The speech prepared by the Tamil Nadu government for Governor R.N. Ravi for his inaugural address in the Legislative Assembly for 2024, which he refused to read, was in parts critical of the Centre with regard to the GST regime and on the non-release of funds for Chennai Metro Rail project. Besides, the government vowed to never allow the implementation the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in the State citing the “grave threat” the ideal of unity in diversity faced. It also highlighted the need for funds to tackle the devastation caused by the December cyclone and floods in Chennai, Thoothukudi and other regions.
A majority of the 48-page speech, subsequently read out in Tamil by Speaker M. Appavu, focussed on the achievements of Tamil Nadu under the present government and over the past many decades in various spheres. This included the State’s real economic growth of 8.19 % in 2022-23, which was higher than the nation’s growth, the State’s high rank in NITI Aayog’s Export Preparedness Index, investments attracted through the Global Investors Meet, conduct of the Khelo India Youth Games, and various welfare measures like Kalaignar Magalir Urimai Thittam (KMUT), and the Chief Minister’s Breakfast Scheme, which have made the State “a model for the entire country”.
While appreciating the preparedness of the State government and the relief efforts taken after Cyclone Michaung and the torrential downpour in southern districts in December last year, the speech also highlighted that an investment of approximately ₹ 18,214 crore in the southern districts and ₹ 19,692 crore in Chennai and surrounding areas was required to undertake temporary and permanent restoration work. Highlighting the memoranda presented to the Union government, the speech expressed hope that funds from the National Disaster Response Fund would be released.
Loss of revenue
The speech said that the State governments relinquished their fiscal autonomy and agreed to the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) based on the legiti0mate expectation that they would receive adequate compensation until the new system could generate revenues equivalent to the pre-GST era. However, the termination of the GST compensation regime by the Union government by June 2022 meant that the State was facing a revenue shortfall of ₹20,000 crore per year. “We urge the Union Government to continue the compensation regime further,” the speech read.
Chennai Metro Rail project
The address expressed disappointment that the Union government had reneged on its promise to provide its share as per a 50:50 equity arrangement for phase II of the Chennai Metro Rail project by delaying approval for more than two years, while according sanction for similar projects in other States during the same time. “We urge the Union Government to approve the project as originally envisaged,” it said.
Citizenship Amendment Act
Citing the line Yaadhum oore yaavarum kelir from the poem by Kaniyan Poongundranar, the speech said Tamils have embraced universal brotherhood since the Sangam era and this continued to serve as a guiding light for this government.
“While the ideal of unity in diversity is facing a grave threat in our nation, this government remains steadfast in its commitment to protect and preserve the communal harmony in the State,” it said. Stating that the government stood with minorities and Sri Lankan Tamils and pledged to protect their rights, the speech stressed that the government “will never permit the implementation of Citizenship Amendment Act…and vows to take all necessary measures in this regard”.
The address pointed to the request made by Chief Minister M.K. Stalin to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take up a caste census along with the national decennial census which has been delayed since 2021.
Urging the Cauvery Water Management Authority to come up with a scientific formula for sharing of Cauvery water, the speech said the State government shall take all necessary measures to prevent the construction of a new dam by Karnataka in Mekedatu.
While the portion of speech omitted by Governor last year included a reference to the “Dravidian Model” of governance followed by the State government, this year’s speech also had one reference to this. “This Government is committed to the Dravidian model of governance, which is founded on the principles of inclusive growth, social justice and equality,” it said.