Nagaland: Considering salary cuts to fund infra, says Chief Secy

Esha Roy
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Chief Secretary Temjen Toy said that the proposal is yet to be finalised.

A cash-strapped Nagaland is looking for means to carry out development projects in the state, and in an unusual move, Chief Secretary Temjen Toy has announced that the state government is considering diverting a part of the salary given to government employees in order to develop infrastructure. Toy said that the proposal is yet to be finalised.

“One of the reasons why Nagaland is so cash-strapped is because unlike other states, we don’t pay income tax here or even property tax. And yet, we receive all the facilities from the government, like any other citizen. A professional tax is levied here but it is a paltry amount...We had taken up the matter of increasing this professional tax with the Centre several times, but since this is a provision made in the Constitution, it will require an amendment, so it is unlikely to happen,” he said.

“We also understand that it is unfair that if the amendment is brought in, people in other parts of the country who are already paying other taxes will have to pay an increased professional tax,’’ said Toy, adding that there was no reason “government servants in Nagaland should not contribute to the development of the state’’.

Explained

Region with history of cash crunch

Despite central government funds through the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region and North East Council, most states of the region, including Nagaland, have a history of being cash-strapped and, therefore, consistently lag behind in development. The 2019-2020 budget tabled by Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio was a Rs 1611.98 crore deficit budget. A state with no industries, Nagaland has a salary-driven economy and most of the current fiscal budget was spent on salaries, say officials.

“We have been trying to attract industries and investment in but this has been difficult. With the special provisions (371A) in place and protection for tribal land, land is generally not accepted as collateral ... So investors are wary of coming to Nagaland. Our own entrepreneurs face problems because of this. So we have written to the government to bring in provisions by which banks can at least sell defaulters’ land to local Nagas,’’ said Toy.

The Chief Secretary said the proposal to divert part of government salaries for development work has already been discussed with the ruling NDPP, a BJP ally.

“Political leaders are supportive and have said that even a portion of their salaries should be diverted. We are, however, moving carefully and are in the process of verifying the legality of such a scheme...’’ said Toy.