New Delhi: Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Friday condemned Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s remark that the era of special category status to states is over. “I strongly condemn Jaitley’s statement that the era of special status to states is over,” Gogoi said at a press conference here.
“The northeastern states that are backward will now be pushed to further backwardness,” he added. At a press conference on Thursday in Patna in Bihar, Jaitley, when asked about Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s demand that the special category status be accorded to the state, said that “the era of special status has ended”.
The central government accorded special category status to states that were perceived to be backward. It was accorded to 11 of the states sharing the international border in the country – the eight northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura and Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand.
There has been wide speculation that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has quietly withdrawn the concept of special category status states. Gogoi on Friday said that the withdrawal of the special category status would specially affect the poor people living in the border areas of such states.
“The (central) government promised to bring in ‘achche din’ (good days) but have instead brought in ‘kharab din’ (bad days),” the chief minister of the Congress-ruled state said.
“It shows that the government is pro-rich, pro-corporate and pro-advanced states,” he said. He said that it was the responsibility of the government to restore the special category status to the states.
“The government has also suspended the NEIIPP (Northeast Industrial and Investment Promotion Policy). Then how is the central government’s Look East policy going to work?” Gogoi said that for an insurgency-hit state like Assam, funds were badly needed. “We need to immediately modernise our police and for that funds are required.”
He also said that he has come to know from the ministry of the development of the northeastern region (DoNER) that Rs.9,000 crore meant for the northeastern states has accumulated and has not been released by the central government.
“Due to the cancellation of the special category status, we (the northeastern states) will lose this Rs.9,000 crore,” he said. Referring to last year’s general elections when as many as seven BJP MPs were elected from Assam, Gogoi said that the people of the state had expected something from them but they have completely failed the people.
“These MPs have remained completely mute. I have never seen such weak MPs,” he said. “In our days (as MPs), we used to raise issues in parliament whether it be the gas cracker plant or the problem of floods.” Stating that erosion during floods badly affects the economy of Assam, Gogoi charged the central government with holding back Rs.1,200 crore due to the state for flood relief and rehabilitation work.
“I also met Water Resources and River Development Minister Uma Bharti over this. She admitted that the amount was due to us but said that she had her limitations,” he said. Claiming that the cabinet ministers did not have powers, the Assam chief minister said: “The prime minister talks of cooperative federalism but now all the power is concentrated in his hands.”
Gogoi also said that when he was minister of state for food processing with independent charge, he did many things but the then prime minister did not say anything. “I was given a free hand then,” he said.