Reduce Dependence On Centre Before Autonomy, Self-rule: Baig8 March 2011
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: PDP leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig today said the autonomy proposal of National Conference or self rule of PDP would hold no weight if the State's dependence on the Centre continued to increase and cautioned that a day would come when the State would have nothing to spend on plan expenditure. In his exactly 100 minutes speech in the Legislative Assembly while initiating debate on budget, Mr Baig warned that the PDP would be forced to join protesters in Kashmir and Jammu if the Government behaved the way it did by recruitment of 200 National Conference workers in the Police Department in one district of Srinagar. He cautioned the Government that 5000 genuine youth ignored in the recruitment could take to stone pelting. Pointing out that the Centre had given Rs 6000 crore to the State for development, the former Finance Minister in the previous PDP-Congress coalition Government, who had presented four consecutive budgets, said the State had to return Rs 3210 crore to the Centre on account of loans and interest payments. Noting that he had suggested some measures in his last year's budget speech to reduce dependence on the Centre on account of finances, Mr Baig said if repayment of loans and interests on loans continued to rise like present, a day would come when the State had to pay more to the Centre than what it received in the form of plan. ‘‘NC's autonomy or PDP's self-rule would hold no weight till we take corrective measures and some bold initiatives to make the State self dependent in terms of finances. Autonomy or self rule would matter only if we have resource management and we didn't have to ask for Central funds now and then except for the share of taxes on which we have our right', the PDP leader said. Taking serious exception to the ‘‘appointment of 200 National Conference workers as police constables' in one district of Srinagar by ‘‘Uncle Khoda' (a reference to Director General of Police Kuldeep Khoda), the former Deputy Chief Minister warned that 5000 genuine Post Graduate students ignored to recruit the NC workers could take to stones whether Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani gives a call for stone pelting or not. These police personnel would neither be loyal to the State nor to the Indian Union but to the National Conference only, he said and wanted to know that is it according to the Constitution of India to spent tax payers' money on the salary of National Conference workers. ‘‘If the Government didn't listen to the poor and there is no discipline, we will not vote for the budget. We will join the protesting people of Jammu and unemployed youth of Kashmir', he warned. Taking a dig at Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, though without naming him, Mr Baig invoked a couple of Bahadur Shah Zaffar which goes as ‘‘Zaffar Aadmi Na Usko Janiyega, Jise Aish Mein Yad Khuda Na Rahe'. He said those flying in helicopters with free petrol and traveling in Land Rover shouldn't throw mud on others. A ruler should do a justice, he added. Questioning the Government's intentions to do away with Overdraft (OD) arrangement with Jammu and Kashmir Bank and switch over to Ways and Means Advance with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Mr Baig recalled that PDP patron and former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had described the J&K Bank as the State's major institution with 51 per cent stake when former Union Finance Minister Jaswant Singh, whom he described as a scholar and statesman, had taken up the issue of J&K Bank charging 25 per cent interest on the ODs. ‘‘What was the compulsion before the Government to shun J&K Bank even though it was charging 9.6 per cent interest rate? Now the Bank would invest Rs 2300 crore in the Indian market and the outside people will benefit', he asserted. Mr Baig said his party supports the Government on withdrawal of taxes on some items pertaining to farmers etc but asked Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather not to compare tobacco and edible oil while increasing taxes. Asserting that Sher-e-Kashmir Employment and Welfare Programme for Youth (SKEWPY) was only on papers, he wanted to know from the Finance Minister as to how many youth have benefited from the scheme out of a total of 6 lakh unemployed youth, the former Deputy Chief Minister advised Mr Rather not to defame the name of Sheikh Abdullah by launching 'kagzi schemes'. He said he had conveyed to the Chief Minister that this scheme would yield no results. Pointing out that Mr Rather had announced constitution of District Employment and Career Counselling Centres earlier, he noted that in the budget the Finance Minister has come down to just construction of buildings for these centres. Questioning the Government claim on full expenditure of plan, the former Finance Minister said the Finance Minister could ask the MLAs of even ruling coalition partners-NC and Congress-as to how many works have been done in their constituencies. Further, he referred to the statement of the Finance Minister in the budget on generation of 6000 mw power during next 10 years and said there was no mention as to how it would be done. While the Government has kept Rs 1037 crore for Jammu Master Plan in the budget, there was no mention of Kashmir for such a plan despite repeated requests by the MLAs. Noting discrepancies in the figures on power revenue in the economic survey for past couple of years, he said the House wouldn't vote for the budget on topsy turvy figures. He recalled that the PDP led coalition Government had installed 2.21 lakh electronic meters in two years while the present Government has installed only 45,000. 