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NDC Meeting
PM pitches for phased hike in fuel prices
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 27
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today made a pitch for a phased hike in the prices of energy products such as petroleum, coal, natural gas and electricity in these “difficult” economic times to achieve the target of 8 per cent growth in the 12th Five Year Plan.

“Immediate adjustment of prices to close the gap is not feasible. I realise this, but some phased price adjustment is necessary,” Singh said while addressing the 57th meeting of the National Development Council (NDC) convened to finalise the 12th Plan.

That the government seems to be moving in this direction is clear as the Petroleum Ministry has floated a proposal to hike diesel prices by Rs 10 over a 10-month period and kerosene by Rs 10 over a two-year period.

While the proposal may have been mooted, how much of it may actually go through remains to be seen with several state elections due next year.

“Energy is underpriced in our country. Our coal, petroleum products and natural gas are priced well below the international prices. This also means that electricity is effectively underpriced, especially for some consumers,” the Prime Minister added.

The NDC meeting, the apex policy-making body that comprises Cabinet ministers and state Chief Ministers, was convened to approve the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17) which seeks to peg the average annual growth rate at 8 per cent, as against 8.2 per cent proposed earlier.

This is the second revision in the growth rate, which had earlier been pegged at 9 per cent.

Drawing attention to the global slowdown, Singh cautioned that “business as usual” policies will not be sufficient to achieve the scaled down growth target of 8 per cent, which he described as “ambitious” in the current scenario.

Failure to contain subsidies would mean either cutting plan expenditure in other sectors or exceeding the fiscal deficit target, he asserted.

Referring to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime, Singh said there was a need to increase the tax ratio as a percent of the GDP through combination of tax reforms and better tax administration.

“Early implementation of the GST is critical in this context. I hope we will have the co-operation of the states to introduce the GST as quickly as possible,” he said.

In his closing remarks, Singh said several Chief Ministers have drawn attention to the problem of fuel availability affecting power plants.

The Prime Minister said it was an urgent problem which needed to be tackled. He has asked the Planning Commission to make a quick review of the situation and submit a report within three weeks.

Talking tough

  • ‘Business as usual’ policies insufficient to achieve the scaled down growth target of 8%
  • Growth target of 8 % in the current scenario ‘ambitious’
  • Failure to contain subsidies means cutting plan expenditure in other sectors or exceeding fiscal deficit target
  • Need to increase tax ratio through tax reforms and better tax administration
  • Early implementation of Goods and Services Tax critical



Speech interrupted, angry Jaya storms out of meeting
Anita Katyal/TNS

New Delhi, December 27
Even as the Centre came in for sharp criticism from Chief Ministers of Opposition-ruled states at the National Development Council (NDC) meeting today,Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa created a stir when she staged an angry walkout as she was not allowed to complete her speech.

Launching a full-scale attack against the Centre, Jayalalithaa accused the Centre of stifling the voices of Opposition-ruled states and treating them like "school children, adding that its "arrogance and intolerance" had grown to "exceedingly extreme limits". She left for Chennai after cutting short her stay in Delhi.

Jayalalithaa was unable to complete her speech as a bell rang after ten minutes to indicate that her allotted time was over. The NDC meet had stipulated that each Chief Minister would be given ten minutes ech for their respective presentations. A tracking system had been installed to alert speakers that their time limit was over.

Jayalalithaa, who was on the tenth page of her 28-page speech, took strong exception to the time limit imposed on Chief Ministers." I have attended many conferences, such a procedure has never been followed in the past," she remarked, adding that ten minutes were not enough for a Chief Minister to complete the speech.

"The plan document is so lengthy and encompasses so many subjects that CMs can't express their views in 10 minutes. Just to allot 10 minutes and humiliate, this is a move to stifle the voice of opposition states," she said.

The Centre rejected her charges of discrimination, stating that each CM was allotted ten minutes and had been informed about the procedure in writing well in advance. Minister of State for

Parliamentary Affairs Rajeev Shukla said this was necessary since there is a long list of speakers, adding that "the same arrangement was made for chief ministers of both Congress and non-Congress-ruled states. The buzzer was pressed even for Congress CMs. So where is the discrimination."

While Jayalalithaa stormed out, other CMs of Opposition-ruled states used the NDC platform to slam the Centre on various counts. Former UPA ally, Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee charged that the "disastrous" financial situation in her state was a result of "unholy nexus" between the Centre and the erstwhile Left Front government. Pointing to West Bengal's debt burden of Rs Two lakh crore, she warned that her patience was running out.

Triumphant after his third consecutive win, Guajarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi tore into the UPA government for the "sense of pessimism" reflected in the 12th Plan document, stating that lowering the growth rate will add to the mood of despondency in the country.

BJP's Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan was equally scathing in his speech as he deplored the "conscious and constant" tendency of the Centre to encroach on the powers of a state government. While raising objections to the setting up of NCTC and introduction of GST, he said the UPA government had enacted several laws which violated the country's federal structure.



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