HYDERABAD: Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs Nirmala Sitharaman has made an appeal to the people and the media to become a party to the discussion on freebies, borrowings and States’ expenditure, as she felt that State governments couldn’t go on burdening generations of citizens with debt.
Addressing the media on the conclusion of her three-day Parliament Prawas tour of Zaheerabad constituency on Saturday, she dismissed the allegations made by Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao and his Ministers that the Centre was giving nothing to the State government.
On Finance Minister T Harish Rao’s remarks that considering the State’s contribution (in taxes) which were being used to develop other states, the chief minister’s photos needed to be placed in government offices in those States, Sitharaman responded saying that he (Harish Rao) could twist the issues sarcastically and cynically, but that wouldn’t make sense.
“In that case, 55 per cent of Telangana State revenue comes from Hyderabad. So will they put up Hyderabad MP’s photo at a project implemented in Adilabad,” she asked. On Harish Rao’s challenge to Sitharaman to prove that the State government isn’t implementing Ayushman Bharat scheme in the State, while offering his resignation if he was proved wrong, she denied the allegation and maintained, “I said that Telangana had not accepted the scheme till May 2021.” She asked him to check her statement in the media once again.
‘My business to question District Collector’
On IT and Industries Minister KT Rama Rao expressing shock over Kamareddy District Collector Jitesh Patel being questioned by her during her visit to a fair price shop in Kamareddy district on Friday, Sitharaman maintained that though she was not there to judge the conduct of the Collector, as a people’s representative, she had every business to question him. She reiterated that the language she used against him was neither unparliamentary, nor discourteous.
“If it is a scheme introduced solely the State government where the Centre’s contribution is nil, they are free to say whatever they want. But when the Centre is contributing, our name should be there, and they should not be claiming it as their own project,” she asserted.
On the State government’s claim that it was not receiving its rightful share of tax devolution in proportion to its contribution, she said that the taxation principle never worked that way. “We don’t fix the tax devolution. It is fixed by the Finance Commission. I have no say in reducing it for some States. Every month we make the payments and in 2021-22, four times we have made advance payments to States.” She also clarified that 2/3rd of taxes collected as CESS for health, education and roads, was being spent in all the States, and that Telangana government’s claim of part of CESS not being given to it was unfounded.
Talking about the State government’s out-of-budget borrowings putting the public sector undertakings having good revenues in a financially deteriorating position, she said that ultimately that entire debt would fall on the people.
“Any political party making election promises and coming to power, would have to show the provisions in budget allocations for those schemes. Assess whether there are enough revenues to implement those schemes. Why should the discoms and Genco pay for the election promises they made? The people of Telangana are burdened with a debt of Rs 1.25 lakh per head due to out-of-budget borrowings,” she pointed out.
Citing a reply to an RTI query, she said that the State government borrowed from lending agencies for Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Scheme at an interest rate which ranged from 8.25 per cent to 10.9 per cent.
She also observed that the cost of running the water pumps in Kaleshwaram project was not sustainable.
Also mentioning the Bloomberg’s report in which the probability of India going into recession was found to be zero per cent, she said that compared to other economies, Indian economy was the fastest growing one in the world.