Mukesh Agnihotri

Himachal Pradesh Cabinet Ministers refuted the accusations of leader of opposition Prem Kumar Dhumal regarding the financial mess in the State.

Irrigation and Public Health Minister Vidya Stokes, Industries Minister Mukesh Agnihotri and Urban Development Minister Sudhir Sharma, in their joint statement, asserted that in fact the State Government has inherited a bad legacy with respect to the finances of the State. They claimed that the previous BJP government had left the State in precarious financial condition due to the mismanagement of finances of the State.

Congress leaders asserted that the Himachal Pradesh has generally been following the pay structure adopted by the Punjab Government based on the recommendations of the Punjab Pay Commission. However, the previous BJP Government flouted the established norms to increase the pay scales of the Government employees based on the recommendations of the Cabinet Sub Committee of Punjab Government which were adopted by the Punjab Government on the eve of their Vidhan Sabha elections just for electoral gains. This enhanced pay structure was done by the BJP Govt. in Himachal Pradesh on the eve of State Assembly elections causing the annual burden of over Rs. 1000 crore on the State Government, the liability of which is being discharged by the present Government.

The Ministers also accused the Dhumal led previous BJP Government for not representing the state’s case properly before the 13th Finance Commission and as a result the Commission grossly underestimated the committed liability of the State Government.

The 13th Finance Commission has not even given an equal treatment to our State despite the fact that preferential treatment to a Special Category State like Himachal Pradesh was required to be given by the Thirteenth Finance Commission. While the Commission recommended an average increase of 126% in total devolution to other States compared to 12th Finance Commission award, the increase in case of Himachal Pradesh was only 50 percent, which was the lowest in the country. If Himachal got an equal treatment comparable with overall increase of 126 percent for the country as a whole, it would have received an additional fund transfer of Rs 10,725 Crore over a period of five years between 2010 and 2015. The situation has become alarmingly grim during the last two years of the award period of the 13th Finance Commission as the Non-Plan Revenue Deficit Grants during the financial year 2013-14 has declined to Rs. 1,313 Crore from Rs. 1,883 Crore in 2012-13 and will further reduce to Rs. 406 crore in the financial year 2014-15.

The Ministers further added that as on March, 2008 HP Government had a loan liability of Rs. 21,241 crore which has increased to Rs. 28,707 crore on March, 2013. Thus loan liability has increased by Rs. 7,466 crore between the periods from March, 2008 to March, 2013. In fact, loan amounting to Rs.1,838 crore was converted into guarantee in the year 2009-10. Thus the actual loan taken between the period March, 2008 to March, 2013 was Rs. 9,304 crore whereas, the loan liability increased only by Rs. 8,032 crore during the period April, 2003 to March, 2008.

The Ministers said that the quantum of loan to be raised by the State Government depends on the authorization of Government of India under Article 393(3) of the Constitution of India. The State Government has raised the loans strictly in accordance with the authorization affected by the Government of India.

Defending the appointments of Chairmen/Vice Chairmen, they said that these appointments are essential for better delivery of services to the citizens of the State.

The Ministers said that the Government has always been employee friendly and all dues payable to them are being paid from time to time. Addition 10 % DA was released in September, 2014 to both employees and pensioners.

They said that the State has already sent its annual plan for 2014-15 to the Government of India, Planning Commission in which the State has sought Rs. 2,600 crore for SPA/SCA. But due to uncertainty in the fate of Planning Commission at Govt. of India level, the State is awaiting the release of SPA from the Central Government which has put financial stress on State Government.

Cabinet Ministers said that to provide a concrete roadmap for resource mobilization, a Cabinet Sub-Committee for Resource Mobilization and Economy Measures has been constituted and the State shall act on the recommendations of the Cabinet Sub- Committee. Despite financial constraints, the State Government will not allow the development works to suffer.

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Rahul Bhandari is Editor of TheNewsHimachal and has been part of the digital world for last 15 years.