Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi made use of the National Development Council (NDC) forum, convened to discuss the Approach Paper to the Twelfth Five Year Plan, to launch a blistering attack on the Manmohan Singh government on the political and economic fronts.
“It is with a sense of great anguish and deep regret that I wish to draw the attention of this august body to attempts being made increasingly by the Central government to tinker with the federal structure mandated by the Constitution,” Mr. Modi said.The Chief Minister counselled the Centre to observe ‘federal dharma' and maintained that extreme vigilance and caution had to be exercised to ensure all constitutional authorities were allowed to carry out their mandated functions.He charged the Centre with being inconsistent with the federal fiscal system while transferring resources to States, which had led to problems relating to administration and financial discipline. “It is ironical and sad that while progressive States are empowering people and decentralising decision making, the Central government is moving in the opposite direction.”Mr. Modi took exception to direct transfer of funds by the Centre to the district-level agencies and said that the unusual procedure of bypassing State governments weakens them and results in poor quality outcomes.
“It has been observed that many critical issues of the States remain pending resolution by the Central government for years... It almost appears that it is for the States to repeatedly knock on the doors of the Central government, which is oblivious to their pleas. There is an urgent need to set up a structured mechanism which addresses such issues and resolves them in a time-bound manner,” Mr. Modi said. (Oct 2011). 7
Speaking at the National Development Council meeting, held to discuss the approach paper on the 12th Five Year Plan, in New Delhi, Mr. Gowda (CM) said Karnataka was facing a serious problem of excessive fluoride and arsenic content in drinking water, especially in water drawn from borewells. Mr. Gowda urged the Prime Minister to approve proposals on irrigation projects sent by Karnataka so that irrigation and drinking water needs of people in drought-prone areas could be addressed. The Chief Minister sought financial support from the Centre for rehabilitation of forests-dwellers, acquisition of land for increasing forest cover, tackling the naxal menace, developing ecotourism and medical tourism, bringing about a comprehensive land use policy for utilising mineral wealth. 8
CM J. Jayalalitha said 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.”
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,” she pointed out.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 had been given to West Bengal for the only reason “that the present ruling party in West Bengal is 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 also, the Centre seemed to be “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,” she said.
On the Planning Commission's approach paper, she said it lacked clear direction and strategies. 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 said, calling for family based interventions to squarely and comprehensively address poverty. 9
The CPI(M) on Tuesday (April 2012) accused the government of “complete arbitrariness” in trying to get the Finance Bill passed to allocate funds without discussing the 12th Plan proposals. Alleging that the opinion of elected representatives was “being given a go-by” by the government, senior party leader Sitaram Yechury demanded immediate discussion on the 12th Plan in Parliament. Noting that the five-year plans have to be discussed before any budgetary allocations are made, he said while the National Development Council (NDC), comprising Chief Ministers, finalises the plan, the government has indicated that NDC would meet only in June or July after the Finance Bill is adopted. “Parliament has not even discussed the Approach Paper to the 12th Plan and it is proceeding to get the Finance Bill passed. So budgetary allocations will be made even before the plan proposals are debated by Chief Ministers or the elected representatives,” he said. 2
Real estate developers across the country have urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to constitute a sub-group of the National Development Council to specifically address the problems faced by them...issues that are hurting the growth of the sector, which include undue delays in approvals of projects leading to substantial escalation in costs, compulsory reservation of 20 per cent land/FAR for houses meant for economically weaker sections and smaller houses, tax provisions and artificial escalation of cement prices. (April 2012). 3
Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda on Monday sought liberal assistance from the Centre to cover the needs of infrastructure, including roads, drains, water supply and sewerage in various towns of the State. Speaking at the second meeting of the Sub-Committee of National Development Council (NDC) on Urbanisation at New Delhi, he said that the Sub-Regional Plan of Haryana Sub-Region of National Capital Region proposes to develop Gurgaon,Faridabad, Bahadurgarh and Sonipat at par with Delhi. (Feb 2012). 4
The All India Kisan Sabha has demanded that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh convene a meeting of farmers' organisations, farm scientists and economists to evolve measures to accord top priority to agriculture sector in the XII Five Year Plan. The agenda finalised at the meeting should form part of the discussions of the National Development Council so that the Centre and States could finalise action plan for alleviating the problems of the agriculturists who were facing a grave situation. (Jan 2012). 5
Naveen Patnaik on Thursday wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh requesting him to declare Odisha as a special category State. “Odisha, having a high concentration of Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste communities, adverse human development indicators and high incidence poverty, needs to be declared as a special category State...Odisha satisfies all conditions of a special category State except that it has no international border with any country. ” Mr. Patnaik said in his letter. Mr. Patnaik further said that he had raised the issue at several meetings of the National Development Council. (Nov 2011) 6