At a press meet to announce the planned marches, the party’s senior vice-president Dr R Lalthangliana spelled out the reasons for the planned simultaneous marches in all eight district headquarters, including capital Aizawl, and several other towns.
These include the upward revision of subsidised PDS rice from Rs 9.50 per kilogram to Rs 15 per kilogram for APL families, the doubling of government water-supply connection charges to Rs 200, the tripling and more of the “Zoram chhiah (tax)” from Rs 15 to Rs 50, and the end of free blood transfusions for patients and the institution of a Rs 550 charge per unit of blood.
The MNF leaders explained that this introduction of charges for blood transfusions has come about because the state cannot meet its 25% share vis-avis the Centre’s 75% share in providing transfusions of blood, which is regularly donated by various volunteer groups.
They also recalled how when the then MNF government mulled an increase in taxes a decade ago, Congress leaders who were in opposition then had vandalised the revenue department offices at Aizawl, but that the same party is now increasing taxes.
The Congress responded almost immediately with a statement, pointing out the increase in prices of subsidised rice does not include those for BPL and AAY families.
The party also alleged it was the MNF’s establishment of two extra police battalions and the “provincialising” of more than 300 schools (which meant they would be eligible for government funding) that has led to a dent in the state exchequer ever since, saying maintaining these entities cost Rs 116 crores per month.
Nevertheless, that the state’s finances are in the doldrums and the need for increasing the government’s revenues has been an oft repeated theme mentioned by government heads including the Chief Minister, who last week presided over a meeting to kick-start various austerity measures to be followed by different departments.
The current controversy over the hike in prices of services and commodities offered by the government comes as elections to local bodies are due in a few months, and also in the wake of the NITI Aayog demanding a detailed explanation over allegations the Congress government is diverting money from various central funds to feed its flagship livelihood program.