Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, on Saturday, announced that he will not attend the Niti Aayog meeting on Sunday. He said that the Centre’s think tank and its meetings serve “no constructive purpose” and that participating chief ministers are given “hardly a few minutes” to express their views.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will chair the seventh governing council meeting of the Niti Aayog on Sunday. The PM’s office said that the meeting will pave the way for a new era of collaboration between the Centre and the states.
In a strongly-worded letter to PM Modi, Rao, often referred to by his initials KCR, said, “I do not find it useful to attend the 7th Governing Council meeting of Niti Aayog scheduled to be held on August 7, 2022 and I am staying away from it as a mark of strong protest against the present trend of Central government to discriminate against the states and not treating them as equal partners in our collective effort to make India a strong and developed country.”
— YSR (@ysathishreddy) August 6, 2022
This will be the first in-person meeting of the council after July 2019 and its members include all the chief ministers. The PM is the chairperson of the government’s apex policy think tank.
In his lengthy letter, the Telangana CM said that Niti Aayog was started as a new institution with the objective of bringing the states on the same page with the Centre for the equitable development of the country in “the true spirit of cooperative federalism”.
“But recent unpleasant happenings have given rise to an inescapable realisation that the federal structure of India is being systematically eroded by some deliberate actions by the Government of India.”
“Needless to say, these developments are very much discouraging to trailblasing states like Telangana. The blatant discrimination against some states even in the legitimate functions assigned to them in the Constitution leaves much to be desired,” he said in the letter.
KCR said that when the Planning Commission was there, it used to have a detailed interactive discussion with the states on the annual plan, but now there is “neither a plan, nor any involvement of states”.
“The rigmarole of Niti Aayog meetings leaves little scope for a meaningful dialogue, as participating Chief Ministers are given hardly a few minutes to speak and express their views, thereby not giving any scope to discuss anything in detail,” he added.
The chief minister further said that the Centre’s think tank had constituted a group of chief ministers which recommended that in respect of the central sector schemes, states should be given flexibility to design or modify the schemes based on their needs and conditions to ensure maximum benefit to the people.
KCR also alleged that such an important recommendation had been kept aside and, on the contrary, the Centre was micro-managing the schemes, giving a complete go-by to state-specific needs.
He said that Niti Aayog was started with an objective of cooperative federalism but after seven years of its functioning, it is now clear that this explicit objective was observed more in breach.
“The Centre’s actions show that the initiative has gone astray as states are not included as equal partners in the national development agenda. States have not been co-opted in the preparation of the agenda for Niti Aayog meetings,” he said.
The Telangana CM further said that because of “no planning and no spirit of cooperative federalism”, the country is passing through the most difficult phase with unprecedented problems of falling rupee value, high inflation, skyrocketing prices and increasing unemployment coupled with low economic growth.
“These issues impact people’s lives and are causing a lot of concern for the nation. But these are not discussed in Niti Aayog meetings. I find the Union Government a silent spectator to this emerging serious scenario, often resorting to jugglery of words playing on people’s emotions,” he said in his four-page letter.
The chief minister said that India as a nation can develop only when the states develop, stressing that “strong and economically vibrant” states alone can make India a strong country.
He also said that the “irresponsible utterances” of some leaders in high positions on the use of bulldozers, encounter killings, and references with religious undertones are disrupting the “communal harmony and the social fabric of the nation”, besides inviting international criticism.
“Yet the Union Government does not take any action to control the situation. Cooperative Federalism, the tenet enshrined in the Indian Constitution, is deliberately disregarded, which is evident from the increasing penchant for bringing legislation unilaterally in critical areas of agriculture, electricity etc,” he stressed.
He underscored that the one-sided decision to bring the new farm laws has led to overall distress in the farm sector, pushing the “fanning community into a state of despair with an insecure future”.
The action of the Central government in changing the All-India Services (AIS) rules to the disadvantage of states and its inability as an arbiter and facilitator in resolving interstate water disputes are some glaring instances of the “Centre working against the spirit of cooperative federalism”, KCR said.
“The propensity of the Union Government to levy a cess as an indirect tax is depriving states of their legitimate share in tax revenues. Such unilateral and irresponsible policies of the Government of India, without taking into consideration the states’ interests, have nudged the country away from the development trajectory,” the letter read.
WHAT DID NITI AAYOG SAY IN RESPONSE
Responding to KCR’s letter to PM Modi, Niti Aayog, in a statement, said that the institution has already taken a number of measures to work closely with the states.
It also stated that KCR did not respond to repeated requests for a meeting from the Niti Aayog delegation.
Niti Aayog also highlighted the Centre’s financial assistance to Telangana and claimed that KCR’s allegations were false.
“It is unfortunate that the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Telangana has chosen not to participate in the Governing Council meeting of NITI Aayog to be held on August 7. The Governing Council is a forum where the highest political leadership in the country at Centre and State levels deliberates on key development-related issues and agrees on appropriate outcome-oriented solutions for national development,” it added.
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