A delegation of Karnataka ministers, led by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, staged a protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Wednesday, demanding the release of over Rs 1 lakh crore owed to the state by the central government.
The ministers, who wore black bands and held placards, accused the Centre of economic discrimination and injustice towards Karnataka. They said the state had not received its rightful share of taxes, grants, and compensation for various schemes and projects.
According to Karnataka minister Satish Jarkiholi, the state had held several meetings with the Union Home Minister, Union Finance Minister, and other officials, but had not received any positive response. He said the amount due to Karnataka was accumulated over the last 10 years, when both Congress and BJP governments were in power in the state.
“We are not here to fight against any party, but to fight for the rights of our people. Over Rs 1 lakh crore is due to Karnataka. This is affecting our development and welfare programmes. The Centre should listen to our demands and release the funds immediately,” Jarkiholi said.
Another minister, Ramalinga Reddy, said that the state was facing a severe drought situation, with 220 out of 236 taluks declared as drought-hit. He said the state had sought Rs 17,000 crore as relief from the Centre, but had not received a single rupee so far.
“Karnataka contributes around Rs 4,50,000 crore as taxes to the central government, but gets back only Rs 50,000 crore. This is unfair and unacceptable. We want the Centre to follow the principles of cooperative federalism and treat all states equally,” Reddy said.
The protest, named ‘Chalo Delhi’, was supported by the Congress party and its allies. Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said that there was a general perception across the country that the non-BJP states were being deprived of their legitimate dues by the Centre.
He said that Karnataka was the latest example of this discrimination, and urged the Centre to address the grievances of the state at the earliest.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, however, dismissed the allegations as a “politically vitiated narrative” propagated by some vested interest groups. She said that the Centre had been providing adequate funds and support to all states, including Karnataka, as per the recommendations of the Finance Commission and other statutory bodies.
She also said that the Centre had taken several measures to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns on the states’ finances, such as increasing their borrowing limits, releasing GST compensation, and providing additional grants.
The Karnataka ministers said that they would continue their protest until the Centre fulfilled their demands. They also said that they would meet President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to submit a memorandum on the issue.