Tuesday, July 4, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Autonomy demand will not end: Farooq

BANGALORE, July 3 (PTI) — The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah, today asserted that the issue of demand for autonomy for his state “will not end” even if Parliament rejected it.

“How should it matter if Parliament rejects it. We will continue to talk about it (autonomy). It will not end,” he told reporters.

He said the demand was a “people’s aspiration” and it was Parliament which promised it.

“It is not Farooq Abdullah who has promised. It was the great leader Nehru who piloted the Bill in Parliament (on the subject),” he said, when asked what he would do if Parliament rejected the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly resolution on autonomy.

Dr Abdullah stressed that he wanted a national debate and a consensus on the autonomy issue and added he respected the Constitution of India and was for a solution within the constitutional framework.

Reacting to a question regarding reports that he had raked up the demand for autonomy to put a spoke in the proposed talks between the Centre and the Hurriyat leaders, he said it was a “malicious rumour”.

He made a scathing attack on the Hurriyat charging that it was merely “Pakistan made” and that its leaders were being financed and supplied arms by Pakistan.

“You think the Hurriyat is a great panacea to India. Part of the Hurriyat wants to give Kashmir to Pakistan. Part of them wants independence from India. Go ahead and give them,” he said.

“They (the Centre) must talk to them (Hurriyat)” to make the people of India “realise what the Hurriyat is all about,” Dr Abdullah said.

Asked if the National Conference would continue to be part of NDA as its component, the BJP, was strongly opposed to autonomy, he shot back: “What is wrong in being in the NDA?”

Even Akali Dal leader Parkash Singh Badal speaks for the same thing as also Assam Chief Minister Prafaulla Kumar Mahanta, he said.

To a question, he said he did not think of any timeframe for the Centre to evolve a national consensus on the autonomy issue. “We have passed a resolution and are hopeful that the Centre will examine it and discuss not only with us but also with others and evolve a consensus.”

Dr Abdullah said the Centre had to discuss the issue “with everybody. They have to discuss with the Hurriyat, all parties in states and national and regional parties.”

On the strong opposition by the RSS to the autonomy concept, the Kashmir Chief Minister said: “The RSS does not run the country” alleging the RSS had always been against Muslims of India.

The  RSS, he said, had been one of advocates of the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution which confers special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

On Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray branding his views on autonomy as “traitorous,” Dr Abdullah said: “One day he calls me a patriot. Another day he calls me a traitor. Let him make up his mind on what I am.”

Dr Abdullah said his autonomy 

move would not lead to the Balkanisation of the country as “India is too big a country”.

When pointed out that some leaders in Punjab were also asking for autonomy, he said: “Anybody can ask for it. What was the Sarkaria Commission (on Centre-state relations all about)?”

All states, he said, needed autonomy, whether fiscal or otherwise, and “now is the right time to start a debate”. Dr Abdullah said he had not opened a ‘Pandora’s Box’ by raising the issue of autonomy. Even in Indira Gandhi-Sheikh Abdullah accord, there was a mention that the autonomy issue had to be settled.

He said P.V. Narasimha Rao, during his tenure as Prime Minister, had told Parliament ‘sky is the limit’ as far as the autonomy issue was concerned but ‘nothing emerged’. The United Front too had talked about greater autonomy, he said.

He said people were being misguided as if Kashmir was seceding from India and only Muslims were asking for autonomy. “All parties must realise that India is not any particular religion’s jagir”, he said.

The accession of Kashmir to India was “total, complete and irrevocable”, he said. He asserted that autonomy would bring to the people of his state ‘what they have lost — pride in themselves’.

Meanwhile the Congress would “never accept” the autonomy resolution passed by the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, senior party leader Pranab Mukherjee said today.

“The Congress will never accept this (autonomy resolution),” Mr Mukherjee said, addressing a camp organised by the All India Congress Seva Dal at Doddaballapur, near here.

“There is no doubt that states have to be strengthened and their legitimate demands need to be accepted but there is a ‘Lakshman Rekha’ which nobody should cross. States have to be strengthened, but not at the cost of the Centre,” he said.

Asked what were the apprehensions of the Congress on the resolution, he said: “It is not the question of apprehension, it is a question of practicability. How can a state say that it wants go back by 50 years?”


Kanwaljit for fiscal autonomy
By Sarbjit Singh
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, July 3 — Forewarning his party that nothing will come out of the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC) set up by the Union Government, the Finance Minister and general secretary of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), Capt Kanwaljit Singh, today urged the SAD to gear up for creating an atmosphere in the country for achieving the goal of fiscal autonomy to the states.

The SAD leadership should play a leading role for devising the methodology, by talking with like minded parties and the state governments concerned, for pressing the Union Government to grant fiscal autonomy to the states and restore the State List in the Constitution which had been disturbed in the past decades by taking away several subjects from it to the Union List and the Concurrent List.

He said Punjab had earlier seen the setting up of so many commissions like the Eradi, Shah and Venkatachalliah Commissions and they did no justice to the state. He said in fact commissions could do nothing and there was need for a political initiative. As the SAD was the first to raise the issue of more powers to the states, it should again play the role of leader.

The topic of various sorts of autonomy to the states has become a hot topic in the country these days.

Already the issue raised by Dr Farooq Abdullah, Chief Minister of J and K, has become a subject of prolonged debate. There are Chief Ministers who have talked about more powers to the states without mentioning the word autonomy. The Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has called a meeting of a committee of legal luminaries in Delhi tomorrow to prepare a draft to be presented to the commission. Capt Kanwaljit Singh said he would put across his views at tomorrow’s meeting.

