PM non-committal on northeastern states’ status: Tripura CM

Agartala, June 18 (IANS) Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi remained “non-committal” on continuation of the special category status for eight northeastern states, demanding the arrangement be continued for their development.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi remained silent on the eight chief ministers’ demand to continue with the special category status,” Sarkar told reporters here on Wednesday night after returning from New Delhi, where he met Modi on this issue.

Expressing his apprehensions that the special category status of the northeastern states was going to end due to various factors, he demanded that the special status was a must to bring these underdeveloped states on par with other mainland states.

These states are Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, and the Himalayan state of Sikkim.

“The prime minister also remained evasive on a joint meeting with all eight chief ministers. However, he agreed to attend the next meeting of North Eastern Council (NEC) in Delhi,” the Tripura chief minister said.

“If the central government does not provide funds for the development of the northeastern states, we cannot approach Washington or Pakistan for money,” remarked Sarkar, who has been the chief minister of Tripura for more than 17 years.

All the eight chief ministers belonging to the Congress, Left and regional parties sent a signed resolution on April 23, urging Modi to continue with the ‘special category status’ to their mountainous states.

“After several requests, the Prime Minister agreed to meet me on June 16, though I was insisting on a meeting with all eight chief ministers to discuss the crucial issue,” Sarkar said, adding that he had “communicated everything” to the other chief ministers.

Sarkar, a member of Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) politburo, said that after the Planning Commission’s abolition, the funding pattern of Normal Central Assistance (NCA), Special Central Assistance (SCA) and Special Plan Assistance (SPA) had become unclear.

“Earlier, the special category states used to get reasonable amount under the NCA, SCA and SPA. The funding pattern for the special category states for centrally sponsored schemes (CSS) was in the ratio of 90:10, where 90 percent of the total expenditure was borne by the central government and 10 percent contributed by the state concerned,” he pointed out.

“Any change in the burden sharing will only add to the liabilities of the states, which they will not be able to meet, leading to dumping of pro-people developmental schemes in the northeast region,” Sarkar added.

He expressed the apprehension that after the formation of NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog and considering the 14th Finance Commission recommendations and the 2015-16 union budget, their special category status was going to end.

There are 11 states in India clubbed under the special status category, comprising eight northeastern states, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand.

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