Discontinuing Special Category status will be a big blow to NE States: Ibobi

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NEW DELHI, April 27 (Manipur Information Centre): State Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh expressed that the termination of the Special Category States would be a big blow to the interest of these States which had been suffering from backwardness and utter underdevelopment since long.

The Chief Minister was making a presentation during the Second Meeting of the Sub-Group of Chief Ministers on rationalisation of Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) held at the NITI Aayog here today. The meeting was chaired by the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

Focusing on the issue, he said that after analysing the 14th Finance Commission accepted recommendations and the Union Budget 2015-2016, the status of NE States and other similar States as Special Category States was going to be discontinued.

The Chief Minister continued, `This dangerous and disastrous move cannot be accepted at this stage. The financial facilities used to be availed by all these States must be continued as per the past practice.`

He pointed out that even with only 10 percent share, NE States faced difficulty in accessing Central assistance under CSS.

`For schemes in category B in the budget, the 2014-15 allocation was less than about Rs 24,000 cr. However the release to States was just only about little over 60 percent of the Budget Expenditure figure. However, for other States it was above 85 percent`, he added.

Thus he remarked that fiscally weak NE States would get penalised for their inability to provide enhanced matching contribution.

Referring to the statement showing the releases under the Centrally Sponsored Schemes to different States during the 12th Five Year Plan already circulated to States, Manipur Chief Minister said that in absolute terms, for the year 2014-15 the total releases for the 11 States (NE States and Himalyan States) was Rs.24,536 crore, whereas for only one general category State like Uttar Pradesh, it was Rs.22,749 crore.

Therefore, any change in funding pattern to the disadvantage of these 11 states would further reduce the central transfers to these 11 States, which is not a desirable situation, he continued.

He also mentioned that NE States suffered from various disabilities like less capacity, difficulty in bidding projects, higher costs of material and transportation, low resource base and above all limited working season.

As a result, in the past three years as per very rough calculation, release was less than 85% of the budgeted figure even in block grant and in 2014-15, the figure had come down to about 70%, Ibobi added.

Post 14th Finance Commission grant, Manipur Chief Minister said that the block grants like Normal Central Assistance, Special Central Assistance, Special Plan Assistance etc. had been discontinued.

Since the NE states also lacked in their ability to attract private investments, he stated that CSSs came as a huge support in development of these States.

All NE States would be burdened with funding of Schemes under Category `D`™ for which there is no budget provision in Union Budget 2015-16, the Manipur Chief Minister continued.

He further suggested that the erstwhile flagship programmes like SSA, MDM, RMSA, RUSA, NRHM, ICDS, IWMP, AIBP, under Category `B`™ might be fully supported by the Government of India and transferred to Category `A`™ , at least in case of Special Category States.

He said, `It would be extremely unfair to revise the sharing pattern of Schemes under Category `B`™ to 50:50 and to stop NCA, SCA, SPA, etc. suddenly without developing an alternative support. It is very well known that the NE States suffer from the infrastructure bottlenecks and are dependent on SCA and SPA for the same`.

Ibobi also suggested, `For incomplete works under different schemes, like AIBP, Tourist Circuit, ACA, SPA, etc. the support must be continued for completion of assets created under the schemes, and to avoid wastage of already invested funds.`

He stated that for fiscally stretched states of the NE, a large expenditure was required on maintenance of the police force, for example, 20 percent of non-plan expenditure in case of Manipur. Hence discontinuation of `Modernisation of Police Force`™ Scheme would be a big blow to the NE states where law and order conditions still needed a lot of improvement.

For NE States having International Boundary, he suggested, `The ASIDES scheme under Category `C`™ may be continued under Category `A`™, this will be in line with the Government of India`™s `Act East Policy`™`.

He opined that with Government of India promoting more National Integration, Tourism Support Scheme under Category `C`™ might be continued under Category `A`™ so that more people from mainland could visit NE States after better tourist infrastructure was developed there.

He also stated that implementation of BRGF scheme under Category `C`™, which was now under implementation in some of the underdeveloped districts of NE States with 100% assistance would be completely jeopardised and it might be continued under Category `A`™.

He pointed out that many of the CSS might not be used by all the states; hence there should be a core of CSS to be implemented by all the States and then a basket of options to choose from.

He demanded that the funding pattern should be either 100 percent or at the most 90:10 percent. And flexi funds under CSS should be enhanced from 10 percent to atleast 25 percent, especially in case of Special Category States.

The Chief Minister was accompanied by Planning Commissioner of Manipur Vineet Joshi.

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