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On the issue of special status for Andhra Pradesh, it is regrettable that some political parties are whipping up public sentiments rather than encouraging an informed debate which is the cornerstone of a vibrant democracy. I would like you to introspect whether poetical parties should be pitting sentiments and development against each other to further their political agenda.
The 14th Finance Commission’s Terms of Reference (ToR) have been amended in right earnest as per AP Reorganisation Act, 2014 as soon as our government came to power on June 2, 2014 vide President’s Order published under S.O. Sc. 1424(E) to take into account the resources available to Andhra Pradesh and make recommendations thereof.
Due to the weak financial position of Andhra Pradesh, the 14th Finance Commission has awarded to the state revenue deficit grants to the tune of Rs 22.113 crore covering the overall revenue deficit for five years. Andhra Pradesh is the only state to receive the award of revenue deficit grants for all the five years period that is, from 2015 to 2020 besides the eight north-eastern and hilly states. Does that not show that the Central Government has been sensitive to the needs of Andhra Pradesh?
The NDA government has more than doubled the extent of central assistance to Andhra Pradesh as compared to the total funds allocated in the previous five years. The total award of funds to Andhra Pradesh under tax devolution and grants under various heads during the 14th Finance Commission (2015 to 2020 which broadly corresponds to the tenure of the present NDA government) is Rs 2,44,271 crore. Even after such massive increase in allocations, the Central Government has offered a Special Assistance Measure (Financial Package) to Andhra Pradesh in September, 2016 which was equivalent to the key financial benefits the state would have got as a special category state. Your government hailed this central assistance package as a great achievement of the state government. Suddenly, two years later, you have made a U-Turn once again demanding the special status which has become redundant in view of the financial commitments already fulfilled by the Central Government.
Your accusation that there is a delay in the release of funds under the special package is an admission of your government’s lackadaisical approach. Why is it that the state government has not acted in a speedy manner to get the externally aided projects implemented when the special assistance measure (package) was approved by the Union cabinet? If the public welfare was a priority why did your government take so long to access these funds? Why is it that your government has not responded to Central Government’s suggestion of setting up a special purpose vehicle for directly receiving these funds from Nabard as desired by your government? Is it because it poses problems in diverting such funds for ‘other’ purposes?
As you are aware, the NDA Government had agreed to bridge the revenue gap for the year 2014-15 and a sum of Rs 3979.5 crore was released to the state. The Central Government has also agreed to release an additional Rs 1600 crore based on the revenue deficit estimates for the year 2015-16 by the 14. Finance Commission.
Your government’s claim of Rs 16,000 crore deficit in the year 2014-15 is fallacious as this includes the state government's expenditure on farm loan waivers, pensions etc. Even our party governments in different states have implemented similar loan waiver schemes to give relief to the farmers but have met such expenditure from their own sources. The Central Government cannot be expected to meet these expenses as we cannot differentiate between state governments implementing similar welfare measures. Is it not political brinkmanship to make unjustified and exaggerated demands and then allege neglect when they are not accepted?
In keeping with the BJP’s stated position at the time of reorganisation of Andhra Pradesh and articulated by the Party leaders during the debate, NDA Govt has tried to fulfill every promise made. A notification was duly issued by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) on September 30, 2016 covering the seven backward districts of Rayalaseema and north coastal districts Are you not being disingenuous in claiming in your letter that the state of Andhra Pradesh has not received industrial and tax incentives?
As regards the special developmental assistance to the seven backward districts, the Central Government has released development grants to the tune of Rs 1.05 crore in the first three years Surprisingly, the state has spent only 12 per cent of this amount and 88 per cent remains unutlised. Furthermore, you have been claiming that the Central Government has asked this amount be taken back as this amount was released without the PMO’s permission. This is nothing but a figment of your imagination.
The commitment of Central Government towards development of Andhra Pradesh also gets reflected in increased budgetary allocation of Railways. Budget Outlay in 2014-19 has been about Rs 14,151 crore as against Rs 5,100 in 2009-14, an increase of about 219 per cent. It is also worth mentioning that a total of 32 projects costing Rs 47,989 Crore for 5,016 kms are already under execution.
As regards the new capital city of Andhra Pradesh. the AP Reorganisation Act, 2014 says that the Central Government shall provide special financial support for the creation of essential facilities including the Raj Bhawan, High Court, Government Secretariat, Legislative Assembly. Legislative Council, and such other essential infrastructure. Towards this end, the Central Government has already made available Rs 2,500 crore to the state government. This includes Rs 1,000 crore released by the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs (MoHUA), Government of India for the development of the capital region. The state government has spent only 8 per cent of the Rs 1,000 crore released by the MoHUA. When the state government has not utilised the funds given so far, how can it expect the Central Government to release any further funds for the purpose?
Edited excerpts from BJP President Amit Shah’s open letter to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and former NDA ally, Chandrababu Naidu, March 25, New Delhi