Lambasting Modi government for ‘depriving’ Assam, Gogoi praises Vajpayee for support
By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, Feb.13: Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Friday released a White Paper on State finces, but it was conspicuously silent on the most contentious issue between the Congress government in the State and NDA government at the Centre - the status of utilization certificates.
"I will send this White Paper to the Prime Minister, Fince Minister and the Niti Aayog. Now, let them also give their's (white paper)," Gogoi said.
Releasing the White Paper, Chief Minister Gogoi said that when his government took over the reins of power in May 2001, the State was going through unprecedented fincial crisis. "The fincial situation had come to such a pass that the previous State Government had to resort to overdraft for 293 days in 2000-01. It could not pay salaries to its employees nor make decent investments for the development of the State," he said.
"It was an uphill task but the present government took this up as a challenge and made all out efforts to stem the fincial crisis. The government was supported in its efforts by the Vajpayee-led NDA government as well as exterl agencies like the Asian Development Bank. The efforts of the State government were later augmented by the Congress-led UPA government which came to power in May 2004-05," he said.
Gogoi said that Vajpayee had even tried to waive off the mandatory State's contribution of 25 per cent of the total Plan allocation, but the Planning Commission was opposed to it, saying that other states might also come with similar requests. "However, the State was allowed to release its share in installments," he said.
Reeling out vital statistics, Gogoi said the average fund transfer rose from Rs 3,789 crore per year during the NDA regime (1998-99 to 2003-04) to Rs 12,760 crore per year during the UPA rule (2004-05 to 2013-14) "resulting in a quantum jump of almost four times compared to the previous period."
Gogoi said while the State received Rs 22,734 crore during 1998-99 to 2003-04, it bagged Rs 1,27,595 crore between 2004-05 to 2013-14 during the Congress-led UPA government. "The State Government due to its Special Category status received funds from the Central government by way of increased transfer in the form of Central Assistance to State Plan including Block Grants and 100% Central support for various Centrally sponsored schemes," he added.
The Chief Minister said the State has made headway in various indicators with the GSDP registering an increase from 1.51% to 13% in 2013-14. The per capita income which stood at Rs 12,803 rose to Rs 42,036 in 2013-14. The Annual Plan size increased from Rs 1,521.28 crore to Rs 12,500 crore in 2013-14. The Annual Commercial tax rose from Rs 1,289.09 crore to Rs 7,602 crore. The total deposit increased from Rs 10,992.71 crore in 2000-01 to Rs 76,795.25 crore in 2013-14," he said.
Gogoi said the State has witnessed tremendous development in terms of infrastructure growth and other indicators in the past 15 years. "Black top road network increased from 7,280 km in 2004-05 to 23,200 km in 2013-14 and the materl mortality rate has declined from 490 in 2000-01 to 301 in 2004-05," he said.
The Chief Minister said while the State government remains wholly committed towards the development of Assam, the recent steps to do away with the Special Category status and change in dispensation of Central Assistance to State Plan has deprived the State of its rightful share. "Though the 14th Fince Commission has increased the devolution of funds from 32% to 42%, this is meant for all the states of the country. This means that the increased transfers would be received by developed and developing states. But the BJP-led NDA government has overlooked the important fact that Assam is characterized by peculiar geographical constraints like hilly and difficult terrain, sizeable tribal population, strategic location --- for which it was accorded Special Category status under the Gadgil-Mukherjee formula," he added.
Gogoi said while the UPA government allocated Rs 18,000 crore in 2014-15, the NDA government released only Rs 12,507.85 crore resulting in huge losses to the tune of Rs 5,060.98 crore. "The NDA government has delinked 12 schemes like modernisation of police forces and Backward Region Grant Fund leading to substantial losses of Rs 5,071.26 crore. This includes block grants of Rs 4,550 crore," he pointed out.
The Chief Minister said following the withdrawal of Special Category status, change in dispensation of Centrally Sponsored Schemes including de-linking of schemes, shortfall in release of Central Assistance for State Plan and change in funding pattern by the present Central Government would result in a whopping loss of Rs 16,497 crore in 2015-16. "The additiol funds given by the 14th Fince Commission and Increased Revenue Deficit Grant are expected to be around Rs 7,308 crore in 2015-16. As a result the net losses anticipated would be around Rs 9,189 crore," he added.
Gogoi said coupled with the retrogressive steps taken by the present dispensation at the Centre, the non-release of oil royalty and CST compensation, exclusion of Sixth Schedule areas from Local Bodies devolution, suspension North East Investment and Industrial and Promotion Policy etc have resulted in fincial deprivation to the State. "I hope the Central government would understand the special problems and issues of Assam and in partnership with the State government would help in resolution of these problems to achieve overall development of the State," he added.
When jourlists pointed out that his White Paper has no mention of the issue of utilization certificates over which the Central government has been attacking the State government and justifying the slashing of funds, Gogoi insisted that instead of speaking about utilization certificates at public rallies, the Central leaders should give it in writing to the State government.
"They should tell me officially if I have failed to give utilization certificates," Gogoi said, adding that his "fight" is not against the BJP, but for the State's economy.
"Till today, the Niti Aayog has not spelt out this fincial year's Plan allocation for the State. What can we expect from such an agency?" he said.