Karunanidhi for interlinking rivers

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EXCHANGING GREETINGS: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi at the 52nd meeting of the National Development Council in New Delhi on Saturday.
EXCHANGING GREETINGS: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi at the 52nd meeting of the National Development Council in New Delhi on Saturday.

Special Correspondent

Wants the programme included and funded in the 11th Plan itself

CHENNAI: Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi on Saturday stressed the need for nationalisation and interlinking of rivers, particularly the southern peninsular component, and ensuring its inclusion and funding in the 11th Plan itself.

"Unless we wake up and act, the future generations will not forgive us," he said at the 52nd National Development Council meeting in New Delhi.

Interlinking of rivers would provide not only a flood control measure but would also offer irrigation potential in drought-prone and water-starved areas.

The move would ensure sustained agricultural growth, provide continuous employment to the rural poor, enable the country to generate more cost effective hydropower and enhance its navigational facilities, he said.

An "artificial and unproductive shift of capital" had occurred owing to the Centre exempting from excise duty goods produced in certain States, Mr. Karunanidhi said. He called for steps to correct these "distortions" immediately. Mr. Karunanidhi appealed to the States to collectively evolve a mechanism to "prevent unhealthy tax competition through exemptions, which harms all of us by reducing the resource base available to help the poor and weaker sections."

Service tax must be transferred to the State List, he said, adding that the States should levy and collect the tax though the proceeds could be shared with the Centre. Making it clear that the State was willing to phase out the central sales tax, he emphasised the need for monetary compensation for the loss as recommended by the Empowered Committee of Finance Ministers.

Referring to the State Government's decision against unbundling of its electricity undertaking, the Chief Minister urged the Centre to amend the Electricity Act to give flexibility to the States to adopt structures suited to local conditions.

Highlighting the finance problems faced by the State for sewerage schemes having long gestation periods, he called for constituting a task force immediately for the creation of a long-term debt market in India. In lieu of rural electrification, Bharat Nirman should fund provision of gas connections to the poor, he said.

On the State's decision to implement value added tax from January 1, 2007, Mr. Karunanidhi said it would be difficult to meet the resource requirements without the compensation provided to States which implemented it in 2005-2006.

Reservation for BCs

He asked the Centre to implement reservation for Backward Classes in all Central Government jobs and educational institutions without any dilution in one go. He reiterated his plea for flexibility in fixing reservation for Other Backward Classes in the respective States.

Mr. Karunanidhi appealed to all political parties to reach a consensus early on the issue of reserving 33 per cent seats for women in Parliament and State Legislatures.

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