Kerala to hold finance ministers meet to discuss terms in Finance Commission

Thomas Isaac

Sources in the minister's office said Telangana would not send a representative.

Issac said the states should be given the freedom to decide on what they need and not be dictated to. "The state government will fight legally in all ways to ensure our rights". TN Deputy CM O Paneerselvam, who also holds the finance portfolio, skipped the meeting.

"Puducherry is not even included in the Finance Commission".

In an unprecedented move, finance ministers of three southern states and one union territory came together on Tuesday, denounced the 15th Finance Commission's formula for sharing of revenue between the Centre and the states and chose to form a pressure group to oppose what they termed "anti-federal" policies of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.

Issac added that, hitherto, it was the Planning Commission that decided on the state's share from the central pool with regards to allocation under the plan expenditure, while the FC dealt with non-plan expenditure. "It may not be an overstatement to suggest that the fiscal autonomy of many states could be reduced to that of municipalities due to ill-conceived ToR".

The essential worry for the Southern States (and of course West Bengal) is that they may be penalized for their better performance on population control and other social indicators.

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Andhra Pradesh finance minister Ramakrishandu said most of the policies of the Union government were arbitrary in nature and against the federal polity of the country.

"There is a grave injustice to the best performing states". He took a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying he talks about co-operative federalism at all meetings, "but what was actually happening is dictatorship". "You tell me who I am", he said. We know the pulse of the people.

But, Tamil Nadu choosing to stay away has raised several eyebrows at this juncture. Andhra Pradesh finance minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu said they were not blaming the Finance Commission or its composition. We are against the changes made in the Terms of Reference (ToR) and we have opposed it.

The main contention of the Southern states is the usage of 2011 Census data as the reference point as against the 1971 data which would affect the Southern states that had controlled their population in the overall interests of the nation. The commission is going to consider the 2011 census to calculate the population of the states. According to the statistics available with the Centre, the population in south India went up just by 85 per cent, while in the BIMARU states in north India-Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh-had gone up by 144 per cent.

Again, by skipping the conference, Tamil Nadu has lost its opportunity to register its voice against the Centre along with its southern counterparts. We've to see that more power is given to states. However, the present AIADMK dispensation refuses to take a stand against the Central government, be it in Cauvery or 15th Finance Commission.

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