West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra on Monday said the cash-strapped government has not received Rs 8,000 crore, as claimed by the Centre. Disputing Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi's claim that the state has been extended this amount, Mitra said at a press conference, "The claim is absolutely incorrect. So far not a single paise has been received as part of a central relief package. Perhaps he is ill-informed". Pleading that West Bengal be given a special economic package to bail out the state which was saddled with a debt burden of Rs 2.3 lakh crore left by the previous Left Front regime, Mitra said, "It is possible that Singhvi is misinformed."
He explained that due to the debt burden, the state government had to transfer to the treasury about Rs 22,000 crore annually, of which Rs 15,093 crore was interest and Rs 6,900 crore the principal. "It is unfortunate that Singhvi has not referred to this when he spoke here yesterday about the central aid which did not arrive as yet," he said.
Requesting that the Centre consider allowing a moratorium on the huge debt burden to help the state come out of the present situation to a "some extent", he said. "If there was no outgo of Rs 22,000 crore, it could have been used for several socio-economic projects and building of physical infrastructure."
Mitra explained that the money he referred to yesterday had got nothing to do with the central economic package the government had sought. The amount refererd to by Singhvi was the Backward Region Grants Fund given by the Centre to different states, including that given to Bihar in 2005-06, he said.
"Unfortunately Singhvi did not address this issue when he spoke here yesterday," Mitra added.
Mitra said the state government had already submitted details of various projects for the backward regions in the state to the Planning Commission, which was analysing them before referring them to the Union Finance Ministry for approval.
"The Detailed Project Report (DPR) regarding the projects totalling worth Rs 8,700 crore had already been submitted by the state government to the Planning Commission which now was under its consideration," he said.
Pointing out that Singhvi could have talked to him before making such a statement at a press conference here, Mitra said, "He is a good lawyer, but he is not a student of economics. Whatever information was given to him was wrong".
"It is hard to know the ground situation prevailing in the state sitting in Delhi. It would be better if he talked to me to know the exact situation before making such a comment. Or better still, he could have consulted the Centre. I hope I will get a telephone call from him when I will be able to convince him about the situation," Mitra said.
Despite the financial crisis, the state government had not stopped payment of salaries to not a single employee, nor any on-going development project was stopped, he pointed out.