Don't blame me for financial crisis, says ex-FM

Greater Kashmir

PDP blowing issue out of proportion: Rather

Srinagar, Jan 23: With Jammu and Kashmir reeling under grave financial crisis, former Finance Minister Abdur Rahim Rather Friday said he shouldn’t be blamed for it.
“Everything was going smooth till I held the portfolio of the Finance Ministry. Floods wreaked havoc across the State and we couldn’t press for release of the remaining Plan amount; and then the elections were imposed on us,” he told Greater Kashmir, when asked why he shouldn’t take the blame for the financial breakdown in the state.
“The 40% funds already released by the Centre earlier have been sent to various departments as per their requirements without any delay by our government. Now there are only two months (February and March) left for release of the 60 per cent remaining funds. I believe if the Government of India is approached seriously, the crisis will be over,” he said.
He blamed the Peoples Democratic Party for “blowing the issue out of proportion.” “To blame me and the National Conference is their only job. So be it,” Rather, who lost the recent Assembly polls from Charar-e-Sharif after 37 years, to PDP’s GhulamNabi Lone, said.
Rather said no new exercise is required to be conducted for release of plan funds. “We have settled things with the Government of India and the annual plan of Rs 11300 crore including Rs 600 crore PMRP stands already approved,” he said.  “The State, through Governor N N Vohra or a new dispensation, should approach the Centre and seek release of the plan funds. Once the plan funds would be released, the financial crisis would be over within a week.”
Asked that the former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s decision to enhance the retirement age of employees from 58 to 60 years is being cited as a reason for the financial breakdown, Rather said the “move has rather helped the State so save some money.”
“A good number of employees would have retired had this decision not been taken. In that case the government was supposed to pay retirement benefits and gratuity to the retirees. By enhancing their retirement age, we have saved some money,” he claimed.
Asked about reports that creation of new administrative units has affected the State coffers, Rather said: “No new building has been constructed for new administrative units, so there is no burden on the State coffers so far.”
Rather, however, said there has been no significant increase in the State’s own income. “JK’s total tax and non-tax income is only Rs 7000 crore a year,” he said.
Pertinently, the state is reeling under grave financial crisis, with its liabilities reportedly touching Rs 2000 crore.
The Governor N N Vohra is likely to meet Union Finance Minster ArunJaitley to seek release of plan funds to tide over the crisis.