Mamata asks CPM to pay off debts, warns against strike

Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minster Mamata Banerjee today asked CPI(M) to 'return' the Rs 2.03 lakh crore it had taken as loan and warned transport operators from joining the July 31 strike called by the Marxist party's trade
union front CITU.

"CPI-M should return to the people of West Bengal the Rs 2.03 lakh crore loan it had taken when in power, which is now an unnecessary burden for our government," Banerjee told reporters here.

Mamata has asked the CPI(M) to pay off all the debts it has incurred on the state.

Hitting out at CITU for calling the state-wide transport strike, she warned of seizing licences if private operators failed to ply their buses on the day.
The Chief Minister's warning came within hours after CITU called the strike.

"The government will take stern action in the event of violence or damage to vehicles (during the strike). We will keep a vigil on the situation and monitor who joins the transport strike to harass commuters. The government will not
hesitate to take appropriate action and legal steps," she said.

If necerssary, the state government might stop subsidy of Rs 600 crore per month to the transport sector and purchase new buses. "I would like to tell the strike sponsors (CITU) not to play with fire at a time when the state  government is struggling with an acute the financial crisis with a loan burden of Rs 2.03 lakh crore for which we have to pay interest of Rs 25,000 crore per year", Banerjee said.

West Bengal, she said, is the 'worst' debt-riden state in the country. "Only we know how we are coping with the situation and how we are managing the employees' salary."

"If you do not withdraw the strike, I will ask my Trinamool Congress workers to hold street-corner meetings against the transport strike," she added.

PTI