Six states to petition president for change in finance panel ToRs

Finance ministers of six non-BJP ruled states would meet President Ram Nath Kovind in New Delhi on Thursday and submit a me­morandum, seeking amendments to the terms of reference (ToRs) of the 15th Finance Commission.

The finance ministers of Kerala, West Bengal, Pudu­cherry, Punjab and Delhi, besides Andhra Pradesh, will be part of the delegation, state finance minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu said.

“We will explain the damage that will be caused to states because of the terms of reference of the 15th Finance Commission and seek his intervention,” he said in a press release here on Wednesday.

A conclave of chief ministers and finance ministers of various states here on May 7 noted that the terms of reference “posed a threat to the economic independence of the states” and made a str­ong pitch for assured devolution (of funds) rather th­an discretionary devolution.

It strongly opposed the terms of reference, saying they reflected the Centre’s ‘discriminatory’ attitude towards the states.

A draft memorandum approved at the conclave said the 15th Finance Commission’s terms of reference “violate the federal principle as enshrined in the Constitution, erode autonomy of all states, and bring significant financial hardship”.

While suggesting at least 13 amendments to the terms of reference, the conclave also wanted Union Territories with legislature (Delhi and Puducherry) included along with states for consideration by the 15th Finance Commission.

The main amendment sought was to para 4 (ii) to restore the words ‘which are in need of assistance’, mentioned in Article 275 of the Constitution, in the appropriate place. It also wanted the last sentence in para 5 relating to revenue deficit grants deleted.

In para 6, the conclave sought deletion of the words ‘likely to be reached by 2024-25’ and insertion of current after the words ‘on the basis of’. Terms referring to flagship schemes of the government of India and direct benefits transfer should also be deleted, it said.