‘States being made ‘bonded carriers' of Central schemes'
Mounting a searing attack on the Centre for its diverse policies, Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan has accused it of encroachment on States' freedom.
Speaking at the National Development Council (NDC) meeting in New Delhi on Saturday, the Chief Minister alleged that the Union government was making States ‘bonded carriers' of Centrally-devised schemes and refusing clearance for projects of interest to the State governments if these were not in tune with Central policies. While the former amounted to encroachment on the States' freedom and a pre-emption of their Plan resources, the latter smacked of arbitrariness, Mr. Achuthanandan said.
The Chief Minister came down heavily on the Centre for its new practice of launching Centrally-sponsored schemes forcing the States to fall in line with its conditions and later suddenly deciding to drop or modify the schemes or raise the States' share in financing such schemes. “The State governments, having got involved in a scheme in whose formulation they had no say in the first place, are then made responsible for it to greater degrees at the whim of the Centre,” he said and cited the changes being effected in the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) and the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) as instances in point. In both the cases, the Centre had pushed up the States' share in funding, placing a heavy pressure on their Plan resources, he pointed out.
On the State-level schemes, the Chief Minister said that Central clearance was taking an inordinately long time. The Vizhinjam Deep Water International Transhipment Container Terminal, which required no Central funding, has been held up for long for want of Central clearance. The Kochi Metro Rail Project, a joint enterprise of the Central and the State government on the lines of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, was still awaiting Planning Commission clearance. The Palakkad Rail Coach factory, for which the State had met its obligation of acquiring land, inexplicably found no mention in the current year's Union Budget. “The cause of delay in many cases is the Centre's insistence on the PPP mode. This is a further encroachment on the freedom of the State governments: while PPP can be one of several modes from which the optimum is to be chosen, it cannot simply be prioritised in an arbitrary manner over all others,” he said.
The Chief Minister was also critical of the Centre's petroleum product pricing policy and asked it to rescind the petro-product price hike and to abandon its policy of linking domestic petro-product prices to the international market. “What the country needs above all is stability in the prices of basic goods and their insulation from wide fluctuations of the sort that occur in the international commodity markets,” Mr. Achuthanandan said.