WEST BENGAL Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has refused to yield to a demand from the Centre for Rs 250 crore as payment for deployment of CRPF personnel in the state for various purposes over the last year, including Assembly elections and providing security for officials.
Following a letter received this week by Chief Secretary Basudeb Banerjee from Union Economic Secretary Shaktikanta Das in this regard, the Chief Minister has directed state officials to respond that they would not pay the amount, said sources.
Instead, Banerjee has asked officials to raise the issue of restructuring the debt faced by the state government, set to cross Rs 3.04 lakh crore by the end of this financial year.
Banerjee has repeatedly opposed the deployment of central forces without the “permission” of her government. For instance, during the Assembly elections this year, the Chief Minister had alleged that central forces were “torturing” voters in a bid to influence them and had complained to the Election Commission about this.
”The Centre writing to the West Bengal government and saying that we need to pay Rs 250 crore for the deployment of forces that we never wanted and to claim that if we don’t pay the sum, they’ll deduct the amount from the funds given to us, is absolutely laughable. The CM has instructed that a befitting reply be given to the Centre, explaining clearly that we will not pay this sum, particularly when the state is already burdened with enormous debt,” said sources in the West Bengal government.
On December 23, Banerjee wrote to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh protesting against alleged deployment of CRPF personnel in the state without informing her government.
In her letter, Mamata alleged that the Centre had deployed CRPF to provide “security” to Income Tax officials. Describing the move as “blatantly unconstitutional, illegal and against all principles of cooperative federalism”, Mamata Banerjee had claimed that any such deployment could be done only at the request of the state government.
“To say that the state government should pay this sum of Rs 250 crore when they are battling a crippling financial crisis betrays a petty, vengeful mind. We are pushing for debt restructuring because otherwise all states will fall into a debt crisis. The central revenue is essentially money that the states send to the Centre through taxes. If the Centre can give bailout money to other countries, then why not its own states?” said a senior TMC leader.
The Bengal government has been pushing for restructuring of the debt trap, which the TMC government said it had “inherited” from the Left regime.
In July, Banerjee had given Prime Minister Modi 30 letters illustrating different ways in which her government felt shortchanged by the Centre’s “undermining of federalism”. These ranged from the “weakening” of various central-sponsored initiatives such as the mid-day meal scheme where a cut in budgetary allocations of 67 per cent; or the Integrated Child Development Scheme which saw reduction of central government contribution by over 50 per cent.