Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Saturday criticised the Central government for seeking to reduce States into the status of “glorified municipal corporations.”
In her address to the National Development Council, which met in New Delhi, the Chief Minister, whose speech was read out by Finance Minister O. Panneerselvam in absentia, said that the NDC was a forum to consult with State Chief Ministers, as equal partners in the process of development, on issues of concern to the nation.
“I am not sure that the Government of India recognises the States as partners, leave alone equal partners, and respects their viewpoints. These meetings at best are ritualistic and are exercises in futility.”
When the Centre turned a deaf ear to even the States' reasonable requests such as restoration of the kerosene quota to mitigate the sufferings of the poor or additional power to tide over a crisis situation, such meetings only caused frustration to the States and their people.
The Chief Minister slammed the Centre for making attempts to “weaken the States with too much interference, reducing them to the status of glorified municipal corporations.” The Union government was continuously proving that “it is completely out of sync with ground realities and is far removed from the man on the street.”
Ms Jayalalithaa accused the Union government of appearing to be “hell-bent on penalising non-Congress governments.” Despite repeated requests for special assistance, funds were not provided to Tamil Nadu while a special package was given to West Bengal for the only reason that the present ruling party in West Bengal was an ally of the ruling party at the Centre. “This only indicates that step-motherly treatment is given to non-Congress governments.”
Reiterating her opposition to the Central government's plan to introduce the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, she described it as a “blatant attempt to totally bypass the State governments and concentrate all powers in the Central government.”
Turning to the Goods and Services Tax (GST), she said: “In its present form, the proposed GST is an assault on the fiscal autonomy of the States, which is difficult to accept.”
In the matter of a Common Entrance Test for Professional Courses too, the Centre seemed “obstinate,” without caring for local conditions and the views of the State governments.
“Even attacks on fishermen belonging to Tamil Nadu in the Palk Bay by Sri Lanka are not looked upon as acts of aggression against India. This issue is merely looked upon as a minor problem concerning Tamil Nadu alone. The Centre seems to think that the lives of fishermen belonging to Tamil Nadu are worthless and do not call for any potent action.”
Referring to the Planning Commission's approach paper, she said that it lacked clear direction and strategy. There was lack of emphasis in the Approach Paper on a direct attack on poverty, particularly in urban areas, “reflective of the apathy of the Government of India towards issues that really concern the common people.” She called for family based interventions to squarely and comprehensively address poverty.
Strongly advocating a more ambitious growth target for the 12th Plan, she added that 10 per cent growth in the 12th Plan should be the minimum target to aim for. However, certain instances that had occurred in the recent past did suggest that this goal was not going to be easy to attain.
Price rise was an area where the policies and actions of the Centre had “miserably failed” and were even counter-productive. Referring to the hike in the price of diesel 13 times and that of petrol 19 times during 2004-2011 besides the increase in price of domestic liquefied petroleum gas cylinders, she wondered, “If fuel prices are increased so many times, how do you expect inflation to come down?” Yet, the Government of India never failed to advise the States to forgo their Sales Tax in order to control prices.
She urged the Centre to modify guidelines of the programmes such as Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme so that a broad sectoral allocation could be made, allowing greater flexibility to the States to implement schemes based on local needs and capacity differentials.