SPECIAL CATEGORY STATEHOOD FOR PONDICHERRY

IN A MEMORANDUM DATED 28.08.2001 TO UNION DEFENCE MINISTER GEORGE FERNANDES, DRAVIDA PERAVAI EXPRESSED ITS OPINION ON STATEHOOD DEMAND FOR PONDICHERRY

In a reply in Parliament the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Hon’ble Vidyasagar Rao had stated that the opinions of Pondicherry Government is sought on conferring statehood. In this connection, our party wants to submit the following views.

1.        It is true that Congress led Governments and DMK led governments passed unanimous resolutions, demanding statehood, and the desire to have more powers manifested in these resolutions. It is irony that in a territory where locol bodies existed for a 1000-year, the local body elections are stalled on one pretext or other. Thus, powers are sought not to percolate downwards, it becomes clear. The socalled expert committee set up locally had given a tailored report about the viability and sustainability of statehood in accordance with the dictates of the then ruling party. We urge the Union Government to constitute a comprehensive committee to study all aspects of statehood because those demanding statehood do not consider many vital factors. The grey areas are

a)       absence of  territorial contiguity

b)       problems of transfer of power yet not sorted out

c)       tax wars and tax evasions

d)       the tuning up of bureaucracy

e)       accountability to Centre and people

f)        untouched corruption

g)       Grass roots democracy butchered etc.

2.        Pondicherry State has no contigous territory. It comprises of 4 enclaves distanced and surrounded by different states, apart from each enclave yet to become a contigous area though from British and French colonial times exchanges between the colonial governments debated the dire need for such contiguity. For instance, Mahe is a tiny enclave surrounded by Kerala with a population of 37000 people electing two Members to our legislature. This tiny area houses 5 teashops and 6 ration shops, yet IMFL shops number 65. Moreover, the sales tax on liquor in Kerala is 85%. However, in Mahe if these IMFL dealers procure from Pondicherry Government owned distilleries it invites ZERO TAX. If they buy from other sources, the sales tax collectable is 35 %. In view of this vast difference in tax structure, we would even charge the Pondicherry Government to be indulging in tax wars with adjoining states to rob those states of their due revenue. It is a Bermuda’s triangle, wherein revenues meant for adjoining states are robbed and revenues meant for our tiny territory too not reaching its coffers. WE URGE THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE TO BE CONSTITUTED TO STUDY THE STATEHOOD STUDY THIS ASPECT. Appearing before the Committee sent by Union Finance Ministry, I as Convenor of 14 party and consumer organizations presented a memorandum stating that a report of the Superintendent of Police Vigilance and Anti_corruption is gathering dust in Chief Secretariat in spite of it listing out the modus operandi of the liquor lobby charges that 58 crores of revenue meant for our state is lost every year. Unless the money that could come to our coffers and that will go to adjoining states is quantified, the financial viability of statehood could not be studied in all its ramfications. Further, the liquor smugglers have antognized the people of Mahe, who had set up a Prohibition Council and started demanding, liberation from Pondicherry, by which they mean the liquor lobby and merger with their linguistic motherland Kerala. This is tip of the iceberg. The question of different enclaves just being used as smugglers paradise needs in depth study by NDA, Union Government and the committee we are demanding to study all aspects of statehood.

 3.        The Judicial system underwent real radical change and integration only with the recent interstate transfer of judicial officers with adjoining Tamil Nadu. To have a clean Government transfer of officials is necessary, but in Pondicherry, we have a peculiar cadre called Union Territory cadre of I.A.S officers. While almost all Union Territories with barely few getting statehood, the rationale behind transfer of I.A.S officers is lost. We have I.A.S officers staying for more than 30 years in our territory. We have more in number than that is permissible draining our reserves. The I.A.S manned public sector undertakings in our territory have been a burden on the Exchequer with mounting losses and which needs budgetary support for sustaining sick industries. These undertaking have refused to subject themselves to auditing by Comptroller and Auditor General. As in the case of judiciary, the inter state transfer with adjoining states must be considered for IAS and other cadre too, as an entrenched bureaucracy had played havoc with public good. Lt.Governors and Chief Secretaries were transferred but Personal Assistants remain entrenched in same seats for quarter century and more, thereby nourishing a bureaucracy that is unaccountable. Unless this change is brought out, we will not benefit if we gain statehood bidding adieu to U.T. status.

 4.        Many outcries was raised by certain parties over tax rationalization and introduction of Uniform Sales Tax.Our party had presented memorandums to Union Finance Minister Comrade Yashwant Sinha and to The Chief Ministers of Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Our main argument is that massive tax loot by bureaucracy –politician nexus in our territory resulted loss of crores to our coffers, and unless this nexus is broken, statehood will be of no use. Now only Uniform Sales Tax is introduced, yet for decade all goods in Pondicherry were sold at M.R.P prices only. Many items, the details are in our memorandum to Union Finance Ministry sponsored Committee headed by Srivatsava, SHOULD HAVE BEEN SOLD AT LESS PRICE IF THE BENEFITS HAD PERCOLATED DOWN TO CONSUMERS. Thus consumers were fooled and coffers were kept empty while sales tax evaders and their bureaucratic godfathers feathered their nests. The hue and cry now is not because people will have to pay more if UST is introduced, but the lobby that benifitted by this loot is left in lurch. Moreover, it is irony that CPM local unit too opposes UST mooted by Comrade Jyothi Basu and now by a Committee headed by Ashim Das gupta. A bogus Chamber of Commerce created by French Act and which has only 3 living members owns 16 crores worth of government property and now plans to float a trust out of such property. Our complaints to Lt.Governor and resultant enquiries had proved beyond an iota of doubt that the Pondicherry Chamber of Commerce is a dead institution whose term had lapsed 30 years back and its properties are to be taken over by Government.

So we urge that as we have done on the eve of Utharanchal getting special category status, THAT ONLY A SPECIAL CATEGORY STATUS STATEHOOD IS ECONOMICALLY VIABLE an even for THAT AN IN DEPTH STUDY TO PLUG ALL LOOPHOLES IN REVENUE AND TO AVERT ALL LOSSES BY MISMANAGEMENT BE FORERUNNERS IN THE EXERCISE, WHICH SHOULD NOT BE UNDERTAKEN IN HASTLY. 

 N.Nandhivarman General Secretary Dravida Peravai