Odisha News Insight

Niranjan demands White Paper on Central Assistance

Senior Congress leader Niranjan PatnaikBhubaneswar, May 25: In a letter to Chief Minister Naveen Pattnaik Senior Congress leader Niranjan Patnaik has demanded issue of a White Paper by the Odisha Government to set to rest concerns over the silence of the state Government and the BJD over closure of important central schemes and drastic cut in social sector funding.
The former PCC President has expressed anguish over unilateral closure of many centrally- sponsored schemes started by the UPA Government e.g. the Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF), the Integrated Action Plan (IAP), the Modernization of Police forces Scheme (MPF) etc. and an unprecedented cut of nearly 50 % in social sector schemes such as Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS), Midday Meal (MDM), Empowerment of Adolescent Girls (SABLA), Food Subsidy, National Health Mission, National Food Security Mission (NFSM), Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS). These cuts will have extremely adverse impact on the most marginalized sections of our society and development of the state, argues Niranjan.

He has described as unjustified and perverse the argument by the Central Government that the drastic reduction in central support has been carried out after implementing the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission increasing states’ share of taxes from 32 % to 42 %. Finance Commission is a constitutional arrangement for establishing a mandatory formula for devolution of taxes to states and the centre does no favours by implementing the recommendations. Besides, the Finance Commission had not asked for a cut on social sector funding for increasing devolution. In fact, the budget of the central government for 2015-2016 shows that the total transfer of Central budget to States has reduced from 6.1 per cent to 5.8 per cent of the GDP and all these have been done using the rhetoric of ‘cooperative federalism’. States will not get more money, but less money on the whole. Unfortunately the state government has deliberately kept the entire affair opaque to conceal their inability to protest.
Niranjan has said that “while UPA was in power in the centre your government and party used the bogey of central neglect and took to the street from time-to-time; a strategy that may have paid you rich political dividend. When price of petrol, diesel and cooking gas increased even by 20 paisa your party demonstrated in front of the Raj Bhawan. Now when prices are being increased despite crude oil

price remaining low in the international market you accept without demur. You played the act of victimhood to the hilt. But, what is puzzling is that demands such as ‘special category status for Odisha’ are missing from BJD’s dictionary since the last one year. Is it that the cooperation extends to other invisible areas such as CBI investigation into the chit fund scam and therefore you have political compulsion to maintain silence despite knowing full well that the decisions by the central Government affects core interests of the people of the state?”
“My specific request, therefore, is that the State Government should issue a white paper explaining to the people
(a) The schemes that have been closed down by the NDA Government
(b) How much money will the state lose as a result each year and over the next five years?
(c) Does the state government propose to cover the scope of the closed down schemes by funding them utilizing additional transfer of funds because of the increase in the tax share from 32 % to 42 %? This is an important concern because of your proclivity to launch populist schemes for votes.
(d) How much money will be lost by the cuts in the different social sector schemes?
(e) How does the state government propose to make sure that the gap created in the social sector funding by the cuts will be met?
(f) the reasons why your government has not protested to the cuts despite knowing that the 14th Finance Commission did not ask for a cut in social sector spending for implementation of the recommendation of increasing states’ share of taxes from 32 % to 42 %
(g) What has been the timing of flow of funds since the NDA Government came to office and why the state Government has not been protesting?”

There is a serious concern that your silence is because of a quid pro quo for which the CBI investigation into the chit fund cases have mysteriously gone cold in the last few months. In this “unholy nexus”.