Even as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) claimed that the Narendra Modi-led NDA government has done maximum for Andhra Pradesh, the state has refused to relent. Reports have indicated that chief minister and Telugu Desam Party supremo N Chandrababu Naidu instructed his partymen to keep up pressure on BJP till justice is done to the state. Naidu's unwillingness to relent to BJP's overtures is not without reason. The sentiments in the state are so strong that the perceived injustice is the spotlight of the day. Here's why:
1. The Government of India is supposed to compensate for the revenue deficit as the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh lost capital city Hyderabad to Telangana. This city accounted for the lion's share of the combined state income. The revenue deficit was initially estimated at Rs 16,700 crore. The amount was later revised by the Centre to Rs 7,500 crore and the central government only paid Rs 3,977 crore. While the Andhra government claims that the revenue deficit to be paid by the Centre is Rs 12,500 crore, the Centre claims that the due in this regard is merely Rs 138 crore.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told Parliament that the central officials are discussing the issue with the state officials to arrive at a consensus on how much should be paid to the state in this regard. But, nothing seems to be materialising much to the chagrin of Naidu administration. The state government, meanwhile. has proposed that the Centre may appoint a committee headed by none other than the former IAS officer YV Reddy to settle the dispute. However, a senior functionary in the state government who is in the knowledge of things told Firstpost that the Centre is not forthcoming in this regard.
2. The re-organisation of the state was strongly opposed by the people of Seemandhra, who now constitute the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh. But, as the then UPA government took a political decision to bifurcate the state, special category status was promised to Andhra Pradesh to assuage the feelings of the people of the state. Thus, the bifurcation of the state was predicated upon the assurance by the then prime minister on the floor of the House and the two cannot be separated. In fact, the BJP has been demanding special status for ten years. However, the UPA government conceded to this demand and agreed to grant such a status to Andhra Pradesh for a period of only five years.
Despite the fact that senior BJP leaders like M Venkaiah Naidu and Jaitley were the authors of special status, the Narendra Modi government has refused to grant special status to Andhra on the pretext that the concept of special status seizes to exist with the new devolution formula proposed by the 14th Finance Commission.
However, the NDA government promised special package in lieu of specials status. As per this, it was promised that the Centre would fund to the tune of 90 percent in regard to centrally funded schemes. Thus the additional central grant is arrived at Rs 16,447 crore. The Centre proposed to compensate this through higher central component in Externally Aided Projects (EAPs). But, the execution of such projects would take time. Therefore, the state preferred direct fiscal transfers. As half of the 14th Finance Commission period was already over, the state government desired 50 percent of payment. But, the state government also argued that the Centre has hardly paid Rs 400 crore.
3. The State Reorganisation Act promised railway zone for Visakhapatnam. But, even this decision is inordinately delayed as Odisha seems to be not in favour of it as it would lose the earning centre like Vishakhapatnam. Though the Centre is not making it explicit, it is clear from even a cursory look that the BJP, due to its political stakes in neighbouring Odisha, is dragging its feet on implementing the provisions of an act passed by Parliament. The argument that the Vizag railway zone will be unviable is fallacious as Vijayawada and Guntakal will be added to Vizag zone once it is separated. When Ram Vilas Paswan could ensure railway zone for Hajipur and it is viable, why can't Visakhapatnam, opined leaders from Andhra.
4.The reorganisation act has also promised to set up a steel plant in the backward Rayalaseema district of Kadapa. The district has iron ore mines. The state government has even offered to give these mines as captive mines for the proposed steel plant on free of cost basis as the quality of the ore is low grade. This offer of the state government would make the proposed steel plant viable as raw material itself accounts for 50 percent of cost of production. While the private steel plants of Tatas, Jindals etc. have been allotted captive mines by the government of India, the public sector Visakhapatnam Steel Plant is denied such captive mines forcing the plant to incur losses. Inflicting further insult on the state, now the Centre is not coming forward to set up Kadapa steel plant despite state reorganisation act recommending it.
5. As per the act, the Polavaram project will be taken up as the national project and the Centre would bear the expenses. But, due to inordinate delay in clearing the bills, the state government is incurring an interest burden of Rs 300 crore. To avoid this, the state urges the Centre to create a revolving fund but to of no avail.
6. As per the reorganisation act, the centre has agreed to provide funds for the development of necessary infrastructure in seven backward districts of Rayalaseema and North Coastal Andhra. So far only Rs 1,050 crore were released at the rate of Rs 150 crore per district. What kind of infrastructure can be created with this meagre funding, only centre should know.
7. The reorganisation act also mandates Centre to fund the construction of a green field capital at Amravati for the state of Andhra Pradesh as the existing capital of Hyderabad became the capital of Telangana. However, no specific resources were mentioned in the act. Taking advantage of this, the NDA government has granted only Rs 1,500 crore so far. The fact that the underground drainage works taken up in Vijayawada and Guntur were also included in this head on the pretext that these two cities also fall in the capital region has further infuriated the state.
8. The centre has to set up Dugarajapatnam Port in the Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh. But, the construction encountered certain objections as sensitive ecosystem of Pulicat Lake and the satellite launching station ISRO of Sriharikota, are very near to Dugarajapatnam. But, the centre neither addresses these hurdles nor propose an alternate place.
9. Andhra Pradesh should also get a petroleum refinery and cracking unit as per the bifurcation package. But, the HPCL-GAIL consortium is reportedly seeking a viability gap funding of Rs 1,200 crore per year for a period of 15 years from the state government. The state feels this is unfair as it is the assurance of state bifurcation and any such viability gap funding should come from the centre itself.
10. To implement the state reorganisation act centre has already setup several educational institutions in the state. But, the flow of funds is tardy and the these institutions are yet to take off in any significant manner.
Andhra feels that is has been let down. Neither the provisions of state reorganisation act nor the promises made therein and thereafter have been fully implemented leaving no other option for the state but to protest.
The author is a former MLC from Telangana and currently teaches journalism at the Osmania University
Updated Date: Feb 12, 2018 11:34 AM