State govt to review prices of fuel, says Rio

Correspondent KOHIMA, FEB 18 (NPN) | Publish Date: 2/18/2021 1:02:41 PM IST
Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio Thursday assured to look into the issue of high petroleum prices in the State and try to make them lower than Assam and Manipur.
Addressing the media at the Assembly committee room here after presenting the budget, Rio said the State government was seized of the matter and was reviewing it. He remarked that Assam reduced the fuel prices as the Assembly election was approaching there and termed it as a “populist measure”. He pointed out that petroleum prices were lower in Nagaland than Assam and Manipur all these years.  
Austerity measures saved over Rs 400 cr: Rio said the austerity measures that were put in place helped the State save over Rs 400 crore.  Responding to queries on the State government’s intent to bring down salary expenditure as mentioned in his budget, he pointed out that 15th Finance Commission was reducing deficit grant year after year, which was a warning for the government to scale down its employment.
He said austerity measures, including ban on appointment, were taken following less receipt of State’s share in Central taxes and less revenue receipt from the State’s own resources due to COVID pandemic. He mentioned that appointments had to be rationalised and were done on need basis as the Finance department showed its serious concern over the increase in non-Plan expenditure. According to Rio, as salary component of State government employees, pension and debt servicing comprised more than 65% of the State’s finance, the government was left with only 35% for developmental activities
Rs 260 cr deficit on power: Rio said the State incurred an annual deficit of Rs 229 crore in power sector in 2019-2020, which was projected at Rs 260 crore in 2020-2021. He said the cabinet decided to reform power sector and brought the issue to the legislators’ notice to maintain transparency, adding that the opposition members were positive in this regard. He said not only the power department, but other departments too must be reformed.
‘Gov’s speech his own’: Referring to the controversy generated over governor RN Ravi’s claim during his address to NLA that negotiations between Government of India and Naga groups had concluded, Rio claimed that it was governor’s “own statement”.
Not denying that the governor’s speeches were generally approved by the cabinet, Rio said these were Ravi’s “own words and we cannot make any correction.” He recalled that Ravi, who is Centre’s interlocutor for Naga talks, had also announced that negotiations would be concluded on October 31, 2019. Stressing on transparency, Rio admitted that there could be some differences. “However, the PDA has no differences with Raj Bhavan over governance and we were functioning well,” he remarked.
Asked to comment on minister Temjen Imna Along’s statement in the House that during his visit to Delhi along with some of State leaders, Union home minister Amit Shah had reportedly said that the demand for flag and constitution was out of question, Rio said he was not aware of any such statement. He however said that during his discussion with Shah along with his cabinet colleagues, the Union minister was forthcoming in advising them to offer suggestions for hammering out an amicable and practical solution.
He mentioned that Shah might have told Along during a separate meeting, but not during his meeting with the home minster.
Gov’s R-Day speech: On Ravi’s reference to Naga political issue during his Republic Day speech that attracted lots of criticism, Rio explained that speeches were prepared by the State government. 
“However, if he want to add something, we cannot say no to that,” he claimed. Asked whether the speech read out by the governor on Republic Day was prepared by the State government, Rio said in the previous year, Ravi did not read any speech. Therefore, Rio said this time he, along with deputy chief minister, chief secretary and home commissioner met the governor and requested him to read out the speech prepared by the State government, to which he agreed.
He claimed that the speech contained vision, programmes, activities and achievements of the PDA government and was meant to make people aware of what the government was initiating for their welfare. Rio mentioned that it was up to the governor if he wanted to add to the speech and refused to comment further.
Review of reservation policy: Informing the media that the cabinet subcommittee had recommended total review of the reservation policy in the State, he said after the cabinet subcommittee convenes meeting with all stakeholders, there would be a discussion to find an amiable settlement.
Professionals to be roped in from within and outside for medical college: Rio said the government intended to apply to Medical Council of India for starting Kohima Medical College from the academic year 2022-23 initially from NHAK as a teaching hospital. In this regard, he said qualified professionals, super specialists, etc, would be roped in from outside the State and within as teaching faculties.
Asked whether the State government planned to begin teaching through new recruitments or by using the service of serving doctors, especially those serving in NHAK, Rio replied that qualified persons would be roped in for the purpose.
He mentioned that people from Nagaland working outside, especially super specialists and professors, willing to come and work would be used.  
On delay in completing the medical college, Rio blamed this to land issue and pandemic as there was dearth of labourers.
Mon medical college to be functional by 2023-24: Rio said the process of establishing medical college in Mon at a cost of Rs 325 crore was underway and 90 % of the fund would be sourced from a Centrally-sponsored scheme.
He said after all work at the college was completed, he expected the college to function from 2023-24. 


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