By P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Narendra Modi Government never loses an opportunity to tout the delights of ‘co-operative federalism.’ But the gap between what it preaches and practises remains yawning.
Kerala continues to be the victim of this policy of discrimination against States which oppose the ruling party at the Centre.
While seven States received central assistance for flood-relief work from the centre’s disaster relief fund, Kerala drew a blank. The high-power committee headed by Union Home Minister Amit Shah deemed it fit to decide that Kerala needed no assistance on this count! The State had sought an interim assistance of Rs 2100 crore.
The States which were the recipients of central aid amounting to Rs 5908 crore are Assam, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Tripura.
But, then, this is not the first time that Kerala has been denied flood relief assistance. On an earlier occasion as well, the State was ignored while four other states were given central aid of Rs 3200 crore. These four States were Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Bihar.
It may be mentioned that, in 2018 too, when Kerala reeled under unprecedented rain and flood fury, Centre doled out only a token assistance of Rs 600 crore. That was disappointing enough. But what was worse was the Centre’s refusal to allow Kerala to receive an assistance of Rs 700 crore from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on the ground that India was capable of managing the damage on its own.
Understandably, the political parties in Kerala have accused the Centre of apathy and bias because of the State’s strong opposition to the Modi Government’s policies including the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Kerala has been in the forefront of the agitation against the Modi Government currently on across the country. In fact, Kerala is the first State to get a resolution passed by the State Assembly seeking repeal of the CAA and move for a National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Needless to say, all this has, obviously, been not to the liking of the BJP-led Central Government. Hence the bias against the State in the matter of central assistance. This is the crux of the argument advanced by parties in the State, with the exception of the BJP.
The Modi Government must, however, realise that such blatant discrimination militates against the concept of federalism which enjoins cordial relations between the Centre and the States. After all, India is a Union of States. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that the Centre and States maintain a harmonious relationship.
It is also necessary to remember that the Central Disaster Relief Fund is a national asset to be distributed among the needy States. It is not a fund which is sanctioned at the whims and fancies of the Government in power. Under the federal concept, it is the legitimate right of the States to receive central assistance in times of adversity and pressing need. To deny such aid to states on the basis of political and ideological differences is to inflict immense injury to the laudable concept of cooperative federalism.
It is earnestly hoped that the Central Government would rethink its discriminatory policy against Kerala and rush to its assistance at a time when the State is facing an extremely difficult financial position. (IPA Service)