The Tamil Nadu government is fully prepared to tackle COVID's Omicron variant and the challenges it poses, Governor R N Ravi said on Wednesday in his maiden address to the state Nadu Assembly while the principal opposition AIADMK staged a walkout and boycotted his speech to target the ruling DMK.
The AIADMK members were on their feet during this time and later they trooped out of the House, led by the LoP. All along, the ruling benches thumped the desks while Ravi spoke on government's initiatives. Outlining priorities in his customary address, Ravi reiterated the government's opposition to National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET), Mekedatu dam initiative of Karnataka on river Cauvery and urged the Centre to take immediate steps to get 68 fishermen and 75 boats released from Sri Lanka.
The GST compensation regime should be continued at least till June 30, 2024 which is scheduled to end by June this year. Striving to ensure repeal of the Citizenship Amendment Act, continuation of subsidy to people undertaking Haj and Jerusalem pilgrimage were among the other key points made by the Governor.
The government is undertaking necessary steps to conduct urban local body elections at the earliest, he said. Since the government assumed office, 432.82 acres belonging to temples valued at Rs 1,628.61 crore have been retrieved after clearing encroachments. Just after the arrival of the Governor, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) members walked out of the House on the issue of the Raj Bhavan not forwarding to the Centre Tamil Nadu Assembly's bill on exempting the state from the ambit of NEET. The VCK is an ally of the ruling DMK.
Congratulating Chief Minister M K Stalin for galvanising the entire government machinery and effectively managing the second wave of Covid, Ravi said the government is fully prepared to tackle the Omicron variant and the challenges it poses. In line with the Centre's policy, the state has expanded the vaccination programme to cover children in the age group of 15-18 years, and would provide 'precaution dose' for frontline staff, health workers and vulnerable sections above 60 years of age.
Health care services at the doorsteps of people 'Makkalai Thedi Maruthuvam,' and another plan to save lives during road traffic accidents were among the government's initiatives he specified in connection with the health sector. Pointing to recent unprecedented rains and floods, the Governor said the Tamil Nadu government has submitted detailed memoranda to the Centre seeking funds to the tune of Rs 6,230 crore to undertake relief and restoration works.
"We urge that funds from National Disaster Response Fund be released immediately, in order to ameliorate the effects of damage caused by the floods." The government would implement permanent measures recommended by an advisory committee to prevent inundation.
The state was not able to realise the high growth of tax collections it had witnessed during the VAT regime and considering factors including the pandemic, this "government strongly urges the GST Council and the Union Finance Ministry to continue the GST compensation at least till 30.06.2024," Ravi said.
It is the vision of chief Minister Stalin to make Tamil Nadu a 'One Trillion Dollar Economy' by 2030. The government has already initiated various programmes and policies to achieve this vision. A detailed action plan would be prepared to ensure that this vision is realised.
Due to the timely desilting of channels and release of water from Mettur dam as per schedule and implementation of Kuruvai package for Rs 61 crore, a record paddy coverage of 4.9 lakh acres has been achieved in the Kuruvai (short duration) season this year. After many years, Tamil Nadu was able to store water at the current permissible limit of 142 feet in Mullai Periyar dam for many days continuously, he said. "This government will take all necessary measures to restore the full reservoir level of 152 feet as per the decreed judgement of the Supreme Court."
A mission mode programme 'Illam Thedi Kalvi’ (Education at doorstep) has been initiated with an initial outlay of around Rs 200 crore to bridge learning losses among students of classes 1-8 due to lack of access to structured education during the lockdown. The programme is implemented with the support of volunteers and the community. This programme is successfully implemented in 12 districts on a pilot basis and is now being scaled up to the entire state. So far, 80,138 Illam Thedi Kalvi Centres have been started.
"Entrance exams create an unequal platform by being inherently discriminatory against rural students. Hence, this government is of the firm view that entrance exams like NEET are unnecessary for student admissions to professional courses and will continue to reiterate this position."
As per a recent directive of the state government, the invocation song to mother Tamil, "Tamil Thaai Vaazhthu," was rendered by trained singers. Governor Ravi began his address with 'Vanakkam' and extended his new year and harvest festival 'Pongal greetings to members and ended it with verses of poet Bharathiyar that hailed the Tamil language, Tamil people and the nation, 'Bharat.'
The customary address by then Governor Banwarilal Purohit (to the newly constituted 16th Assembly in June 2021 after the DMK assumed office) ended with 'Nandri (Thank you), Vankkam.' The absence of 'Jai Hind' in that address had last year led to a political debate. In Ravi's address, the DMK government retained the essence of the 'Jai Hind' slogan by using a verse of nationalist poet Bharathiar, which could be described as the Tamil equivalent of the pan-India patriotic mantra.
Ravi was sworn in Governor of Tamil Nadu in September 2021 and this is his first address to the Assembly, marking commencement of the first session of the House for 2022.
With inputs from PTI.