Krishna Reddy B
The contrast could not have been sharper. YSRCP MPs and leaders fighting for Special Category Status—the Lok Sabha MPs continuing their indefinite hunger strike in Delhi for the fourth day demanding special category status to Andhra Pradesh. Meanwhile, Chandrababu Naidu and the TDP MPs continue to stage dramas seeking special category status to Andhra Pradesh. Several other political parties have joined the fray and protesting across the length and breadth of AP.
Let us pause, step back and understand what SCS is all about and why it triggers such a raw nerve in the state.
What is Special Category Status?
Special Category Status was originally granted to some states that have historically been at a disadvantage. This backwardness of the states in question was in comparison with the rest of the country. The National Development Council took a decision on this.
What were the parameters guiding Special Category Status to states?
1. Low population density
2. Non-viable nature of the state’s finances.
3. Strategic location along the borders of the country
4. Low resource base
5. Sizeable share of tribal population
6. Hilly and difficult terrain
Jammu & Kashmir was the first state to get Special Category Status, and another 10 states were added over the years.
The YSRCP wants special category status so that Andhra Pradesh can get special benefits and will be able to attract more investment, which will provide a much-needed impetus to A.P's economy following the loss of its capital Hyderabad to Telangana. YSRCP has been waging a relentless campaign for SCS from the time the state was bifurcated. The TDP which had all along been ridiculing those speaking in favour of SCS and had even clamped down on protests and demonstrations earlier, has done another 360 degree turn. No wonder the expression coined by YSRCP Rajya Sabha MP, V. Vijaysai Reddy, has gained currency.
What benefits does a state get under SCS?
The benefits that a state gets under the provision of being a 'special state' are -
1. Preferential treatment in getting financial assistance from the Centre
2. Concession on important taxes, including excise duty, custom duty,.. etc to attract industries to the state
3.A significant 30 per cent of the union budget goes to the special category states (30% of the central budget is distributed among these SCS States)
4. These states can avail themselves of the benefit of debt swapping, as also debt relief schemes, among other things.
5· In the case of centrally sponsored schemes and external aided projects, special category states become entitled to get them in the ratio of 90 per cent grants and 10 per cent loans, while other states get 30 per cent of their funds as grants.
6· Tax incentives to attract investment
There is a powerful sentiment among citizens of A.P that SCS is a panacea which will rid the state of many of its problems. How can A.P benefit from SCS? Why did Chandrababu Naidu and his TDP switch its stand on SCS, after having sung praises of a special package earlier? Suddenly, all the other political parties are also seeking SCS to AP, tapping into public sentiment. Let us learn more about Special Category Status and what it can do to AP in the sequel to this article.