Stepping up pressure, Finance Ministers of six States met President Ram Nath Kovind on Thursday and submitted a memorandum demanding 13 amendments to the Terms of Reference of the 15th Finance Commission.
“The terms of reference violate the federal principle as enshrined in the Constitution, erode the autonomy of all States and bring significant financial hardship to all States,” the memorandum submitted by Finance Ministers of Kerala, Delhi, West Bengal, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Puducherry — T.M. Thomas Isaac, Manish Sisodia, Amit Mitra, Manpreet Singh Badal, Yanamala Ramakrishnudu and V. Narayanswamy.
‘Use 1971 data’
Among the 13 amendments recommended by the Ministers is the use of the population data of 2011 by the Finance Commission. The Ministers have vociferously protested against this claiming that they should not be penalised for checking the population explosion while many other States such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which have been unable to do so, are awarded for their lack of initiative.
The memorandum demanded that the population data of 1971 should be used for devolution of funds as was used by all the previous Finance Commissions.
The Ministers have said the terms of reference seek to control “populist measures.” The memorandum has demanded that this be deleted promptly. The States and the Union Territory concerned have been arguing that it is for the popularly elected governments to decide what is ‘populist’ and what isn’t.
The other amendments sought include deletion of the reference to Direct Benefit Transfers (DBT). The 15th Finance Commission has said that the States will be assessed on progress made by them in promoting DBT. The Narendra Modi government has been flaunting increase in DBT as a key achievement.
The FMs also want the reference to “flagship schemes of the government of India” to be deleted. The TOR says that “achievements in implementation of flagship schemes of the government of India” will be criteria to determine a State’s share from Central funds. The Ministers have argued that this is blatantly against the federal values in the Constitution.