Describing the terms of reference, circulated among the states, of the commission as vague, Capt Kanwaljit Singh said there was no mention of the devolution of powers to the states in the terms of reference. The Punjab Government had been asked to present its viewpoint before the commission by July 31. There was a lot of enthusiasm and hopes when the commission was constituted but the terms of reference had dampened all that enthusiasm.

Although the Punjab Government would put its viewpoint before the commission, Capt Kanwaljit Singh said he would urge the party President, Mr Badal, to present a separate memorandum to the commission on behalf of the SAD. “It was required as the Sikhs were a national minority in the country and there was a need to safeguard their interest”, he added. The experience of Sikhs in the past 50 years reinforced the need to present such a memorandum, he added.

The states had been reduced to the level of “perputal beggars” through the monopolising of all major financial powers by the Union Government. Except sales tax and excise duty, all other financial measures to generate and collect revenue were with the Union Government, whereas the responsibility of the development of the states rested with the state government concerned.

Already there were a consensus among states for fiscal autonomy, but what was required was the drawing up of strategy to make the Union Government grant such autonomy. The states remained trapped in political instability as they were unable to fulfill the commitments made to the electorate.

Replying to a question that state governments behaved irresponsibly in financial matters and reduced states to bankruptcy, Capt Kanwaljit Singh said the condition of the Union Government was financially worse than that of Punjab. Who was responsible for that? he asked.

Coming to the restoration of the State List, Capt Kanwaljit Singh said the Union Government had usurped several subjects like Rural Development, Health Care, Agriculture and Education which used to be earlier State subjects. Such conduct of the Union Government over the past decades was “violative of the federal spirit of the Constitution”. A provision in the Constitution should be made to stop tampering with the State List.

Urging a review of the Union, Concurrent and State Lists, Capt Kanwaljit Singh said subjects like the Taxation of Union Properties and State Lotteries, Excise on Molasses and Khandsari, Banking, Excise Duty on small-scale industries and Corporation Tax, Broadcasting, Television, wholesale marketing of petroleum products and LPG should be put on the State List. Residually, taxation should also be with the state governments.

He said the Union Government should give a grant in bulk for areas like Health, Agriculture, Development and Education and it should not be tied with any scheme. Now, he said, the Union Government released grants for these areas on the basis of various schemes.

He said 29 per cent devolution of financial resources was not enough. It should be enhanced to 50 per cent.

He sought a change in the Gadgil formula used for giving grants to the states, Capt Kanwaljit Singh said the states performing better on the population control front should get 10 per cent additional benefit. At present those having the maximum population got a larger share from the Central grant as 60 per cent of it was distributed on the basis of the population of the states concerned. Only 7 per cent of the total grant was distributed on the basis of performance. Those states performing better on the social front spheres like literacy and population got no additional incentive, he added. Adoption of such a negative policy was beyond comprehension, he said.

He said for plan schemes, the Union Government should give 70 per cent as grant and 30 per cent as loan by changing the existing criteria of 70 per cent as loan on a interest of 12.5 per cent and 30 per cent as grant. He said there was no logic in giving the money collected from people of the state on 12.5 per cent back to the state concerned. He said because of this policy of the Union Government, most of the states were under Central Government debt.

Emphasising the need for redefining the role of the Planning Commission, Capt Kanwaljit Singh said as it had no constitutional status its regulatory, sanctioning and mandatory powers should be withdrawn. It should only play the role of an advisory body and should have nothing to do with the fiscal and planning affairs of the states. Its role should be transferred to the states. The commission should have no authority to dictate terms to the states on the use of funds routed for plan assistance through it.

Without the devolution of powers to the states, problems like poverty could not be addressed and the States could not achieve the desired growth rate. Moreover, he said, often the Union Government misused its monopoly on financial resources to destabilise state governments ruled by Opposition parties by denying them genuine grants. Such a practice should go.


Autonomy: SP for NIC meeting

LUCKNOW, July 3 (PTI) — The Samajwadi Party (SP) today charged Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Home Minister L.K. Advani with giving their consent to the controversial Jammu and Kashmir autonomy resolution by stating that it was within the framework of the Constitution and demanded the convening of the National Integration Council (NIC) over the issue.

"The Prime Minister and Home Minister’s statements that the resolution is well within the purview of the Constitution proves that the proposal in this regard was brought with the consent of these two leaders," SP President Mulayam Singh Yadav told reporters here.

He demanded that the Centre clarify to the nation whether the proposal for greater autonomy was brought under the pressure of some foreign power as "the USA had been predicting Balkanisation of India for long."

"The demand for autonomy has set into motion a very dangerous trend as similar demands have started surfacing in Punjab and other regions that would lead to the disintegration of the country," Mr Yadav said.

He alleged that the RSS efforts to alienate the Muslims and Christians had led to such a demand.

Mr Yadav also flayed Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah for "playing politics" and exploiting the sentiments of the Kashmiri people by raking the autonomy issue.

The need of the hour is to look into the problems of the Kashmiri people and arrange better infrastructural facilities for them to ensure their welfare and uplift, he said adding that he too as the then Defense Minister had advocated autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir to improve their living conditions.

He said the executive committee meeting of the Samajwadi Party scheduled for July 10 and 11 at Agra would deliberate on the autonomy issue besides discussing other organisational matters.

Speaking about the performance of his party in the recently concluded panchayat elections in Uttar Pradesh, the SP President expressed satisfaction saying in 55 districts out of the total 83, his party has emerged as number one party.

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