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Mainstream, VOL 62 No 15, April 13, 2024

Opposition Ruled States Under Stress Over Financial Dues from the Modi led Union Government | JP Gadkari

Friday 12 April 2024, by J P Gadkari


"Let there not be a contest between the Union and the State", said the Supreme Court while hearing the Karnataka Govt’s plea seeking the direction of the Court to the Centre to release financial aid for meeting its need for managing the severe drought in the State.

The Supreme Court bench consisting of justices B R Gavai and Sandip Mehta was hearing the appeal of the Karnataka Government in the matter of inordinate delay in releasing drought relief funds to the State.

While the memory of an unprecedented action on the part of the entire Cabinet of State Govt of Karnataka demonstrating in the National capital in February against the Central Govt on the issue of devolution of funds is still fresh, controversy on another issue has cropped up on the question of releasing of drought relief funds which the Karnataka Govt had asked for in October last year.

After repeatedly asking the Centre to immediately release funds and getting no favourable response, the Karnataka Govt had filed an appeal in the Apex Court in the month of March. The State had asked the Centre to release a sum of Rs 18,171 crores to partially meet the loss of about Rs 35,000 crores due to almost the entire State being in the grip of severe drought.

The controversy has now taken an ugly turn with the Union Finance Minister, Mrs Nirmala Sitaraman who was in Bangalore last week publicly accusing the Karnataka Govt of having submitted the request "very late". Subsequently, she changed her statement by saying that the delay was due to various "procedures" to be followed while assessing the exact amount losses and fund requirement needed for it. She cited that various "high-level and low-level" committees had to go through the State Govt’s demand.

While responding to the statements made by Mrs Sitaraman, the Chief Minister of Karnataka Siddaramaiah said "Prime Minister Narendra Modi tells a lie, Home Minister Amit Shah tells another lie and now Mrs Sitaraman adds another lie to it" He then raised the question as whom to believe.

The Supreme Court while dealing with the petition also remarked that "We have been seeing various State Governments are required to approach the Court" on this issue and expressed its opinion to resolve it themselves. The Court posted the matter for hearing after two weeks accepting the plea of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

It is to be noted here that similar appeals have been filed by the States of Tamilnadu and Kerala where the Centre has been sitting over the demands that have been made to release the funds several months ago. It is also necessary to note here that all the three States are ruled by the opposition parties. Hence their charge of being given "stepmotherly" treatment appears to be true. It also amounts to an act against the federal system of government.

Opposition parties, therefore appear to be totally justified in making this one of the important issues against the Modi government in the ongoing election campaign.

April 9, 2024

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