In their time allotted for intervention at the meeting of the Governing Council of Niti Aayog, Chief Ministers of Opposition-ruled states raised a range of issues issues: legal guarantee on Minimum Support Price for farm output, shortage of IAS officers, GST exemptions, higher allocation of funds for states, and adequate consultation with states on policy issues.
The CMs from Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, and Left-ruled Kerala, called for an extension of compensation from shortfall in revenue due to the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax. The Punjab CM from Aam Aadmi Party sought a legal guarantee for MSP, the Trinamool Congress-ruled West Bengal CM flagged need for more IAS officers, and the Jharkhand CM sought a special package to deal with the repercussions of rain deficit, according to sources.
Telangana CM K Chandrashekhar Rao, who did not attend the meeting on Sunday, had said on Saturday that he would skip it to protest “the Centre’s attitude”; he also objected to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “dismissing of welfare schemes as freebies”. At a press briefing later in the evening, Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Suman Berry said there were no discussions around “freebies” during the meeting.
Sunday’s Governing Council meeting was attended by 23 CMs, three Lieutenant Governors and two Administrators and Union Ministers. The Chief Ministers of Bihar, Telangana, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Mizoram, the L-G of Puducherry, and the Administrator of Chandigarh did not attend the meeting.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the legislation on subjects in the Concurrent List – which are of common interest to both the Centre and states – should be initiated only after “adequate consultation”. The Centre should desist from legislating on items in the State list, he said. He also stressed on the need to review the decision to impose GST on essential items and revocation of restrictions on borrowing limits of states.
Vijayan also urged for financial assistance for enhancing palm oil processing infrastructure and requested that the Centre’s share of assistance under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) should be increased since the cost of materials has risen significantly especially along the state’s coastline. He called for a time-bound completion of the road projects and early clearance of the state’s proposals for the development of rail and air traffic.
Pointing out that Chhattisgarh could potentially suffer losses to the tune of Rs 5,000 crore due to GST implementation, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel demanded a five-year extension for the compensation grant for states for revenue shortfall. He claimed the state has received around Rs 13,000 crore less in Central taxes in the last three years which was putting “extreme pressure” on its resources. He demanded reimbursement of over Rs 11,800 crore – expenditure incurred to eliminate Left-wing extremism, and also sought a specific policy to allocate additional resources to states like Chhattisgarh.
Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann, meanwhile, requested the Centre to extend financial support and a special package for the state on par with industrial packages given to hilly states. He rejected the Centre’s committee on MSP, saying it was dominated by “armchair economists who don’t have any knowledge about agriculture”. He called for the reconstitution of the MSP committee and also asked for a special package to increase the water carrying capacity of canals in the state.
Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren urged the Centre to issue a special package for Jharkhand to deal with the repercussions of the deficit of rain this year. The state has so far registered 50 per cent lower rainfall with less than 20 per cent of the paddy sowing target achieved. He said only 13 lakh of the 38 lakh farmers in the state have been able to receive benefits of the Kisan Credit Card as banks are delaying farmers’ onboarding process. In the last two years, five lakh new farmers were added to the list, but more than 10 lakh applications are still pending in various banks, he said. He also requested reinstatement of the limit for giving forest clearance by the state.
Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot reiterated the state’s demand for declaring Eastern Rajasthan Canal Project (ERCP) as a national project. He said the change in financial participation pattern of Centrally Sponsored Schemes has led to additional burden on states. He said the Centre should extend the period of GST compensation by five years from June 2022 to June 2027 and demanded release of about Rs 3,780 crore towards GST compensation for his state.