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Niranjan questions Odisha govt silence on Central aid cut

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, May 25:

Senior Congress leader and former president of Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) Niranjan Patnaik has asked the state government to issue a white paper on closure of important Central schemes and drastic cuts in social sector funding and clarify its strange silence on the unilateral decision of the Centre.

niranjan-patnaik-presserIn a letter to chief minister Naveen Patnaik today, Patnaik said the Centre has unilaterally closed several Centrally- sponsored schemes launched started by the UPA government such as the Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF), Integrated Action Plan (IAP), Modernization of Police Forces scheme (MPF) and an unprecedented cut of nearly 50 % in social sector schemes such as Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS), Mid Day Meal (MDM), Empowerment of Adolescent Girls (SABLA), Food Subsidy, National Health Mission (NHM), National Food Security Mission (NFSM) and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS).

“These cuts will have extremely adverse impact on the most marginalized sections of our society and development of the state”, he said.

Terming the decision of the Centre as unjustified and perverse, he said the Centre has contended that the drastic cuts in Central assistance has been carried out after implementing the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission increasing states’ share of taxes from 32% to 42%.

The fact is that the Finance Commission is a constitutional arrangement for establishing a mandatory formula for devolution of taxes to states and the Centre does no favours by implementing the recommendations, he observed.

“Besides, the Finance Commission had not asked for a cut on social sector funding while recommending an increase in devolution. In fact, the budget of the Central government for 2015-2016 shows that the total transfer of Central budget to states has reduced from 6.1 per cent to 5.8 per cent of the GDP and all these have been done using the rhetoric of ‘cooperative federalism’. The states will not get more money, but less on the whole. Unfortunately, the state government has deliberately kept the entire affair opaque to conceal is failure to protest,” the former PCC president pointed out.

He said while UPA was in power, the BJD government in the state used the bogey of Central neglect and took to the street which was one of its major strategies to gain political mileage.

Seeking clarification from the chief minister, he said while the BJD government, which had demonstrated in front of the Raj Bhawan following a hike in the price of petrol, diesel and cooking gas by the then UPA government,  has, of late, preferred to keep its mouth shut when prices are being increased by the BJP-led government at the Centre despite a fall in the crude oil price in the international market.

“You played the act of victimhood to the hilt. But, what is puzzling is that demands such as ‘special category status for Odisha’ are missing from BJD’s dictionary for the last one year. Is it that the cooperation extends to other invisible areas such as CBI investigation into the chit fund scam and therefore you have political compulsion to maintain silence despite knowing full well that the decisions by the Centre affects core interests of the people of the state?” Patnaik asked.

The Congress leader requested the chief minister that the state government, through the white paper, should explain to the people about the schemes that have been shut down by the BJP-led NDA government, the loss of money the state is going to lose each year and over the next five years, whether the state government has proposed to cover the scope of the closed down schemes by funding them utilizing additional transfer of funds because of the increase in the tax share from 32 % to 42 %, the amount of money to be lost by the cuts in the different social sector schemes, the modality on proposal to the Centre to meet the gap created in the social sector funding by the cuts and, last but not the least, the reasons the state government has not protested to the cuts despite knowing that the 14th Finance Commission did not ask for a cut in social sector spending for implementation of the recommendation of increasing states’ share of taxes.

BJD spokesperson Pratap Keshari Deb refuted the former PCC chief’s charge saying the state government had protested whenever an injustice had been done to the state and its people.

“As for the cuts in social sector spending, the government is currently in the process of assessing the impact the cuts will have on welfare schemes. We will go to the people when the assessment is over,” he said.