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Difficult to move forward on amending AFSPA: Chidambaram

February 06, 2013 23:51 IST

The Army has taken a strong stand against any dilution or amendment to the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act, making it difficult for the government to move forward on this proposal, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said on Wednesday.

Chidambaram, who was the home minister till a few months ago, said any question about opposition to amend the Act to make it "more humanitarian" should be posed to the Army.

"The armed forces, and especially the Chief of Army Staff, the present one and the previous one, have taken a very strong position that AFSPA should not be amended," he said while delivering the K Subrahmanyam Memorial Lecture in New Delhi.

There was a proposal to amend the AFSPA as also to lift it from certain areas of Jammu and Kashmir but the defence ministry is strongly opposed to it.

"Now, how does the government move forward in the face of such widely divergent views on the sensitive subject"? Chidambaram said.

Chidambaram and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah are in favour of dilution of AFSPA.

"My view on AFSPA is known, the view of the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir on AFSPA is known. We have Jeevan Reddy Committee report but yet if the Army takes a very strong stand against any dilution or any amendment to AFSPA, it is difficult for a civil government to move forward," Chidambaram said.

"I think you should ask the question to the armed forces and ask why are they so opposed to even some amendment to AFSPA which will make AFSPA more humanitarian," he said.

On the issue of National Counter Terrorism Centre, Chidambaram said the Centre was in favour of it while state governments were opposed to it.

"Central government is championing NCTC, state governments are opposing NCTC. Very seasoned critics will jump to criticism if their is an opportunity to criticise the central government. They are completely silent in criticising the state governments. Why is that?" he said.

Chidambaram wondered why there were no seminars or conferences in states like Tamil Nadu or Odisha or Gujarat to speak against the respective chief ministers for opposing NCTC.

On VHP leader Praveen Togadia's alleged hate speech, he said "I have no comments on the person you have mentioned. These are persons who are determined to create disharmony in society. The law must take its course".

"I dont know what the person you referred to (has) said, whether he said it, whether it is an offence. I can't say it, I can't judge sitting here. The law must take its course if there is a violation," Chidmabaram said.

Assailing "disdainful attitude" towards economic expansion, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said India would forever remain under-nourished and under-provided if there is no sustained high growth over a long period of time.

"As a nation, we seem to oscillate between embracing growth as the highest goal and deriding growth as no panacea for the ills that afflict the country. If we do not have sustained high growth over a long period of time, we will be, forever, an undernourished, undereducated, underprovided and underperforming nation," he said.

The growth, the minister said, was necessary for providing resources for security and promoting social welfare programmes in the field of health and education.

"It is therefore a self-evident truth that growth is the key for greater public welfare and greater security. Yet, we adopt a disdainful attitude to growth.

"Some think that the value of growth is overstated and that we would be better off if we pursued not the goal of growth but other goals such as cultural nationalism or debt-driven egalitarianism," he said.

The minister also emphasised that without growth there would be less money for government programmes in the field of health and education and an expenditure cut on defence and police would impact the defence and security preparedness and diminish the nation's capacity to meet such challenges.

He further said these essential expenditures cannot be funded by borrowings, which is a very high as percentage of Gross Domestic Product when compared to the global average.

The government is making extra effort to contain the fiscal deficit to 5.3 per cent of GDP in the current fiscal and proposes to reduce it further to 4.8 per cent in the next financial year.

As regards growth, it is estimated to slip to a decade's low of 5.7 per cent in the current financial year from 6.2 per cent in 2011-12.

Read Finance Minister P Chidambaram's full speech here 

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