India’s southern states protest against federal funds distribution

Siddaramaiah, Chief Minister of the southern state of Karnataka, raises slogans during a protest against the alleged discrimination in distribution of federal funds by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, in New Delhi, India, February 7, 2024. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Ministers and lawmakers from India’s southern states protested in the capital New Delhi on Wednesday against what they said was discrimination in federal funds distribution by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

The protest, led by the chief minister of Karnataka state, brings to the fore long-running differences between the more developed southern states and their poorer northern counterparts.

India’s five southern states are ruled by regional parties or rivals of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the chief minister of Kerala is due to lead the protests on Thursday, Feb. 8.

Tech hub Bengaluru is the capital of Karnataka, which contributes the second highest taxes in the country.

In the last four years the state saw its share of tax funds transferred back from the federal government fall to 3.64% of total national taxes collected from 4.71%, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who uses only one name, told the protesters.

New Delhi had also broken promises on allotment of grants, denied permission to irrigation projects and not heeded to requests for special funds for drought relief, he said.

Siddaramaiah, who belongs to the main opposition Congress party, said the federal policy to distribute funds based on population of states was unfair to the southern states which had tackled population growth better.

“North Indian states did not tackle population growth,” he told ministers and lawmakers who staged a sit-in at New Delhi’s main protest location of Jantar Mantar.

The protesters shouted slogans and held placards that read ‘Our Tax, Our Right’, and ‘Our Tax Money, Give it to us’.

“So population control has become a curse for us. Is this not injustice?” Siddaramaiah said.

The federal government has rejected the accusations, with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman saying there is a well-set system that handles funds distribution and the accusations were politically motivated.

Modi hit back at Siddaramaiah on Wednesday, Feb. 7, saying a dangerous north-south divide was being created.

“Our tax, our money…what kind of language is this? I don’t discriminate against states,” he told parliament.



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