Rajasthan reiterates demand for special status at GST Council meeting

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot pointed out that the cost of delivery of even basic services was high as compared to other states due to the state’s unique geography

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot (File photo)
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot (File photo)

Prakash Bhandari

Rajasthan has reiterated its demand for a special status with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot pointing out that the cost of delivery of even basic serices was high as compared to other states.

Gehlot said that be it water, electricity, education, health or road infrastructure sector, the investment required in Rajasthan is high compared to other states.

Gehlot, who also holds the finance portfolio, conveyed his views to the Union Finance Minister at a meeting of the GST council held in Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan through state technical education minister Subhash Garg.

The minister, during his presentation on behalf of the state, said that the state was emerging as a big investment hub but because of its geographical location, the service delivery cost was very high.

Garg pleaded that the import duty on silver, gold and platinum should be reduced from 10 percent to four percent. He said Rajasthan was an exporter of jewellery but because of the high rate of import duty, Indian manufacturers found it tough to compete with UAE and Singapore.

He said low import duty on minerals had hit the mining industry and it needed to be lowered to make it competitive.

Garg demanded that the duty on vitrified tiles should be increased from 10 percent to 25 percent to enable the Indian tile industry to survive.

The state also demanded that the limit of Rs 1052 on the Ayushman Bharat Scheme should be removed and the premium amount payment to the insurance company that provides insurance cover to the citizens should be increased to Rs 1662.

Garg in his presentation said that the state had submitted five big development projects in the backward tribal areas of the state. He urged the Union government to bear 100 percent cost of the five megaprojects that would improve the lives of the tribals.

Chief Minister Gehlot has been strongly demanding national project status for the Eastern Rajasthan Canal Project (ERCP). Announced during the previous BJP regime in the state, Gehlot’s predecessor Vasundhara Raje had also asked for the same.

While very little work could be started on the project owing to its high costs, ERCP is crucial to ensure water for drinking and irrigation in 13 districts of eastern Rajasthan.

The Eastern Rajasthan Canal Project aims to harvest surplus water available during the rainy season in rivers in southern Rajasthan such as Chambal and its tributaries including Kunnu, Parvati, Kalisindh and use this water in south-eastern districts of the state where there is a scarcity of water for drinking and irrigation.

Garg asserted that Rajasthan, the largest state of India with a geographical area of 342.52 lakh hectares which amounts to 10.4 percent of the entire country, holds only 1.16 percent of India’s surface water and 1.72 percent of groundwater.

Among the state’s water bodies, only the Chambal river basin has surplus water but this water cannot be tapped directly because the area around the Kota barrage is designated as a crocodile sanctuary.

Through the help of diversion structures, intra-basin water transfers, linking channels and construction of pumping main feeder channels, the ERCP aims to create a network of water channels that will cover 23.67 percent area of Rajasthan along with 41.13 percent population of the state.

In the budget of 2017-18, the then Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government in Rajasthan had said that the ERCP will help fulfill the long-term irrigation and drinking water needs of 13 districts - Jhalawar, Baran, Kota, Bundi, Sawai Madhopur, Ajmer, Tonk, Jaipur, Karauli, Alwar, Bharatpur, Dausa and Dholpur.

Subsequently, the project was approved by the Central Water Commission in 2017.

In her 2017-18 budget speech, Raje had also said that the state government had sent a proposal to the Central government to declare ERCP as a project having national importance. Since then, this has remained a consistent demand of subsequent governments in Rajasthan across party lines.

According to the Rajasthan Water Resources Department, ERCP is estimated to create an additional command area of 2 lakh hectares and an area of 4.31 lakh hectare will get irrigation facilities because of this project.

The ERCP also intends to improve the groundwater table in rural areas of the state, positively influencing the socio-economic conditions of people from these areas.

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