'How the Government would generate revenue? The Finance Minister hold accountability for it', he said. Mr Baig expressed surprise over the fact that the budget had mentioned Mughal Road, Udhampur-Qazigund railway line, Sewa-II hydel project and Sawlakote projects as major initiatives of the Government. He said the concept of Mughal road was conceived by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in 1975 and taken ahead by PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed while Udhampur-Qazigund rail line was the initiative of former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. He added that Sewa-II has already been commissioned while Sawlakote project was started by Dr Farooq Abdullah and approved by the Cabinet in the PDP tenure. He reminded Mr Rather of the statement by former NC leader Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Shah when he was Leader of Opposition in the previous Government that the Government should stop running ‘kagzi gode'. He said Mr Rather's ‘major initiatives' were also nothing but ‘kagzi gode’. On the losses suffered by the State on account of Indus Water Treaty and denial by the Punjab Government to give J&K its share from Ranjit Sagar dam, the PDP leader said all political parties could jointly approach the Centre and Punjab Governments for claiming share of the State. Voicing concern over increasing fiscal deficit, which currently stood at 10.4 per cent, the former Finance Minister cautioned that if the deficit is not reduced, the 14th Finance Commission could reduce outlay of the State. ‘‘If you can't take the hot seat, get out of the kitchen but till you are there, you have to work. I see nothing here you are serious contemplating', he said addressing Mr Rather. Observing that receipts of the Government have been going down and the disbursement was up, he said this would further increase the fiscal deficit which the PDP Government had brought down to 8.4 per cent. Quoting the figures of Gross State Domestic Product and Per Capita Income in the State, he said Rajouri, Poonch, Kupwara and Budgam districts lagged far behind while Jammu district was at number one. He said the revenue expenditure has gone up by 41.09 per cent during 2009-10 while increase in capital expenditure was only 28.7 per cent. He said during the PDP Government, capital expenditure had gone up from 19 per cent during 2005-06 to 35 per cent in 2006-07. He added that the GSDP and Per Capita Income figures have clearly established that there was no discrimination with Jammu but with the districts of Kashmir except Srinagar. The Government should do justice with equalization of services, he asserted. The PDP leader claimed that J&K falls at bottom of North Indian States in the GSDP growth. He added that it we can't catch up with 8 per cent growth, the fiscal deficit would go up. Referring to a couplet quoted by Mr Rather in the budget yesterday on 'Samundar and Maujen', Mr Baig said Mr Rather should be sent to Somalia to take on the pirates as he appeared to have great love for the sea. Turning tables on coalition Government PDP’s Abdul RehmanVeeri accused the Finance Minster of neglecting the agriculture and its allied sectors altogether. He said though 70 percent of the State’s population is linked to agriculture which sustains its economy, the Government has paid lip sympathy towards it. Veeri said six lakh families comprising of 30,00,000 people are linked to horticulture in the state but no budgetary provision is in sight for this important sector. There is no market intervention scheme in the budget, he added. The PDP leader said likewise there is no provision for the animal health care in the budget and the Finance Minister has failed to take the innovate measures which can change the life of the Department. There is no scheme to provide compensation for dry fruit either. Alleging that budget has lot of ambiguity, he said there is no mention about how many people have availed the SKEWPY, what are its benefits and how much money has been spent on it. Veeri was also critical of the Government for not taking any step to provide ration cards to one lakh fifty eight thousand families in the State who are without ration cards. Congress MLA from Banihal Vikar Rasool was also wary of the Government for neglecting the far-flung and remote areas like Doda, Ramban and Kishtwar districts. He, while highlighting the plight of the people living in these far- flung areas, said his constituency sans development. All development schemes are taken to capital cities of Jammu and Srinagar while people in remote and far-flung areas are left in lurch. Mr Rasool said one of the allopathic dispensaries in his constituency is without doctor. Lambasting the Ministers he said expansion in health has been made in their own constituencies while the far-flung areas were ignored. He begged before the Finance Minster who was in the House and appealed him to pay attention for the development of his Constituency saying that Doda, Ramban and Kishtwar need development. Mubarak Gul of NC while hailing the budget described it farmer friendly. He appreciated enhancement in the monthly remuneration of handicrafts workers adding that it will go a long way in promoting the handicrafts sector in the State. On the charges of discrimination regarding allotment of funds Gul said a Finance Committee has been set up and on its recommendations action would be taken. Giving all credit to the coalition Government he said it is the first Government which constituted the Kissan Board. PDP MLA Ch Zulfikar, while opposing the budget expressed grave concern over the ration scarcity and alleged that no provisions have been made to over come the problem. The Government is getting 52 percent less ration from Centre and Chief Minister’s promise that after taking up the issue with Union Government the ration will be provided to people on cheaper rates. No efforts have been made to tackle the price rise and the position has become so grave that people can’t afford two-time meal, he said. If the State Government was really interested to provide benefit to the farmers it was supposed to remove VAT on fertilizers. Hailing the budget the NC’s Radhye Sham Sharma said that coalition Government is keen towards the development of the State. Lot has already been done for the development of the State, he added. Stressing on early completion of Mugal road, he also stressed on widening of Sunderbani to Nowshera road and Rail Link to Poonch from Jammu. Expressing concern over water crisis in Sunderbani he said since 1996 no money was given for irrigation purposes to the area. BJP’s Baldev Raj Sharma demanded that the passenger tax being recovered from poney wallas and others be paid by Shrine Board itself. He expressed concern over the shortage of water in Katra township saying out of 20 lakh gallon water needed to feed the people only three lakh gallon is supplied and special attention be paid to solve this problem. The BJP MLA also highlighted the issue of illegal sale of land costing Rs 300 crore to some non- state subject for only 35 lakh in Katra township. He also mentioned the name of person when Speaker sought details from him to whom the land was sold. The MLA said the person is a non state subject and he has manipulated a fake PRC. Feroz Ahmed Khan, Krishan Chander, Ashok Kumar and Tsetan Namgyal also hailed the budget.