Monday, April 2, 2007

Modi raises IIT issue with respect to Gujarat

Modi takes on Centre over Mallika, IIT issues
Santanu Banerjee | New Delhi

Gujarat CM says Plan panel 'becoming a political body'

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Monday criticised the Centre and the Planning Commission for sponsoring a controversial Rs 10 crore TV serial project by Mallika Sarabhai and denying his State an IIT.

During his meeting with Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Modi, according to officials from Gujarat, told him that these instances showed that an apolitical body like the Planning Commission was becoming a political body.

Modi told Ahluwalia that the serial on women empowerment was done without taking the State into confidence when the issue was a State subject.

Incidentally, the controversial TV serial was given to Sarabhai without following a proper procedure of calling tenders from other producers. Gujarat Government sources said the TV project was terminated as the move by the Centre, the Planning Commission and the Prasar Bharti faced stiff resistance from the State Government.

But the project was revived by pressure from 10 Janpath, State Government sources said. The controversial and the huge-budget project now revived involved producing year-long Gujarat-centric serials on women and social issues for Doordarshan. The first episode of the serial was telecast by Ahmedabad DD last month.

However, Planning Commission member Bhal Chander Mungekar told The Pioneer that ``the Gujarat Chief Minister, however, did not mention any name, but the Deputy Chairman told him that since the Plan panel has nothing to do with it, his concerns would be conveyed to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.''

According to Government sources, Modi's allegations, which earlier also stirred up heat and dust, is set to create problems both for the project and the Centre, which bended rules to give this project to Mallika Sarabhai.

Incidentally, several producers have already approached the Gujarat High Court challenging the controversial DD's contract to Sarabhai.

Much to the embarrassment for the Human Resource Development Ministry headed by Congress leader Arjun Singh, Modi also raised the issue of his State being meted out a step-motherly treatment on educational front.

He pointed out that despite his State's high developmental indicators, Gujarat was not allowed to set up the ``extension of Mumbai IIT.''

He told the Planning Commission that when last year the issue came up for a decision and when Maharashtra Government did not take kindly to the suggestion for setting up the extension, the HRD Ministry had persuaded the Maharashtra Government to create extension in the State and denied the opportunity to Gujarat.

According to Gujarat Government officials, the State Government informed the HRD that the State was ready to provide land and other infrastructural resources for setting up an extension of IIT in Gandhinagar. "But Arjun Singh had had it stopped," said an official.

Bhal Chander Mungekar, who looks after education in the Plan panel said on this issue also the Chief Minister was assured that his concerns would be conveyed to the HRD Ministry. ``At Planning Commission we do not take such a decision,'' he said.

Angry on this issue, the Gujarat Chief Minister told Planning Commission during the meeting that if the HRD could think of big educational projects for Rae Barlei in Uttar Pradesh, why a State like Gujarat should be denied an IIT.

Meanwhile, the Plan size for the current fiscal for Gujarat was fixed at Rs 16,000 crore. This includes additional Central assistance of Rs 90 crore for projects of special importance.

Earlier, during the briefing by the Commission, Modi said that the State had achieved a growth rate of 10.6 per cent for the last four years.

He informed that from a revenue deficit of Rs 6731.54 crore in 2001-02, now the State Government has a revenue surplus of Rs 1802.85 crore in 2006-07. As such, the Fiscal Responsibility Budget Management target of eliminating revenue deficit by 2007-08 has been met two years ahead of schedule. He also informed the Commission that the revenue receipts have grown by 21.14 per cent.

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