Meghalaya CM lambasts Centre for withdrawal of special grants

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Shillong, March 10 (IANS) Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma on Thursday lambasted the central government for withdrawal of special block grants to the north-eastern states.

“The contention of the central government is that increasing the devolution of central taxes to 42 percent to the special category states is enough. Therefore, they have withdrawn the special block grants,” Sangma said, replying to a calling attention motion given notice by opposition leader Donkupar Roy.

Sangma, who also holds the finance portfolio, said the withdrawal of the special block grants was like setting the same benchmark for the north-eastern states as that for the developed states.

The central government decided to accept the recommendation of the 14th Finance Commission, which gives states 42 percent of the central taxes from 2015-16 onwards, as against 32 per cent suggested by the previous commission.

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Since higher devolution took into account all needs of the states, the central government reasoned, the sops for special category states like the northeastern states could be withdrawn.

“The formula of having the same benchmark for all the states in the country is wrong because we (north-eastern states) have to get the funds (special block grants) as per our entitlement. We feel this formula adopted by the central government was wrong,” the chief minister said.

Successive governments in the past had understood the complexity of the problems faced by the north-eastern states and the “huge gap in respect of development of this region and with the rest of the country”, Sangma said.

“There will be no other special dispensation left for the states of the North East to be able to have additional resources for various developmental programmes to be able to catch up with the rest of the country after the withdrawal of the special block grants,” he said.

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The veteran Congress leader said Meghalaya and other north-eastern states would continue to demand that the BJP-led NDA government restore the special block grants and special plan assistance enjoyed by the special category states.

Addressing the opposition members, he said the withdrawal of special funds did not have anything to do with the state being ruled by a Congress government.

“We need to dispel (the notion) that the state government is receiving resources at the mercy of the central government. It is our entitlement and it cannot be tampered with.”

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