OTHERS

Centre should decide on reintroducing octroi: TNN

BANGALORE, AUG. 21. The Chairman of the State Finance Commission, Mr. T.N.Narasimha Murthy, said here on Tuesday that Karnataka could not take a decision in isolation on the reintroduction of octroi.

He told presspersons that it was for the Centre to give the lead in such matters. There were arguments for and against octroi. The Devaraj Urs Government abolished it in the State in 1978 (when the late S.M.Yahya was the Finance Minister), he said.

Mr. Murthy said the full commission (which had two members, Prof. Govinda Rao and Mr. K.P.Surendranath) was yet to go into the question of introduction of octroi or do without it.

About the work of his panel, he said it would go into the implementation of the 54 recommendations of the first Finance Commission made in July 1996 (Dr. G.Thimmaiah, economist and former member of the Planning Commission, had headed it). He said that about 65 per cent of the panchayat raj institutions and urban local bodies had replied to the questionnaire sent by the Commission. Declining to reveal their replies, Mr. Murthy said all of them wanted to strengthen their revenue base. The zilla panchayats had control over 28 departments and their expenditure was on the rise.

To a question, he said the views of the local bodies had not been sought on the re-introduction of octroi. Besides them, people from various walks of life such as academics and MPs had replied to the questionnaire.

Mr. Murthy said the Commission might visit some of the districts for first hand appraisal of the financial requirements of the panchayats and urban local bodies. He would be visiting Mysore and Chamarajanagar districts later this month.

The Finance Commission would organise a State-level conference in October and it would be attended by the presidents, vice- presidents and chief executive officers of zilla panchayats, mayors and commissioners of city corporations and others.

Mr. Narasimha Murthy said the Commission, whose term would expire on December 31, would present a model report.

Lokayukta

He urged the Chief Minister, Mr. S.M.Krishna, to issue an ordinance to invest the Lokayukta with greater powers.

He said the Lokayukta should be empowered with powers to deal with persons who issued statements or spoke disparagingly of the holder of the high office and the institution.

However, Mr. Murthy declined to comment on a letter written by four legislators, including a Congress MLC, to the Chief Secretary, Ms. Teresa Bhattacharya, against the new Lokayukta, Mr. Justice N.Venkatachala, a retired judge of the Supreme Court.

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