SPECIAL CATEGORY STATUS CONTROVERSY
Fince minister pins blame on Manmohan Singh for ‘knowingly or unknowingly’ agreeing to 14th Fince Commission’s suggestion to abolish special category status
BY OUR STAFF REPORTER
GUWAHATI, July 25: The confusion over whether special category state status is still in force for Assam or not, came to an end today with State Fince minister Himanta Biswa Sarma admitting in the House on Monday that the term ‘special category status’ has been replaced by ‘special treatment’, a term coined by the rendra Modi-led BJP government at the Centre.
Sarma however asserted that Assam would not suffer in terms of fincial assistance from the Central government due to replacement of the special category status.
A debate on whether special category status is still in force for the State or not, took place in the Assembly on Wednesday last with Opposition members seeking clarification from the State government on the issue. They had angrily referred to Union Fince Minister Arun Jaitley’s categorical comment in Parliament that no special category status would be given to any state.
On Monday, the Congress gave notice, seeking a discussion on the subject. Congress MLA Ajanta Neog, who earlier demanded that a White Paper be published by the BJP on this subject, again raised the issue and sought clarification from the government, saying that if the special category status is abolished, Assam would be deprived of fincial assistance under various development schemes. She also said Assam would suffer a lot due to change in funding pattern by the Modi government for different centrally-sponsored schemes (CSS) which are being currently run or implemented in the State.
In his reply today, Himanta Biswa Sarma said, “Since 1969, Assam had been enjoying the special category status which has been replaced by the Modi government with special treatment. Through special treatment, the State will get more fincial assistance from the Central government than earlier. So, the existence or non-existence of special category status for Assam doesn’t matter at all,” adding, “The Centre has already announced it will give special treatment to the Northeastern and Himalayan states.”
Sarma further said that ‘knowingly or unknowingly’, former prime minister Manmohan Singh had done ‘temporary damage’ to the State by agreeing to the 14th Fince Commission’s proposal to withdraw special category status to Assam and 10 other states.
“The 14th FC was formed and headed by people chosen by Dr Singh and it was the FC that had suggested withdrawal of special category status to the states and devolving more Central taxes to them.”
Referring to Union Fince Minister Arun Jaitely’s statement in Rajya Sabha that ‘special treatment’ was being accorded to Assam and other such states and not ‘special category status’, Sarma said, “We are getting special category treatment, only the me has changed.”
“We are enjoying all characteristics of special category status. In fact, we are getting more,” he said, claiming that additiol Rs 5,000 crore has been given by the Centre.
Sarma further stated: “Under special treatment, 112 centrally-sponsored schemes are being currently run in the State. Out of the 112 schemes, 48 schemes are being funded on 100 per cent pattern, 58 schemes on 90:10 pattern, 3 schemes on 80:20 pattern, 1 scheme on 70:30 pattern and 2 schemes on 50:50 pattern. As per the recommendations on the state share by the 14th Fince Commission, Assam will get more funds than earlier.”
During the rule of the Congress government led by Tarun Gogoi, the then State government had failed to release Rs 472 crore as state share under 90:10 scheme, as a result of which Assam got deprived of getting around Rs 4,000 crore, added the Fince minister.
Sarma said interestingly the 14th Fince Commission even stated that there should be no difference between special category status and non-special status, a recommendation even agreed to by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.