Respected Prime Minister, esteemed fellow Chief Ministers, Home Minister and other Union Ministers, friends,

I am happy that the Government of India has convened this meeting of the Inter-State Council, though after a long gap. It is a pity that this National Forum has not been active over the years. Let me take this opportunity to strongly recommend that at least two meetings be held every year to discuss well-defined agenda items suggested by State Governments and the Ministries of Government of India. The agenda may be circulated at least three months in advance with an active mechanism for prompt follow up of decisions. I would like to add that, in the absence of the National Development Council, there is a felt need to discuss developmental issues thoroughly in this forum.

The Punchhi Commission has given very interesting and fundamental recommendations, which have the potential of restructuring Centre – State relations. However, considering the fact that more than six years have elapsed since the Commission submitted its report, there is a need to look at the recommendations afresh and in-depth. Moreover, a consensus has been arrived at regarding the key recommendations to operationalize them. Therefore, I tend to agree with the suggestions of Government of India that the Punchhi Commission’s recommendations be discussed in the Standing Committee. The Inter-State Council can then formally adopt those which have an activity-wise and time bound plan for implementation. I would like to suggest that a system similar to the Empowered Committee for VAT and GST would be effective, since there is need for continuous action.

I am extremely proud to say that Kerala is the leader in the country in Aadhaar enrolment, touching 96 percent coverage, evenly across the State. Because of this, the State became the first to be chosen for electronic payment of wages to all its workers under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. The State has also achieved universal financial inclusion and has the highest mobile penetration in the country. But even with this triple attainment, due caution must be exercised before embarking on Direct Benefits Transfer. Care should be taken to ensure that significant sections of the population, especially the vulnerable groups are not excluded. Therefore, it should not be made mandatory at present particularly for implementation of legislations like MNREGA. It is required urgently to put in place the last mile connectivity between the financial institutions and the citizen. Here, the vast network of post offices can be put to effective use, considering their legacy and the warm acceptance of the village postman by the community.

The restructuring of Centre State Financial relations is a prerequisite for ensuring equitable distribution of national resources among states and for bridging the gap between various states. I would like to take this opportunity to demand that the Centre State Financial relations should be restructured in such a way that the imbalance that prevails among various regions can be rectified in the true spirit of federalism. It is rather unfortunate that the Union Government has chosen to dismantle the Planning Commission which has been in existence right from the initial years of independence. I am of the firm opinion that the dispensation of Planning Commission should be restored so that even the remote areas too will figure in the comprehensive and planned development of the nation.

As Kerala is strategically positioned, we have deep concerns on internal security issues. We are not complacent; we are alert and have been keeping an eye on the activities of potential groups. I am happy to state that there has been a good interaction between central security and intelligence agencies, and the State police machinery. But it could be strengthened more. The Left wing Extremist activities in the Northern districts in the tri-junction area are being taken serious note of and we have been doing our best in raising special forces and equipping them. But assistance for financial, logistic, human resource development from the Government of India would greatly help to step up our efforts. We should be allotted a Counter Insurgency & Anti-terrorism (CIAT) school which we have been demanding for the last three years. We would like to have one more IR battalion, some officers on deputation from CAPFs, and also training of our police by NSG, CAPFs and IB. All the five LWE affected districts must be brought under Security Related Expenditure scheme. There should be special scheme to upgrade and modernize our intelligence set up in police.

Recent reports of some Keralites joining banned terrorist organizations abroad have been taken with due seriousness by the State Government. The matter is being handled legally with due sensitiveness. But more support and assistance from Central agencies is needed in the collection of intelligence. We do expect every support in investigations too.

More legislations relating to safety of women and children are being considered by the State. I am pained to learn that Government of India has not released Nirbhaya Funds to the States. I would request the Hon’ble Prime Minister to look into this.

The grants of the Government of India in the matters of Police modernization are inadequate. This year, the State has been assured of only Rs. 14 crores in the non-plan and no grants in plan have been received. The Government of India may consider allotting more funds to the performing States like Kerala.

Kerala’s coast is vulnerable. It would be desirable for the 76 police stations on the coast to have at least one small boat which is sea-worthy to go into the swallow areas of the sea near the coast. The Government of India could consider giving us the promised grant to start Coastal Police Training School in the State. One Marine IR Battalion may also be allotted to the State to strengthen coastal security.

Kerala has marched on its own in respect of education, spending huge resources with long term commitments. Having achieved this, the issues now relate essentially to quality upgradation, a real second generation issue. Unfortunately, national polices and programmes still focus, rightly so, on the basic issues. All that I request is greater flexibility to the State to adjust the existing schemes to its needs on the basis of mutual dialogue and discussion. I am happy to inform all of you that the State is committed in spending

Rs. 1000 crores over the next five years for raising the level of 140 schools to international standards. Further, Rs. 500 crores is earmarked for making ‘high-tech’ all classes from Standard VIII to XII. I request the Ministry of Human Resource Development to extend help for these programmes without compromising on the core objectives.

On the issue of improving quality of education, it is necessary to ensure that humanist and secular values are deeply embedded in curricula as well as in the pedagogy even while infusing modern technology to upgrade quality. Here again, the focus should be on inclusion and strengthening of the public system at all levels.

I hope this meeting of the Inter-State Council will be convened more often. I also hope today’s meeting will result in concrete and fruitful decisions useful for all the participating States and the Centre.

Thank you.

* * *