NEW DELHI/CHENNAI : The Goods and Services Tax Bill, which has been pending with the government for a long time, was back on the table for negotiations on Tuesday as Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss her concerns.
Jayalalithaa made it clear that Tamil Nadu would like the Centre to incorporate certain changes in the Bill, which it felt erodes the autonomy of the State. The GST Bill, in its current form, also impacts the revenue generation potential of manufacturing states like Tamil Nadu. Jayalalithaa also demanded that petroleum products be removed permanently from the GST list making way for the states to fix their own fuel prices — one of the major tax revenues for most states.
In what could be termed as a political victory for Jayalalithaa, the Prime Minister promised to constitute a Special Task Force in the PMO to look into the issues and clear bottlenecks in addressing them. During the 50-minute discussion, the Chief Minister also raised other crucial issues requiring urgent attention of the Central government. The issues raised included inter-state water issues, specifically the formation of Cauvery Management Board and Cauvery Water Regulation Committee, Tamil Nadu’s concerns over the Mekedatu scheme of Karnataka, restoration of water level to 152 ft in the Mullaiperiyar dam, and inter-linking of rivers.
The CM also sought a provision for quarterly revision of electricity tariff before Tamil Nadu joins the Centre’s UDAY scheme to revive financially stressed power distribution utilities. Under the scheme, states will take over 75 per cent of the distribution utilities.
In her meeting with the Prime Minister, Jayalalithaa also raised several other issues. Protection of traditional fishing rights of Indian fishermen in the Palk Bay and ensuring their safety and security, retrieval of Katchatheevu Island, reconstruction of St Anthony’s Church at Katchatheevu with participation of Tamil Nadu fishermen and a comprehensive special package for diversification of fisheries were included.
The memorandum also requested the rescinding Deep Sea Fishing Guidelines, 2014 and specifically sought inclusion of fishermen in the List of Scheduled Tribes. Early commissioning of Unit II of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP), approval of the revised bidding documents for the Cheyyur Ultra Mega Power Project and addressing Tamil Nadu’s concerns on the UDAY Scheme were the power sector related issues.
The Chief Minister sought the Prime Minister’s assistance for reviving the Electronic Manufacturing Hub at Sriperumbudur by resolving the issues relating to the Nokia plant. Compensation for Tamil Nadu for the adverse treatment by the Fourteenth Finance Commission and early release of pending Thirteenth Finance Commission grants was also sought.
Reiterating Tamil Nadu’s concerns with the Goods and Services Tax proposals and the early release of Central Sales Tax compensation, Jayalalithaa sought further monetary assistance towards restoration and reconstruction works in flood-affected areas in Chennai and some coastal districts of Tamil Nadu, sanction of a special scheme for construction of houses for the urban poor residing in watercourses and water bodies, a special relief package for the MSME Sector and modification of National Disaster Response Fund Guidelines to cover MSME units.
The realignment of the proposed Kochi-Bengaluru GAIL Pipeline was also raised. Higher Central subsidy for promoting solar power in agriculture, sanction of a scheme for replanting and rejuvenation of Coconut Gardens in Tamil Nadu, concerns regarding the Prime Minister’s Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), expanding the National Horticulture Mission and Micro Irrigation Scheme in Tamil Nadu and the establishment of APEDA’s Regional Office in Tamil Nadu were also in the Memorandum.
Increased allocation for Tamil Nadu under the National Livestock Mission, exemption from implementing the National Food Security Act until Tamil Nadu’s concerns regarding the Act were fully addressed, adequate kerosene allotment and it was requested that Direct Benefit Transfer for Public Distribution System Kerosene should not be implemented were the other demands in the memorandum.
The Chief Minister also renewed her appeal to grant dual citizenship for Lankan Tamil refugees living in Tamil Nadu.
Here are the key issues raised by Jaya during her Delhi visit:
- Expedite environmental clearances for raising storage level of Mullaiperiyar dam to 152 ft
- Expedite inter-linking of peninsular rivers
- Fund for Athikadavu-Avinashi scheme
- Protect traditional fishing rights of TN fishermen in Palk Bay
- Retrieve Katchatheevu
- Reconstruct St Anthony’s Church at Katchatheevu after obtaining consent of Tamil Nadu fishermen
- Provide comprehensive special package for diversification of fisheries at a cost of C1,520 crore
- Help diversification of Bottom Trawlers into Deep Sea Tuna Long Liners
- Reimburse Central Excise Duty on high speed diesel (HSD) for mechanised boats
- Rescind Deep Sea Fishing Guidelines, 2014
- PM’s direct intervention sought to revive a global manufacturing facility and restore the Electronic Manufacturing Hub at Sriperumbudur
- Compensate Tamil Nadu for adverse treatment by the fourteenth Finance Commission
- Release pending 13th Finance Commission Grants
- Release further assistance towards restoration and reconstruction of flood damages
- Realignment of proposed Kochi-Bengaluru GAIL pipeline
- Replanting and rejuvenation of coconut gardens in Tamil Nadu
- C10,000 crore for modernization of police force
- Merger of MRTS, Chennai with Chennai Metro Rail Limited
- Exempt NEET permanently for TN
- Grant of Digital Addressable System License to Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable TV Corporation Ltd
- Special Relief Package for MSME Sector
- Dual citizenship for Sri Lankan Tamil refugees
- Tamil as an official language and use of Tamil in Madras High Court