Rao had on Saturday said that he would boycott the meeting to protest “the Centre’s attitude”, and objected to Prime Minister Narendra Modi “dismissing welfare schemes as freebies”, marking the latest in a series of his attacks on the BJP-led Central government. In a letter to PM Modi, Rao said that the Aayog was started “with the lofty objective of bringing the states on the same page with the Centre.”
“But recent unpleasant happenings have given rise to an inescapable realisation that the federal structure of India is being systematically eroded by some deliberate actions by the government of India,’’ he wrote, adding that “the blatant discrimination against some states even in the legitimate functions assigned to them in the Constitution leaves much to be desired”.
Countering his claims, the NITI Aayog in a statement said that a delegation led by the organisation’s Vice Chairman had met Rao in Hyderabad in January 2021 to discuss development issues pertaining to the state. “More recently, despite requests made by NITI Aayog for a meeting, the Chief Minister did not respond,” the think-tank said.
The governing council meeting, scheduled for Sunday, is chaired by the Prime Minister and has chief ministers and lietenant governors as its members. Rao had also missed the governing council meeting in 2019 along with then Punjab CM Amrinder Singh and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee.
According to a detailed agenda of the meeting seen by The Sunday Express, interventions by CMs and L-Gs are expected to last for a little over three hours, where issues such as crop diversification, implementation of the National Education Policy and urban governance, among others are supposed to be discussed. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is also set to give a presentation on India’s presidency of the G20 summit which the country will hold from December 1, 2022 to November 30, 2023. The meeting is scheduled to start at 9.45 AM and end at 4 PM on Sunday.
Stating that the Aayog’s recommendations were being ignored, Rao cited recommendations for a Rs 5,000-crore irrigation grant for Telangana’s Mission Kakatiya and another for a Rs 19,205-crore assistance for Mission Bhagiratha to provide drinking water to every household in the state.
Responding to his criticism, the Aayog said that over the last four years, the Centre has allocated Rs 3,982 crore under the Jal Jeevan Mission for Telangana. “However, the state (Telangana) chose to draw only Rs 200 crore.”
“The Government of India has been consistently supporting states in financial matters including for flagship schemes/ programmes of national importance. Overall allocation under Centrally Sponsored Schemes have increased from Rs. 2,03,740 crores in 2015-16 to Rs. 4,42,781 crores in 2022-23, i.e. more than double during this period, in addition to the substantial hike in awards under the Fourteenth Finance Commission from 32% to 42%,” the Aayog said.
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Rao said he felt happy when the Aayog had constituted a group of chief ministers to give recommendations on developmental issues. “However, it was short-lived as the institution failed to live up to the expectations,’’ he said.
“The basis of these recommendations was the unanimous belief that not all the schemes contemplated, designed and finalised by the Centre, serve their intended purpose considering the vast diversity and different needs of states. With much pain and anguish, let me point out that such an important recommendation has been aside and on the contrary, I find the Centre to be micromanaging the schemes, giving a complete go-by to the state-specific needs which are best left to individual states,” he said.
Accusing the Centre of failing to fulfil its promises, Rao wondered what the Niti Aayog had achieved in the past eight years. “It appears that the NDA government is not bothered about the Niti Aayog and there is no point in attending the meeting.”