Union Budget: TN CM welcomes many initiatives, Stalin dubs it 'illusionary lollipop'

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Chennai, Feb 1 (PTI) Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami on Monday welcomed several announcements made in the union budget by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman but sought a review of the cess regime in the interest of states.

DMK president M K Stalin lashed out at the Centre, saying it has offered an 'illusionary lollipop' to the people of poll-bound Tamil Nadu.

Palaniswami said the budget has many welcome provisions, especially beneficial to the state.

In a statement, he appreciated announcements like the allocation of Rs 35,000 crore for COVID-19 vaccination drive.

The implementation of 3,500 km of national highway work in Tamil Nadu will boost the state's economy.

He also gave the thumbs up for the port development scheme, proposals in transport sector such as purchase of 20,000 new buses and scholarship for Adi Dravida students.

The chief minister requested the Centre to enhance the allocation for Tamil Nadu to fight the pandemic and also sought funds for the development of small fishing harbours in and two textile parks in the state.

On levying of cess on petroleum products, Palaniswami said the state government had already flagged the issue of decreasing share of states' excise duty on petrol and diesel.

And the increase in the cess today would 'affect the financial condition of states, including Tamil Nadu,' he said, adding the earlier mechanism should continue.

In the budget, Sitharaman announced an agricultural infra cess of Rs 2.5 per litre on petrol and Rs 4 on a litre of diesel.

Stalin, also Leader of the Opposition in state assembly, alleged the Centre had 'ignored' Tamil Nadu for the last six years and had given an impression in this budgetary exercise that it was implementing mega schemes for the state.

'Like showing a mirage to a thirsty cow, the Central government has given an illusionary lollipop to the people of Tamil Nadu with an eye on polls,' he said in a statement.

He hinted there was no firm commitment on proposals, such as second phase of Metro Rail and 3,500 km of highway work and said the Centre had not paid heed to Palaniswami's earlier pleas for assistance in the wake of cyclones Nivar and Burevi.

He questioned the Centre's announcement on implementing the Salem-Chennai highway corridor, saying the BJP seemed to say it was against farmers' welfare even in an election year in the state.

While there was no announcement on lowering fuel prices, the levy of agri cess would only result in further increase in their rates, he added.

There was no proposal for direct financial assistance to people who were suffering due to the Covid-triggered unemployment, Stalin said.

Referring to Sitharaman reading a couplet from Tamil classic Thirukkural that talks about the features of a good government which creates wealth and ensures financial prudence, he wondered why she had not taken into account the one on the need of a king who has to be compassionate and deliver a rule of justice.

NDA constituent PMK said the budget has 'somewhat met expectations' about the Centre coming up with new schemes and announcements to give a fillip to various sectors that were suffering due to reasons including the covid pandemic.

While proposals in the farm sector such as those on minimum support price would allay fears of farmers, there was no reduction in income tax, PMK founder Dr S Ramadoss said in a statement.

Various infrastructure related initiatives will boost the growth, he added.

MDMK founder Vaiko, a Rajya Sabha member, expressed 'disappointment' over the budget, saying it 'showed no signs of' rebooting the economy.

He opposed disinvestment of select PSUs, saying it would pave the way for public sector going into the hands of the private players.

He also flayed the announcement on implementing the Salem-Chennai eight lane green corridor despite 'public resistance' and said certain proposals in highways and rail sector had been done with an eye on the assembly polls in the state, likely in April or May.

AMMK founder and independent MLA TTV Dhinakaran said the budget had 'some joy and lot of concerns.' While proposals such as covering one crore more beneficiaries under the Ujjwala scheme was welcome, 'it is not proper' to have announced that the Salem-Chennai corridor will be implemented 'this year itself,' he added. PTI SA VS VS