Tamil Nadu’s Finance Minister Thangam Thennarasu sought funds for Phase-2 project of the Chennai Metro Rail Limited and flood relief, among a slew of other requests, at the pre-Union Budget consultation in New Delhi on Saturday.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman chaired the meeting with the Finance Ministers of States and Union Territories to take suggestions for the Union Budget 2024-25.

Mr. Thennarasu, in his speech, said the Phase-2 Metro project, at a cost of ₹63,246 crore, was recommended by the Public Investment Board (PIB) on August 17, 2021, but is awaiting the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) for the last three years. Owing to this, the entire expenditure was being borne by the State. The delay is severely impacting the State’s finances and affecting the pace of implementation of the project, he added.

The Minister urged the Centre to immediately sanction the project as originally envisaged and ensure that adequate provisions were made in the Union Budget 2024-25 for the same.

He further said Tamil Nadu had witnessed two massive natural disasters in quick succession last year, causing a significant strain on the State finances. While the State had submitted two detailed memoranda outlining the extent and magnitude of the disasters and seeking a disaster relief of around ₹37,906 crore, the Centre had only released a meagre sum of ₹276 crore, he added.

He implored the Union government to release adequate funds to States affected by disasters and allocate a sum of ₹3,000 crore to Tamil Nadu in the upcoming Budget towards restoration works.

He also requested the Centre to merge the cesses and surcharges into basic rates of taxation so that States receive their legitimate share in devolution. Mr. Thennarasu pointed out that the Union government had been progressively shifting the burden of Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) to the State governments. The Centre should enhance the unit costs to reflect the present-day requirements and contribute at least an effective share of 50% in the CSS. “I will also exhort the Union government not to adopt one-size-fits all approach or impose restrictive conditions in releasing funds for the schemes,” he added.

The Centre fixes the net borrowing ceiling of the States at three per cent of the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) every year. The GSDP calculated for Tamil Nadu for this purpose was repeatedly being underestimated, resulting in a loss of borrowing space of around ₹8,500 crore in the last four years, he pointed out.

Mr. Thennarasu said Tamil Nadu was being meted out a step-motherly treatment in the sanction of large-scale infrastructure projects.

He sought sanction for railway projects in the Union Budget.

He also demanded more national highway projects in the State and said construction of elevated roads between Tambaram and Chengalpattu, and Chengalpattu and Tindivanam should be made a priority. The stretch in the Chennai – Kanniyakumari Corridor was developed as a four-lane highway by NHAI during 2005. At present, the traffic intensity has increased manifold and the stretch has become vulnerable to road accidents, causing fatalities.

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