Even as Telangana has achieved significant development through its own efforts, the Union government has been creating “hurdles after hurdles” for the state, said Telangana Finance Minister T Harish Rao in his budget presentation on Monday, 6 February.
Harish Rao, who presented the ₹2.9 lakh crore budget in the state Legislative Assembly, took aim at the Centre for its policies discriminating against Telangana.
In the current year, based on “our economic performance and borrowing limits”, an amount of ₹53,970 crore had been included in the Budget as borrowings, said the finance minister.
“But the central government unilaterally imposed a cut of ₹15,033 crore and reduced our borrowing limits to ₹38,937 crore,” he noted.
“This decision of the Centre is totally unjustified and uncalled for. These kinds of cuts are against the spirit of federalism and have eroded the rights of the states,” said Harish Rao.
In order to complete irrigation projects within the shortest time, the Telangana government has resorted to off-budget borrowings that are well within the limits of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act, Harish Rao contended.
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Finance Commission ignored
The BJP government at the Centre has also broken the tradition of implementing in toto the recommendations of the Finance Commission, Harish Rao contended.
The 15h Finance Commission recommended a special grant of ₹723 crore to Telangana and an amount of ₹171 crore towards nutrition to ensure that the tax devolution should not be less than the amount of devolution received by the state in 2019-20.
“By not accepting these recommendations, the central government denied Telangana its due share in the Finance Commission grants,” he said.
For the period 2021-26, the 15th Finance Commission recommended grants amounting to ₹5,374 crore to Telangana. By denying these grants, grave injustice has been done to Telangana.
“In the history of the country, no government has ignored the recommendations of the Finance Commission in such a blatant manner,” said Harish Rao.
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No tax concessions to Telugu states
Speaking for both Telangana as well as Andhra Pradesh, Harish Rao said that the Union government has ignored the interests of both the Telugu-speaking states.
Section 94(1) of the AP Reorganisation Act mandates the central government to provide tax concessions to the successor states in order to ensure industrialisation and economic growth in the two states.
“By providing only nominal concessions, the central government has ignored the interests of both the states,” said Harish Rao.
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Mission Bhagiratha, Kazipet Rail Factory
The Telangana finance minister said that the NITI Aayog has recommended that a grant of ₹19,205 crore for Mission Bhagiratha and ₹5,000 crore for Mission Kakatiya be released by the Centre to Telangana.
“But the central government has not released even one paise so far,” he said.
Harsh Rao pointed out that the establishment of a Rail Coach Factory at Kazipet, the Bayyaram Steel Plant and Girijan University have been specifically mentioned in the Reorganisation Act.
“These mandates have not been fulfilled even after eight-and-a-half years. In addition, the Information Technology Investment Region (ITIR) sanctioned for Telangana has been shelved,” he noted.
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River water issues
Harish Rao said that in accordance with section 3 of the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, the matter relating to the share of the new state of Telangana of the Krishna river waters has to be referred to the Brijesh Kumar Tribunal by the Centre.
Because of the undue delay on the part of the Centre in this regard, the interests of the people of Telangana are being adversely impacted. More importantly, such delay on the part of the Centre is affecting the Palamuru-Ranga Reddy lift irrigation project and Dindi project on the river Krishna.
“Telangana expresses its strong protest against the delays, running into decades, in the name of tribunals,” said Harish Rao.
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Discrimination in power sector
The finance minister said another glaring instance of discrimination against Telangana is the order issued by the Union Power Ministry in August 2022.
In this order, the Telangana government has been directed to pay pending dues of state DISCOMs amounting to ₹3,441.78 crore as principal and ₹3,315.14 crore as late payment surcharge, totaling to ₹6,756.92 crore to APGenco within 30 days.
“Though Telangana has been pleading with the central government regarding dues amounting to ₹17,828 crore payable by Andhra Pradesh to Telangana power utilities, the request has been ignored without any reason. Left with no option, Telangana government had to approach a court of law,” said Harish Rao.
In 2014-15, the first year of the formation of the state, ministries of the Union government inadvertently released ₹495 crore, the Centre’s share of centrally-sponsored schemes, to Andhra Pradesh instead of Telangana.
“The Centre has been ignoring requests of Telangana for redressing the injustice done, either deliberately or mistakenly. Total indifference in the implementation of many provisions in the Parliament-enacted AP Reorganisation Act is totally undemocratic,” said Harish Rao.
Not ‘revdi culture’
“A few political parties are ridiculing welfare programmes by calling them as ‘revdi’. Welfare programmes are being ridiculed as freebies. Chief Minister K Chadrashekar Rao is of the opinion that any development which does not address the welfare of the people is not sustainable and even not legitimate,” said Harish Rao.
He added that public administration is not a commercial activity which looks at everything from the point of view of loss and gain. Instead of viewing the welfare programmes from the point of view of loss or gain, they should be looked from a humanitarian angle.
“It is very unfortunate that some of the political parties lack this wisdom. Chief minister, in his interaction with the Finance Commission in 2019, had categorically stated that “Hum Sarkar Chala Rahe Hai… Vyapaar Nahi (we are running a government, not a business),” said Harish Rao.
‘No compromise on welfare schemes’
Despite restrictions and discrimination by the Centre, Telangana has not compromised on the development and welfare programmes for the people.
“Though disruptive elements in the country are trying to disturb communal and social harmony. Telangana is maintaining social and communal harmony by following ‘Ganga Jamuna Tehzeeb’,” said Harish Rao.
He further said that there is no let-up in the state’s efforts to maintain self-confidence and people continue to repose their full confidence on our government.
He added that Telangana employees are getting better salaries compared with Central government employees and employees of other state governments.
“Though the Centre has been imposing cuts in the release of funds and imposing various restrictions, and despite huge commitments on account of welfare and development programmes, Telangana has never compromised the interests of employees and teachers,” he added.