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AP CM makes strong pitch for special status at Niti Aayog meet

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: June 15, 2019  | 20:23 IST

New Delhi, Jun 15 (PTI) Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Jaganmohan Reddy Saturday made a strong pitch to the Centre to grant special category status to the debt-ridden state and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be "gracious" in fulfilling the promise made in Parliament and also in the BJP's 2014 poll manifesto. He was speaking at the fifth meeting of the Governing Council of Niti Aayog chaired by the prime minister. Expressing concern over the state's rising debt-burden and a drastic fall in job creation, Reddy said: "The SCS (special category status) has become the essential lifeline for my state. Such being the reality it is disheartening when we hear several rumours and excuses for not granting special category status." On the excuse that the state cannot be given the special status owing to the 14th Finance Commission, the chief minister said Abhijit Sen's (a member of 14th Finance Commission) letter explicitly states that the Commission did not recommend the abolition of the SCS. He further said that the Union Cabinet on March 2, 2014, had also resolved to accord the SCS to Andhra Pradesh and instructed the then Planning Commission to take expeditious action to implement the decision. "However, due to lack of persuasion by the previous state government, the file remained without any action in the Planning Commission until its abolition on January 1, 2015, when NITI Aayog came into existence. Hence, it is crystal clear that there are no impediments whatsoever to conferring SCS on Andhra Pradesh," he alleged. On another excuse or argument that few other states may demand the SCS if given to Andhra Pradesh, Reddy said, "This is also the first time that the state demanding bifurcation took away the capital city that contributed significant revenues, while the residuary state was denied the capital city." "How is it fair that Parliament is justified to have the capacity to bifurcate the state against the majority wishes and yet again does not have the capacity to honour the very word given as precondition to bifurcation," he said. In the meeting, Reddy also alleged that "mis-governance and institutionalised corruption" of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP)-led government in the last five years have left the state with empty coffers, high unemployment, lack of investment in infrastructure and industry, a sharp deterioration of public education and health system. Reddy said, "Given this disheartening scenario, I wish to emphasize that grant of SCS is an essential imperative to compensate the state for the economic and financial deprivation and help launch it on the path of development trajectory." The grant of SCS would mean higher grants-in-aid and special industrial incentives such as Income Tax exemption, other concessions and exemptions pertaining to GST, he said. Stating that erstwhile Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated in "unjust and inequitable manner", the chief minister said the bifurcated Andhra Pradesh inherited nearly 59 per cent of the population, debt, and liabilities of the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, but inherited only 47 per cent of the revenues. He also informed that Andhra Pradesh' debt, which stood at Rs 97,000 crore at the time of bifurcation in 2014, has reached a whopping Rs 2,58,928 crore in these five years by 2018-19. The interest on the debt alone is projected to be over Rs 20,000 crore per annum, in addition to the repayment of principal to the tune of another Rs 20,000 crore, he said. Further, there are huge contingent liabilities in the form of guarantees given for loans availed by the state government entities. On the other hand, employment generating potential has also dropped drastically, he added. The special category status has been one of the primary demands of political parties in Andhra Pradesh since its bifurcation in 2014. The TDP-led by N Chandrababu Naidu, walked out of the National Democratic Alliance last year after the Modi government did not accord the status to the state. In July, the TDP moved a no-confidence motion against the Modi government, which the government won after a 12-hour debate. PTI LUX MR

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