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Restoring Special Status

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  17 Feb 2016 12:00 AM GMT

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi is reported to have requested Union Fince Minister Arun Jaitley that the special category status of Assam should be restored and that Central assistance to the State plan during the formulation of the Union Budget for 2016-17 should be augmented. In a letter addressed to the Union Fince Minister on Sunday, Gogoi pleaded with Jaitley for restoration of Centrally sponsored schemes and for the release of pending CST compensation due to the State. He also urged the Union Fince Minister to earmark appropriate budget provisions to eble the State to get royalty on crude oil, VAT and other taxes on the actual market price and not on the basis of heavy discounted sale price. The Chief Minister further urged the Union Fince Minister Jaitley to declare flood and erosion as tiol problems with adequate budgetary provision, apart from a change in funding pattern of flood magement programmes and the setting up of the Brahmaputra Valley River Basin Authority. Gogoi has also asked Jaitley for adequate funds for plugging vulnerable areas with fencing along the Indo-Bangladesh border. Gogoi’s demands from the Union Fince Minister have extended to the restoration of the North East Industrial and Investment Promotion Policy, 2007 and a special package for promotion and development of the MSME sector. He has also requested the Union Fince Minister for a special package for flood victims and embankment protection works, besides special packages for development councils and for development of areas adjoining the Assam-galand border. By the look of things, it would appear that there is very little fincial responsibility that the State government proposes to take. The expectations are that all the requirements of Assam would have to be fulfilled by the Centre. Here we have the “begging bowl” fiscal culture of Assam in full display.

The Assam Chief Minister might have had some justification for his long list of demands from the Centre if only as Fince Minister of the State as well he had been able to evince a modicum of concern for fiscal discipline in his State. Persistent complaints about the total lack of fiscal discipline and reports of the State government having failed to submit to the Centre proper utilization certificates and statements of accounts for development funds received from the Union government in addition to rampant loot of Central funds prompted the Chief Minister of Assam to issue a White Paper recently on the utilization of the Centre’s development funds. What the White Paper strove to do was to draw attention to the difference between the present Union government and the UPA government that was very indulgent about the failure of the Assam government to maintain fiscal discipline. As far as the Assam government was concerned, the UPA government at the Centre never asked any awkward questions about utilization certificates and proper accounts not being submitted. So the White Paper seeks to project the UPA government as a very generous government and the present NDA government as a very miserly one. This is the expected political conduct in India. Strangely enough, however, the White Paper contained no explation of any kind about more than Rs 12,000 crore of Central development funds that had remained uccounted for. After all, there is a question of moral rights in such matters. The Chief Minister of the State (and its Fince Minister) who failed to provide utilization certificates for thousands of crores of rupees has forfeited the right to make any demands from the Centre for additiol grants. Whatever else he may not have succeeded in doing during his 15-year rule of Assam, he has certainly succeeded very well in completely destroying every trace of fiscal discipline in the State and in permitting unrestricted loot of the Centre’s development grants. He has ceased to function like an elected head of government of a democratic State and begun to see himself perhaps as the despot of a feudal State. Given this scerio, and given the Chief Minister’s attitude to the business of governce in a democratic State, he should, in all fairness, forfeit the right to seek any further fincial assistance from the Centre until he has handed in all pending utilization certificates and statements of accounts to the Centre. After all, he is not a king.

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