New Delhi, August 7
Even as the government today claimed that PM Narendra Modi heralded the collective efforts of all states in the spirit of cooperative federalism as the force that helped India tackle the Covid pandemic, the seventh governing council meeting of NITI Aayog was marked by a “boycott” by Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao and the absence of Bihar CM Nitish Kumar.
JD(U) won’t join Union Cabinet again
Patna: Bihar CM Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) on Sunday made it clear that the party would not join the Union Council of Ministers again, but rebuffed speculation on a rift with ally BJP, asserting “all is well”. JD(U) national president Rajiv Ranjan Singh, alias Lalan, who addressed a press conference here, dismissed queries about Nitish Kumar’s absence at the NITI Aayog meeting, with the terse remark: “You should ask the Chief Minister”.
Besides, the CMs of Opposition-ruled states raked up several contentious issues, including the extension of GST compensation for another five years, early release of Central dues and support for improving the irrigation facilities. These states also accused the Centre of not consulting them before rolling out New Education Policy (NEP).
Though the Telangana CM had announced his “boycott”, Nitish was conspicuous by his absence. NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Suman K Bery, while briefing the media, said Nitish “was not well”. But, speculation is rife in political circles that the Bihar CM’s absence “has a lot to do with former Union Minister RCP Singh’s resignation from the JD(U)”. Addressing the first physical meeting of the governing council since the onset of the pandemic, the PM on his part, however, said, “Every state played a crucial role according to its strength and contributed to India’s fight against Covid. This led to India emerging as an example for the developing nations to look up to as a global leader.”
Modi made a strong case for modernising agriculture, animal husbandry and food processing to help the country become self-sufficient and a global leader in the agriculture sector. He asked the states to focus on promoting 3Ts — Trade, Tourism, Technology — to reduce imports and increase exports.
On the GST, the PM said even though the collection had improved, “our potential is much more”. “Increasing the GST collection requires collective action by the Centre and states. It is crucial for strengthening our economic position and becoming a USD 5 trillion economy.”
The governing council discussed four key agenda items — crop diversification; implementation of NEP in schools; implementation of NEP in higher education; and urban governance.
Speaking at the meeting, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, said: “The G20 presidency (from December 1 to November 30, 2023) presents a great opportunity and a great responsibility. For the first time, India will host the G20 meetings over a year, not only in Delhi but in every state and UT.”
Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan spoke about the NEP and highlighted initiatives undertaken to boost learning, capacity-building of teachers and skill enhancement.
Bery said the combined efforts of the Centre and states were needed to realise the vision of a resurgent India in the post-pandemic era. The issue of freebies wasn’t discussed, he added.
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