West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today hardened her stance on the demand for a three-year moratorium on interest payment for accumulated debts, saying the Centre "cannot deny its responsibility in the matter".
"We are not going with a begging bowl. We are not asking for a special package. It is their commitment and their promise ... Our demand for moratorium is nothing new. It happened with Punjab. Is not Bengal a state? Is not Bengal's problem everyone's problem", she told reporters prior to her departure for Delhi.
"How many times have I to say this?" she asked.
Banerjee, who headed for Delhi to attend the meeting on NCTC on May 5 and is likely to meet the Prime Minister and Congress president Sonia Gandhi during her four-day stay, said this when a reporter asked if she was hopeful this time of getting the moratorium from the Centre.
"It happened before in 2000 in the case of Punjab. And this happened with recommendations of the Finance Commission. We are carrying a legacy of the huge debt burden from the previous Left Front government", she said.
"There was not a single source from where the LF government had not borrowed. Why did the Centre allow them to do so? The Centre cannot deny its responsibility," she said.
The chief minister pointed out that she had been repeatedly pleading with the Centre to bail out the state from the financial mess created by the Left Front government.
Reminding that the Prime Minister had assured her to help the state tide over its financial crisis, she said, "We are trying for the last one year. The Prime Minister had also assured us before the Assembly election. He had said 'Yes we know the financial situation of West Bengal'."
Banerjee said she had also taken up the issue with the Union Finance Minister (Pranab Mukherjee) a number of times.
She said she was grateful to the Planning Commission for appreciating the situation being faced by the state. West Bengal had been identified by the 13th Finance Commission along with Kerala and Punjab as the debt-stressed states.
She had recently said the debt burden bequeathed by the Left Front government in the state could be more than an estimated Rs. 2.3 lakh crore. The state government's current annual outgo on interest payments is around Rs 22,000 crore.