New Delhi: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and the Planning Commission were on Tuesday at loggerheads at the annual plan meeting with Modi accusing the Centre of adopting 'big brother' attitude disregarding the federal structure. The two-hour long meeting saw the Commission seeking to puncture Modi's claims that it was all milk and honey in Gujarat and telling the Chief Minister that the state was lagging behind in several development indices.
At the meeting with Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia where a plan of Rs 59,000 crore was approved for Gujarat, Modi raised a litany of complaints against the Centre. In this context, he cited gas pricing, raising the height of the Sardar Sarovar Project and putting up gates to the dam. Modi, who was recently elevated as BJP's Campaign Committee chief, departed from the normal practice by making a seven-minute audio-visual presentation to claim how states were not being given their due despite the country having a federal structure.
In his presentation, he accused the Centre of adopting a 'big brother' attitude towards the states. He said the Centre makes schemes which create financial liability for the states and in this regard referred to the Right to Education and changes in programmes like National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). Modi wanted the states to have greater flexibility in the implementation of centrally-sponsored schemes and desired that the Planning Commission, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, acts as a mediator between the state and the Centre.
Modi said Gujarat's central sales tax compensation claims of Rs 4,500 crore were pending with the Centre. The Planning Commission, however, highlighted to Modi the problems in Gujarat on the social welfare front with the state ranking 12th in the education field. At the meeting attended by Minister of State for Planning Rajiv Shukla, the Commission pressed the need for improvement in social welfare sector and increasing the enrolment of girls in schools.
The Plan panel also expressed concern over the high drop-out rate of SC/ST students, absence of adequate health workers at district and primary health centres, and the issue of malnutrition. "(There was)... a lot of discussion on the social sector. It has been argued that Gujarat needs to bring its social sector performance upto its economic size. It needs to pay some special attention to this area," Ahluwalia told reporters.
The Plan panel officials also wanted Gujarat to step up infrastructure development, cut down on power transmission losses and encourage small and medium enterprises to create more jobs. They highlighted that though progress on the agriculture front was satisfactory, there was need to step up the irrigation potential of the state.
When his turn came, Modi retorted saying the state spends 42 per cent of its budget on social sector with a motto of "Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas." "The funds would help upliftment of all sections of the society including scheduled caste, down trodden, exploited and tribal. We want to have all the sections of the society to get the benefits of growth," he said.
The Chief Minister cited Gujarat's growth story to counter Ahluwalia. "Gujarat has played a crucial and big role in development of India. In terms of contribution and in terms of GDP, we are among the highest contributers," he added. "Gujarat is one of our better performing states. In terms of economic growth we have noted that the performance has been good in Gujarat," he added.
Modi got the approval for Rs 59,000 crore Plan expenditure, 15.7 per cent more than the outlay for 2012-13. The Plan size was finalised at a meeting between Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Modi. "We have agreed to a Plan size including the public sector enterprises (expenditure) of Rs 59,000 crore," Ahluwalia told reporters after the meeting.
According to him, the central plan assistance to the state includes Rs 6,000 crore under the centrally sponsored schemes and about Rs 4,000 crore as direct aid to the state. Ahluwalia said, "Gujarat is one of our better performing states. In terms of economic growth we have noted that the performance has been good in Gujarat." "The state has raised a number of issues on which the central government should act like slow decision making, faster action for better development," he added.
During the meeting when state asked for greater flexibility to incur expenditure under the CSS, Ahluwalia informed Modi that, "The Planning Commission is taking a note to the Cabinet which I hope will be considered possibly on Wednesday to introduce a lot of flexibility in each CSS (centrally sponsored scheme)."
Expressing satisfaction over the Plan outlay, later Modi said, "Originally we had thought about a plan size of Rs 58,500
crore for 2013-14. But the Planning Commission thinks that Gujarat is more capable, it should grow more, so it has approved Rs 59,000 crore."