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Opp CMs dispute PM’s Team India

| | New Delhi
Opp CMs dispute PM’s Team India

Held in the shadow of the lingering Delhi political crisis, the fourth Governing Council meeting of NITI Aayog on Sunday saw the Opposition attacking the Centre for violating the spirit of cooperative federalism. In their speeches, the majority of Opposition Chief Ministers questioned the Centre’s approach on host of issues even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to all States as “Team India” and congratulated the CMs for resolving complex governance issues in the spirit of cooperative and competitive federalism.

“The Governing Council has approached complex issues of governance as Team India, in the spirit of cooperative competitive federalism,” Modi said, describing the “smooth” rollout and implementation of GST as a prime example.

Modi said the challenge before India is to take the economic growth rate to double digits for which many more steps need to be taken. He stressed that the world expects India to become a $5 trillion economy soon, according to a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office.

As many as 23 CMs and one Lt-Governor attended the meeting. The notable absentees, however, were CMs of Odisha, Jammu & Kashmir, and Delhi. He urged the CMs to “give fresh ideas” to the 15th Finance Commission for incentivising outcome-based allocations and expenditure correction, amid demands by some States to revisit panel’s terms of reference.

Modi said India has no shortage of capabilities, capacities and resources and in the current financial year, the States would receive over Rs 11 lakh crore from the Centre — an increase of about Rs 6 lakh crore from the last year of the previous Government.

The PM also assured the CMs of flood-affected States of all Central assistance.

However, the Opposition turned the occasion into a rare show of unity as even NDA ally like Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar did not mince any word in criticising the Centre on several issues.

Nitish backed Andhra Pradesh CM’s demand on special category status for his state. He raised a similar demand for Bihar, saying the state lagged behind on indexes of human development, per capita income, education, health and institutional finance, thus making it a fit case for special status. Nitish said after carving out Jharkhand as a separate State, Bihar was left with little resources.

The States confronted the Modi Government on various issues like the 15th Finance Commission report and distribution of Central funds and slammed the Centre for what they termed weakening the federal structure of the constitution. “Has the Centre ever tried to know about States’ problems? Every State has its own problems? Centre decides on policies but it is the States which are the implementing authorities, it is we who have to do the job,” said West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

“I think the Centre should follow cooperative federalism and not unnecessarily interfere into State affairs. The Centre should strengthen cooperative federal structure,” she added.

Chief Ministers of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka were among those who raised the issue of loan waiver scheme for farmers. Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy sought 50 per cent support from the Centre to implement the scheme.

“In Karnataka, about 85 lakh farmers have outstanding debts on account of agricultural loans from banks. Due to recurring droughts, the distress of the farmers is even more acute. The State Government intends to alleviate the plight of the farmers through a loan waiver scheme in the interest of the farmers. I request the Government of India to provide 50 per cent support for our loan waiver initiative,” Kumaraswamy said.

On the issue of the 15th Finance Commission, the Opposition CMs voiced their apprehensions and urged the Centre to reframe its terms. “I urge the Union Government to reframe these terms of reference in such a way as to ensure fairness and equity in the matter of devolution of resources to the States,” Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in his speech.

Mamata, who was vocal against the Niti Aayog, alleged it does not do anything for the States. “They are saying after Niti Aayog restructuring has been done. But we do not think so. We feel Niti Aayog is doing nothing for the States,” Mamata said.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu raised several pending issues, including that of Special Category Status. In a span of 20 minutes, he raised pressing issues like the bifurcation-related Special Category Status, capital city, Polavaram project, revenue deficit, pull back of Rs 350 crore relating to backward areas development fund. Explaining how his State was lagging behind in terms of development compared to other southern States, he elaborated on why there was no rise in the per capita income despite constant efforts.

Mamata also supported CM of Andhra Pradesh Chandrababu Naidu on the issue of 2011 census being adopted by the 15th Finance Commission in the NITI Aayog Governing Council meeting & requested not to penalise the performing states:

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, who is aspiring for a role in national politics ahead of the 2019 elections, utilised the opportunity at the NITI Aayog meeting to project his State as the role model in rolling out farmer-friendly schemes and agricultural initiatives. KCR showcased his flagship “Rythu Bandhu” (Friends of Farmers) scheme that provides Rs 4,000 per acre per crop as agriculture input assistance. The initiative is likely to benefit 58 lakh farmers in the State. “As part of the initiatives for doubling the income of farmers, MGNREGA funds should be tagged to agriculture with 50% contribution from farmers to reduce the cost of their investment,” he said.

The Punjab Government has identified water as a critical challenge for the State, both in terms of quantity & quality. Additionally, we are doing our best to address the burning of paddy fields a request Centre’s support, said Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh.

Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan said his Government was deliberating on possible solutions for doubling farmers’ income and increasing agriculture production is one of the solutions.

Nitish sought replacing the practice of cooking foods under the midday meal scheme with direct benefit transfer. He said farmers were not getting remunerative price for their produce and “farm income is showing no signs of improvement” which was a “major challenge” for the Government.

His comments came amid talks of farm distress in various quarters, an issue which the Opposition has often used to target the BJP-led NDA Government at the Centre.  



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