Progressive states join hands against Centre’s bias

Opposing the terms of reference of the 15th Finance Commissi­on, Andhra Pradesh ch­ief mi­nister N Chandr­ab­abu Na­idu on Monday said prog­r­essive states would lose he­avily if the 2011 census was taken as the basis for devolution of central funds.

He also demanded that the Centre respect the cooperative federal system. “It is not right to penalise states that are in the forefront in population control. We will not tolerate this injustice. We will fight till justice is secured,” he asserted.

Naidu was speaking after inaugurating the daylong co­nclave of finance minist­ers of various states here to discuss the fallout of the 15th Finance Commission’s terms of reference.

He pointed out that Kerala was leading all states in population control, and An­d­hra Pradesh has adopted firm measures to reduce po­p­ulation growth rate. “But now, population control is not our policy. Our ultimate objective is poverty eradication and we have accordingly been implementing various schemes,” Naidu noted.

He also apprehended th­at south Indian states would lose seats (in legislatures) if delimitation of constituencies was undertaken based on 2011 population. “South Indian states are under the threat of losing their emine­nce because they were successful in population control. It is not right for the Ce­n­tre to penalise such states,” he maintained.

Puducherry chief minister V Narayanasamy sought the president’s intervention against the ‘unilateral’ decision of the Centre. “The Ce­ntre should take decisio­ns in consultation with the states. If not, how can it be ca­lled federal spirit,” he said.

Kerala finance minister Th­omas Isaac, Andhra Pra­desh finance minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu, Bengal finance minister Am­it Mi­tra and others attended the conclave. Last month, Kerala had ho­sted a conference of fina­n­ce ministers of various sta­tes to discuss issues of common concern with respect to the 15th Finance Commission.

Responding to the concerns raised, Union finance minister Arun Jaitley had said on April 10 that there is no inherent bias or mandate in terms of reference, whi­ch could be construed as discr­iminatory against the states, which have made good pro­gress in population control.

He had said a needless controversy was being so­u­g­ht to be created that the te­rms of reference of the co­mmission were loaded agai­nst any particular region of the country. Pointing to the specific inclusion of reference – efforts and progress made in moving towards replaceme­nt rate of population growth – Jaitley had said it recognises the efforts of all the states that have done well in population control.

“This specific terms of reference would allow the 15th Finance Commission to propose a specific incentive scheme to reward the states, which have achieved replacement level of population growth, and also, if the 15th Finance Commission wishes to do so, to assign appropriate weight to the pro­g­r­ess made in population control while allocating resources,” Jaitley had stated.