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May 26, 2011

Chief Minister to meet Union Finance Minister on Sunday

Chief Minister to meet Union Finance Minister on Sunday
Kolkata, May 26: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and State Finance Minister Amit Mitra will meet Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in Kolkata on Sunday to discuss the state`s financial condition. 
With the state passing through its worst financial crisis in decades, Mamata is expected to seek a bailout package from the Centre. Funds will be required to implement the decisions taken on Wednesday`s cabinet meeting, the second since the Mamata Banerjee government was sworn in last week. Mamata has led by example to show that she intends her cabinet colleagues to be action-oriented. Hence, the government’s first week has been an eventful one with many ministers announcing impressive projects and development plans. 
Last Friday, Mamata had given State Finance Minister Amit Mitra a week to study the condition of the state’s finances and come up with some solutions. 
 “I will meet the Union Finance Minister on Sunday to discuss the finances of the state. Soon after our government came to power, Pranab Mukherjee asked me to meet him to discuss this very issue. I still can`t say whether a special financial package for the state will be discussed or how much we should ask from Centre. By Sunday, Amit Mitra will have a fair idea of the situation,” Ms Banerjee said. 
On Wednesday, several decisions were taken by the state cabinet that would put a pressure on the exchequer. These include raising the allocation for North Bengal’s development from Rs 60 crore to Rs 200 crore and doing away with the embargo on subsidies on food for BPL families. Lifting of the embargo will cost the state Rs 40 crore in the first phase alone. 
“The former state government played havoc with the finances in the last few months. They even delayed old-age pension and other pay-outs for the last six months. We will now have to pay arrears for the last six months. We have managed to take care of the salaries for the next three months. However, the delivery system is in a very bad shape. From September, the salaries of government employees will be paid through banks,” Mamata Banerjee said. 
The state government has also planned flood and drought-control measures by harnessing the water released from dams after the monsoons. Assistance will be sought from Bengal Engineering and Science University, Jadavpur University and Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, for this. Ms Banerjee will send State Planning and Development Minister Manish Gupta to Patna to attend the Planning Commission’s meeting with state governments from the eastern region. She has also spoken to Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and asked him to organize a similar meet in Kolkata involving states in the North East. 
The other development projects that were in the Trinamool Congress` election manifesto and are being taken up by the state cabinet — including revamping of the health and education sectors — will also require a massive amount of funds. Considering this, Sunday’s meeting between Mamata Banerjee and Pranab Mukherjee will be extremely crucial.