New Delhi: The BJP-led new Assam government has inherited Rs 10,000 crore liabilities from the previous Congress regime, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said and sought Central assistance to tide over the crisis.
This was conveyed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi by Sonowal during a 25 minute meeting here today.
Submitting a memorandum and a White Paper on the state's precarious financial condition to the Prime Minister, the Chief Minister pointed out that his government "inherited" from the previous Tarun Gogoi government "about Rs 10,000 crore committed liabilities".
Sonowal said while the state Government has been shifting focus to augment internal resources without depending on the Central government alone, the state's existing "precarious financial position" has necessitated special support from the Centre, more so during the transitional phase.
The Chief Minister said his government has been seriously trying to tap the inner strengths of the state within the limited capacity and resources to generate internal resources, attracting investments and building on the core strengths.
Sonowal said the new government was focusing on institutional reforms for improving public finance management with focus on investments in critical sectors and on large scale IT-enabled systems with 'near-zero human interface' and real time monitoring of revenue collection.
Pointing out that the time-bound action plan would bear fruits only after two-three years, the Chief Minister said in the interim period while there is a need to focus on development, the state needs about Rs 10,000 crore to honour the committed liabilities accumulated over a period of time and other liabilities arising out of pay revision of employees.
Following the Chief Minister's request, the Prime Minister assured all help and support to the new government to bring turnaround in the economy of the state, an official release said.
Sonowal later met Finance Minister Arun Jaitely and sought financial assistance from the Centre to overcome the crisis in Assam.
Earlier, the Chief Minister called on Vice President Hamid Ansari, who is also the Chairman of Rajya Sabha, and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.
Sources described the last two meetings as "courtesy call" by the new Chief Minister, who took charge on May 24.
Before moving to the state, Sonowal was the Union Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs and a Lok Sabha member.
Sonowal told the Prime Minister that his government has decided to surge ahead with restructuring systems and technology for augmentation of resources for transformed Assam (ReSTART Assam) to mop up maximum possible resources through a coordinated and concerted mission mode programme with four-pronged action plan viz., rationalise the revenue collection through reforms and restructuring of policy, legislations and administration; mobilising additional resources in a big way through externally aided projects.
Thinking big and coming up with transformational ideas as the driving force of his Government, Sonowal said this approach would enable the state to develop its resources internally through massive investments and not to be 'dwarfed into the dependency attitude'.
"Thinking big is the natural choice of our Government to usher in 'paribartan' (change) in the lives of the people of Assam who have given us an unprecedented mandate," he said.
The Chief Minister requested the Prime Minister for financial assistance for infrastructure projects such as roads, river, power and IT as well as service sector.
"Our state would like to focus on developing multi-modal transport keeping Brahmaputra and Barak waterways as centre of design; four-lane roads connecting all district headquarters, hinterlands with markets across the borders; hydel (micro and mini), thermal and solar power plants so as to ensure 24X7 quality Power supply.
"High speed broadband connectivity to each village and household, giving adequate thrust on tourism, BPO, industry and other associated employment-led service sectors and in making Assam an organic hub," he said pleading with the Prime Minister for requisite financial support over a period of five years to give a shot in the arm to the internal revenue generation efforts of the state government.
Sonowal requested the Prime Minister to release the Rs 10,000 crore crude oil royalty to the State and to use his good offices to ensure price of crude oil at pre-discounted rate as in the case of Gujarat following an interim order of the Supreme Court.
The Chief Minister pleaded for early release of the Rs 1,226 crore the Ministry of Water Resources owes to the State under the Flood Management Programme.
Referring to the gaps in devolution of Central taxes and
revenue deficit grants, Sonowal said while the 14th Finance Commission in its assessment of state resource stated it had taken into account 'cost disability or fiscal capacity' and made efforts to fill the gaps in resources, in reality its recommendations did not reflect the same thus depriving Assam to a great extent.
"Assam has been deprived to a great extent has been evident from the fact that while the State was awarded a revenue deficit grant of only Rs 3379 crore during 2015-20, smaller States like Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir were rewarded handsomely by 14 th Finance Commission," he said.
In this context, the Chief Minister urged the Prime Minister to allot Rs 5,000 crore annually as a 'special one-time revenue deficit grant so that the state can take up development projects as envisaged in our Vision Document 2016-2025'.
In his meeting with Jaitley, the Finance Minister assured Sonowal of his Ministry?s support and help to bail out the state from the financial quagmire it finds itself in.