Mamata Banerjee presses for moratorium on interest payment

Mamata Banerjee

Painting a grim financial situation faced by West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today pressed for a three-year moratorium on the Rs 22,000 crore interest paid annually on loans so that welfare schemes could be undertaken.

Banerjee said the Centre was taking away all the revenue income of West Bengal government in the form of interest payment on loans taken by the previous Left Front government and urged "students, youths, priests and imams and all sections of people" to unite and raise a banner of protest against it.

Speaking at a government programme aimed at giving sops to Muslims through various schemes ahead of the crucial panchayat elections, the Trinamool Congress supremo reiterated her long-standing demand for a three-year moratorium on interest payment so that the cash-strapped state could move ahead with its development agenda.

"We have many plans for welfare of the people, but we do not have enough money left after paying Rs 22,000 crore annually as interest. We told the Centre we do not need its mercy. Are we beggars?," she said.

Banerjee emphasised that the Centre cannot shirk its responsibility in allowing the previous CPI(M)-led government to borrow massive loans during its 35 years of rule.

"The previous CPI(M) government kept on borrowing leading to the present acute financial crisis in the state and the Centre remained silent all through and did not protest. Steps should have been taken at that time," she observed.

"We have no way to borrow now at a time when we have no money to provide food through rations to the people and even to fund the schemes for people belonging to the minority community and the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe," she said.

She regretted that the previous government was permitted to borrow "as many number of times as it required", but when her government took over, "we are told we cannot borrow".

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