Statehood demand for Kutch gains momentum

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Govt collects Rs 700 crore in VAT and Centre mops up revenue of over Rs 1,500 from district, says Congress

Senior sitting Congress MLA Babubhai Meghji Shah, who is representing the Rapar constituency in Kutch, is all for separate Kutch state. It is high time Kutch is carved out from Gujarat as a separate state for its balanced and all-round development, he said.

Shah told The Indian Express on Friday that besides the state government collecting about Rs 700 crore in VAT from Kutch, the Centre mops up revenue of over Rs 1,500 crore annually through royalty of minerals/petroleum products and customs duty from this largest district of Gujarat. Against this, the annual budgetary allocation for Kutch district is negligible.

If not a separate state, an autonomous development board headed by the Governor should be set up for the development of Kutch, he said.

Shah, former state Finance Minister in the Shankersinh Vaghela Government, said: "Our government, in 1997, had recommended to the Centre to have a Kutch Development Board. We had even made the budgetary provision of Rs 100 crore for this. But, as the Vaghela government could not survive for long, we could not pursue the issue further".

The Congress MLA said if the demand for a separate state or the development board for Kutch is conceded, this vast border district could avail more funds from the Centre. At present, the Finance Commission allocates funds to states on the basis of their population and not the geographical area.

"The Kutch district has a geographical area of 45,000 sq kms, having a population of just 16 lakh. The district's population density is 22 (persons) per one sq km, as against the state's density of 200 per one sq km," he added.

Former Chief Minister Suresh Mehta, who hails from Kutch, does not agree with Shah. "It would be economically unviable to have a separate Kutch state, for this district yields only 1.8 per cent of the state's total revenue in taxation, which may prove difficult to maintain this sprawling border district having 23 per cent of the state's total geographical area," he said.

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