Gogoi demands Center to continue special category status for Assam

Tarun Gogoi

New Delhi: Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Wednesday met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and submitted a memorandum of demands, including continuation of the special category status for the northeastern state and release of central funds.

“Special category status is needed for all backward states in the country,” Gogoi said at a press conference later in connection with the memorandum.

“We used to get funds that were needed for development works,” he said.

But now the Center has stopped the special category status for all eight northeastern states — Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura — besides Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, he said.

“Under the status, there were some schemes that were 100 percent centrally funded while most were under the 90:10 funding pattern,” Gogoi said.

“Now that has been changed to 50:50 in some cases and 70:30 in others. There is no 100 percent centrally funded scheme,” he said, adding that he had brought this to the notice of both Modi and union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley more than once.

The Assam chief minister said 12 programs, components or schemes which received budgetary support from the Center till 2014-15, have now been completely delinked from central support.

“The estimated impact of this delinking would be Rs.4,051.64 crore (Rs.40.5 billion) which would increase the state’s burden to Rs.2,500 crore,” he said.

He said he also brought to the prime minister’s notice the decrease in fund flow from the Non-lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR) under the Ministry of Development for North Eastern Region (DoNER) and from the North Eastern Council (NEC).

“In 2013-14, the release to Assam under the NLCPR was Rs 237.14 crore, while the NEC released Rs 118.11 crore. However, in 2014-15, Assam received only Rs 151.15 crore under the NLCPR and only Rs 71.84 crore from the NEC,” Gogoi stated.

In the current financial year, till October, he said the amount has been reduced to a mere Rs 63.52 crore.

Gogoi also said Assam suffered a huge loss of revenue income due to a payment of royalty on crude oil on post-subsidized/discounted prices.

“This resulted in a cumulative loss of revenue income of Rs 10,000 crore for Assam since 2008-09,” he said.

Though Gujarat too faced the same problem, the western state moved court and from February 1, 2014, has been getting a royalty from the ONGC on pre-discounted price, the Assam chief minister said.

As for floods and erosion, he said that the state government earlier submitted a memorandum estimating an amount of Rs 1,915.15 crore for the repair of damaged houses and infrastructure in the 2014 floods.

An additional amount of Rs 619 crore would be required on account of rescue and relief operations, he said.

“The union government has not released the amount, except for Rs 430.97 crore as central share of SDRF (State Disaster Relief Fund),” Gogoi said, adding that when more funds were required these were released from the National Disaster Relief Fund.

With China building several dams over the river Brahmaputra in the Tibet region, he said he urged the prime minister to take up the issue with Beijing so that the flow of the river did not get altered.

In his memorandum, he also sought the revival of the North East Industrial and Investment Promotion Policy (NEIIPP).

“Under the NEIIPP, several subsidies were given to industries set up in the region. Now they have suspended that too.”

Gogoi’s demands in the memorandum on infrastructure in the state include completion of the East-West Corridor, the railway line from Silghat to Balipara via Tezpur with a railway bridge over the Brahmaputra, doubling of railway lines, and preparation of a comprehensive inland water development project with the assistance of the World Bank.

The Assam chief minister also extended his support to the demand of the Koch Rajbongshi, Tai-Ahom, Chutia, Moran, Motak and tea, and ex-tea garden communities to be included in the list of Scheduled Tribes.

Gogoi also urged Modi to have the National Skill Development Corporation augment and strengthen its organization in Assam.

With Assam, along with Meghalaya, set to host the 12th South Asian Games next year, he said his government had submitted to the Centre a demand of Rs 141.73 crore for a smooth and successful conduct of the Games.

“However, the state has received only Rs 22 crore leaving a balance of Rs 119.03 crore,” he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Gogoi, along with three incumbent Congress MPs from Assam and some ex-party MPs staged a demonstration in front of the parliament in support of the demands. (IANS)

(Photo: Taazi News)