The tendency to usurp the powers and authority of the states through open and clandestine ways by the Centre was on rise at a scale never seen before, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh on Friday said.
“There was a wide consensus, cutting across party lines that the state governments need to be given much greater operational freedom in choosing and financing development priorities of their people,” said Mr. Badal.
He called for setting up of “genuinely federal structure” in the country with more financial and political powers to the states.
Mr. Badal was addressing 26th meeting of Northern Zonal Council in Chandigarh.
“The tendency of the Centre has been to usurp, through open and clandestine ways, the powers and authority of the states already ensured by the Constitution.
“This tendency was on the rise at a scale never seen before,” he said.
In certain cases, this violation of the Constitution by the Centre has been nothing short of “flagrant”, with the Centre wilfully legislating on issues that fall in the States purview, he said.
The Chief Minister pointed out the most dangerous exhibition of this tendency was seen in how the Centre had been quietly shifting subjects from the State’s List to the Concurrent List and from the Concurrent to the Union List.
“Such violations of the federal principle would not only further weaken the states but would also create unnecessary complications, hampering smooth relations between the Centre and the states,” he said.
Pleading for rewriting the formula for devolution of Central funds, the Chief Minister said the states needed more funds for their primary developmental needs.
He said, “States should be given at least 50 per cent share in taxes collected from them. The allocation of funds to the states should in fact be made growth dependent, so as to encourage the states and subjects to perform better.”
The chief minister appealed to Centre for strengthening federalism by increasing devolution of Central funds to states from the present 32 to 50 per cent, along with change in the devolution criteria so that it was not detrimental to the interests of the relatively more developed states.
Emphasising the need for restructuring the Inter State Council, Mr. Badal said that it was the need of the hour, in the true spirit of federalism, for strengthening the states.
He suggested that the Secretariat of the Inter-State Council should be attached to the Secretariat of the Rajya Sabha rather than being a department of Government of India (GoI).
All initiatives on the concurrent list may first be discussed in the Inter-State Council and approved by 2/3rd majority before given any legislative shape.
In case, the Inter-State Council was restructured into a constitutional and strong body, as suggested, the existence and relevance of the Zonal Councils could be also reviewed by the Inter-State Council and brought into its fold by amending the States Reorganisation Act, 1956.
Dwelling on the huge financial and economic loss suffered by the state due to flight of Industry from Punjab in wake of fiscal industrial concessions granted to Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand by the Centre, Badal said they were not against granting these concessions to other states, but at the same time Punjab must be duly compensated by setting up SEZ for agro processing industry in the state.
This initiative would not only boost agriculture economy but would also provide a level playing field.
Mr. Badal underscored the need for channelisation of the remaining portion of 17.55 km of Ghaggar river from Makorar Sahib to Karail out of total stretch of 40 km which had been put on hold due apprehensions expressed by Haryana that it might cause adverse effect on the state.
The Chief Minister also solicited Centre’s intervention to direct the Himachal Pradesh Government for immediately taking necessary corrective measures to prevent the discharge of industrial effluents into river Satluj by the industries, towns located in different parts of the state.
Seeking immediate intervention of the Centre to curb the Trans-Border Smuggling in Punjab, Mr. Badal said state was facing a drug menace because of its close proximity to international narcotics route covering Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.
He pointed out that as the border was manned by the Central security forces therefore it was obligatory on the part of Centre to keep a strict vigil on the border to check this menace.
Seeking strict maintenance of 60:40 ratio in the allocation of posts between Punjab and Haryana, Mr. Badal urged the Centre to direct the Chandigarh administration not to create unnecessary problems on an extremely emotive issue.