Finance Minister T Harish Rao on Sunday slammed Niti Aayog for making misleading statements and trying to cover up its failure to ensure the implementation of its recommendations by the Central government. He accused the apex public policy think-tank of donning political colours and distorting facts to cover up the BJP government’s mistakes in the disbursement of funds against its recommendations.

“Niti Aayog remained a mute spectator despite the injustice to States, especially Telangana, by the Centre. It is shameful on its part to make such misleading statements that are filled with distorted facts and irrelevant information,” he said, addressing a press conference here.

Stating that Niti Aayog’s statement contained half-truths and false claims despite being an autonomous body, the Minister pointed out that the Centre was yet to respond to the recommendations of Niti Aayog and repeated requests from the State government to release Rs 19,000 crore for Mission Bhagiratha and Rs 5,000 crore for Mission Kakatiya.

In a point-by-point rebuttal, Harish Rao said Niti Aayog failed to answer questions raised by Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao. Niti Aayog implied that the Telangana government had utilised only Rs 200 crore of Rs 3,922 crore sanctioned under the Jal Jeevan Mission when in reality it was the Central government that did not release the remaining funds on the pretext that Telangana had already achieved cent per cent tap connections and the scheme was applicable only for States which were giving fresh tap connections.

Demanding that the Finance Commission explain why its recommendations were being implemented only for non-performing States while ignoring performing States like Telangana, the Minister asked: “If the Centre does not implement the recommendations of the apex think-tank, what is it’s use? What were the measures taken by

Niti Aayog to safeguard the interests of the States?”

He wondered why Niti Aayog mentioned about the sanction of Rs 1,195 crore under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) which had nothing to do with Mission Kakatiya. In a scathing attack against the Centre for denying rightful funds to Telangana on various pretexts, including increased tax devolution, he said: “Though the Centre claims devolution of 41 per cent of taxes to States, it is only devolving 29.6 per cent by increasing its cess component from 10 to 20 per cent which is not shared with the States.”

The Centre collected over Rs 21 lakh crore in the last eight years under the cess component and thus, denied about Rs 8.6 lakh crore to States, including Rs 42,000 crore to Telangana. Citing increased tax devolution, the Centre denied Backward Region Development Funds (BRGF) and model schools, among others. Further, it had also reduced the Centre’s share in various schemes, including Pradhan Mantri Kisan Yojana and PM Sadak Yojana, from 80-90 per cent to 60 per cent, imposing an additional burden on the States.

He reminded that the allocations under the Centrally Sponsered Schemes (CSS) were reduced from Rs 6,003 crore in 2015-16 to Rs 5,223 crore in 2021-22. Similarly, the 15th Finance Commission’s recommendations for a special grant of Rs 723 crore and the nutrition sector-specific grant of Rs 171 crore to Telangana in 2020-21 were denied. The Centre had shelved the Finance Commission’s recommendations to release Rs 3,024 crore to Telangana towards sector-specific grants in 2021-26.

Harish said the Indira Gandhi, AB Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh regimes strictly implemented the recommendations of the Finance Commission. He also said the Niti Aayog had utterly failed to achieve its targets fixed in December 2018.

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