Amid a boycott by opposition parties led by the DMK, Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit today made his maiden address to the state assembly, urging the Centre to sanction Rs 4,854 crore towards Cyclone Ochki rehabilitation work. Soon after he arrived in the House, Purohit greeted all members with a 'Vanakkam' and began his address. Even as he began his speech, Leader of the Opposition MK Stalin was on his feet trying to raise some issues. The governor paused for a moment and told Stalin 'please utkkarunga' (please take your seat) in Tamil but to no avail. Stalin was supported by his party MLAs, who raised slogans demanding that their leader be allowed to speak. A little later, the DMK Working President led his party members and staged a walkout. Congress members and the lone IUML legislator also followed suit. Amid noisy scenes, sidelined AIADMK leader TTV Dhinakaran, who made his debut in the assembly after having won the December 21 RK Nagar bypoll by a thumping margin of 40,000 votes against E Madhusudhanan of AIADMK, was seated calmly. Later, Purohit resumed his address which was peppered with praise to late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's vision and expression of thanks to the Centre for fund-releases towards instances including an "on-account" release of Rs 133 crore for cyclone Ockhi rehabilitation work. "I urge the Central government to...sanction the due release of Rs 401 crore for temporary restoration and Rs 4,854 crore for permanent restoration towards damages caused by Cyclone Ockhi." Thanking Prime Minister Narendra Modi for visiting cyclone-hit Kanyakumari, he said the Centre should ask its team which visited Tamil Nadu to assess storm damages to expeditiously submit its report. Recalling the financial assistance provided by the State government to the bereaved families vis-a-vis the storm, he said Tamil Nadu was committed to continuing rescue efforts till the last fisherman was rescued. Lauding the State for achieving a smooth transition to the GST regime, he said Tamil Nadu's fiscal position has been "resilient" and continues to be so despite unexpected setbacks in revenues. "Though there is a concern about increasing revenue deficit due to slow growth in revenue receipts, the State is firmly on the path of containing the fiscal deficit and Debt to GSDP ratio within the norms." Referring to his State-wide tours, Purohit complimented Tamil Nadu for "active participation," in "Swachh Bharat Mission," which was being pursued by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a "missionary zeal." "During my tours, I witnessed commendable work by the State in implementing this mission..16 districts have achieved Open Defecation Free status under the mission." It may be recalled that Purohit toured a number of districts in which he undertook cleanliness drives and held meetings with officials. It evoked strong protest from Opposition parties primarily the DMK which alleged that it amounted to interference in the rights of the state. Outlining the policies and programmes of the AIADMK regime, he reiterated the government position that Katchatheevu islet should be retrieved from Sri Lanka which will restore the traditional fishing rights of Indian fishermen. "Efforts taken by the central government has substantially reduced the incidents of unprovoked attacks by the Sri Lankan Navy on our fishermen." Seeking release of Tamil Nadu fishermen from Sri Lanka, he thanked the Union government for supporting Tamil Nadu in its efforts to promote deep sea fishing by sanctioning Rs 200 crore for replacing existing fishing vessels with tuna longliners. On the contentious Cauvery issue, the Governor said, "The Government continues to urge the Centre to expedite the constitution of the Cauvery Management Board and the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee to fulfil the long-standing legitimate demand of the State." He said Jayalalithaa enabled the State to become "power surplus," and Tamil Nadu will pursue its goal of adding 13,000 MW thermal power to its generating capacity. Despite its "immense fiscal stress," the government has already implemented pay revision on the basis of the recommendations of the pay panel 2017 at an additional cost of Rs 14,719 crore per annum, he said. "Many representations are being received from various quarters about the pay revision..
This government will constitute a committee to examine these." The governor also urged the Centre to accord early approval for Phase-II of the Chennai Metro Rail Project. Hailing Tamil Nadu's Universal Public Distribution System which has ensured a "functional food safety net," Purohit said all rice card holders were being provided with Pongal gift hampers consisting of one kilogram each of raw rice, sugar besides other items this year as well.
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