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Centre Rejects Special Status to AP, Denies Amendments to Act

The proposed amendment to the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014, that was introduced through Private Members' Bill in the Rajya Sabha on Friday, did not make any headway due to lack of the necessary quorum in the Upper House, and the government's claim that there was no need for any amendment to the Act, while asking for the bill to be withdrawn at the same time.

The business in the Rajya Sabha on the issue on Friday revolved around the technical issue of quorum, apart from the claims from the government that good progress was being made and the counter claims of the representatives of the Telugu states who argued that the government had not only gone back on its pre-poll promises but also that not enough was being done.

The House was adjourned abruptly because of lack of quorum. Against the requirement of minimum 25 members, 23 members were present in the House when discussion was underway on Private Members' Bill seeking to amend the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014. As per the rules, at least 10 per cent members of the total strength of a House are required to be present for quorum. The sanctioned strength of the Rajya Sabha is 245.

As soon as Minister of State for Home Affairs Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary replied to the bill moved by Congress member K V P Ramachandra Rao and sought its withdrawal, TDP's C M Ramesh raised the issue of quorum that led to heated arguments among members. Mohammad Ali Khan (Cong) said, “It is the responsibility of the Treasury Bench to ensure quorum. We are serious about the issue." K Keshava Rao (TRS) said that quorum is required during the time of voting and not during the discussion of a bill.

V P Singh Badnore, who was in the Chair, said, “Any member can raise the quorum at any point of time." He rang the quorum bell to call members to be present in the House. Congress member Jesudasu Seelam said since the government has raised the quorum issue, arrival of members should be awaited. At this, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, “We have not raised. The issue was raised by a TDP member. We have given a detailed reply to the bill and asked the member to withdraw it."

As heated exchange over the quorum issue continued, E M Sudarsana Natchiappan (Cong) said a “Private Member bill had thrice remained inconclusive earlier due to lack of quorum in the House. It was susequently taken up next time. Let's take up this bill also next time and adjourn the House", he said. Meanwhile some members entered the House, but the quorum was not complete and the Chair had to adjourn the House abruptly for the day at around 4.15 pm. Before the adjournment, the Minister said the government has made good progress in last two years in implementing the provisions of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act.

“The Centre has kept short and long term targets and a meeting has been scheduled on May 4 by Niti Aayog to review the progress made so far", the MoS for Home Affairs said. “Good progress is being achieved. Whatever stated in the Act and promises made by the government, we are implementing them. Whatever our party and our Prime Minister has said, we are fulfilling. I request the member to withdraw the bill."

“The Centre is competent to implement the provisions. A committee has been set up to review the progress. 10 institutions have been made functional in the last two years. You say nothing has happened", the Minister said while sharing details of the funds released and progress of these institutions made so far.

When Congress leader Jesudasu Seelam asked about special status to Andhra Pradesh, he said the Finance Commission has made provision for tax incentives and sufficient central assistance to both the states. Dissatisfied with the Minister's reply, some members rose on their feet to ask more details from the government. It was then Ramesh said: If you are serious about the subject, your members should be present. There is no quorum.

The Minister said the Centre has given Rs 700 crore to Andhra Pradesh for backward districts in last two years, while tax devolution for the state was Rs 34,000 in the same period. The Centre has sanctioned Rs 2,500 crore in last two years for setting up a new capital Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh, he said.

On the Polavaram dam project, Chowdhury said the Centre has declared it as a national project and enough funds have been sanctioned so far. About 7,100 crore will be made available in the coming years to ensure the project is completed in time by 2018. He said the work is in progress for setting up of airports at Vishakapatnam, Tirupati and Vijayawada and additional police force has also been sanctioned.

Participating in the debate, Mohammad Ali Khan (Cong) blamed the government for not implementing the provisions of the Act fully. He asked why a separate High Court has not been set in Andhra Pradesh. K Keshava Rao of Telangana Rashtra Samithi welcomed the Bill saying it was an important one. Talking about the Polavaram dam project, he urged the Centre to have a relook at the design even as he made it clear that he was not against the project per se. People are more important than a barrage, he said.

Outlining the problems being faced by his state, he asked the DoPT to speed up the distribution of officers of All India Services and urged the Law Ministry to fast-track the creation of a Telangana High Court. He also reminded the Centre about the promises of a tribal university, coal linkage and sought the government's help is setting up a state bank. He said the people of Telangana has been demanding for a rail coach factory for 30 years and it should be given now.

Congress leader J Seelam, who supported the proposed amendments, accused the Modi government of not living up to the promises made to the people of Andhra Pradesh. He said that Modi, in his pre-election address in Andhra Pradesh, had accepted that the state has been given the wrong end of bargain and that he will ensure that all help is provided if he comes to power. Taking a dig at the Prime Minister, he said all he gave when he came to lay the foundation stone of Andhra Pradesh's capital city Amaravati in Guntur district, was just a handful of soil from Parliament House and a jar of Yamuna water.

Seelam referred to proposed projects like AIIMS, IIM in Andhra Pradesh and said the money allotted was meagre. He said that while setting up of IIM was a project worth Rs 900 crore, Centre has allotted just Rs 30 crore. Similarly, while the cost of AIIMS project was Rs 1,600 crore, no allotment of money has been made in the budget. He also got into a small verbal duel with his party colleague Jairam Ramesh when he intervened during his speech.


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