clean-up and repair of National Highway 10, the arterial road connecting Sevoke and Sikkim that is “badly choked” because of repeated landslides.
She is also said to have asked Modi not to make the Aadhaar card mandatory for receiving central entitlements and benefits.
Sources said the chief minister referred to her pet Kanyashree and Yubashree schemes to drive home the point that Bengal had shown the way in managing direct transfer of money to beneficiaries.
Mamata is also believed to have told Modi about her views on the Centre-state revenue-sharing model, which allegedly does not ensure a level playing field for all states.
Before meeting Modi, the chief minister had lunched with finance minister Arun Jaitley at his residence. Both declined to comment on the topics of their discussion.
Sources said Jaitley had discussed the proposed GST constitutional amendment with Mamata in a bid to ensure that her party, which has already declared its support to the legislation, remained in the loop.
Mamata met Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and later, went to the residence of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.
On the Centre targeting Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party, Mamata said: “We spoke about how to strengthen the federal structure…. We are different political parties and one party may have a view against another. But the Centre and the state must maintain good relations.”