Finance Commissions terms of reference a huge threat to India’s federal structure: Thomas Isaac

Kerala’s Finance Minister Thomas Isaac, the mastermind of the conclave, said a memorandum will be submitted to the President seeking addenda to the ToR.

Published: 11th April 2018 01:51 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th April 2018 03:17 AM   |  A+A-

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Karnataka Agriculture Minister Krishna Byre Gowda, Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac and Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala during the inauguration of southern states’ Finance Ministers’ conclave held in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday | B P Deepu

By Express News Service

All the participants - Puducherry CM V  Narayanasamy, Andhra Pradesh Finance Minister Yanamala Rama Krishnudu, Karnataka Agriculture Minister Krishna Byre Gowda and Isaac - raised issues in the ToR that would affect their finances

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala’s Finance Minister Thomas Isaac, the mastermind of the conclave, said a memorandum will be submitted to the President seeking addenda to the terms of reference (ToR) to rectify the biases towards ‘performing’ states. He termed the ToR a huge threat to the federal structure of the country. The next round of meeting will be conducted at Visakhapatnam in May first week with the participation of more states like Delhi, West Bengal, Punjab and Odisha.Isaac said the nationwide campaign against the anti-federal policies of the Central Government would certainly get the support of non-BJP ruled states.

According to Isaac, the discussion did not limit to FC, but dealt with the larger issue of frictions in centre-state relations. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who inaugurated the conclave, asked the Centre to facilitate the reframing of the ToR which are biased against progressive states. “We fear the ToR would prevent the FC from fulfilling its Constitutional responsibility. It should be guided by the  Constitution and not arbitrary guidelines by the Central Government,” he said.

All the participants of the meeting --- Puducherry Chief Minister V  Narayanasamy, Andhra Pradesh Finance Minister Yanamala Rama Krishnudu, Karnataka Agriculture Minister Krishna Byre Gowda and Thomas Isaac --- raised issues in the ToR that would affect their finances.In a scathing attack on the Centre, Narayanasamy shared Puducherry’s dilemma as it was excluded from the purview of both the Finance Commissions --- the one for states and the other for UTs.

“My representation to the Prime Minister to consider UTs with Legislature under any of the FC is yet to be considered,” he said. He said the ToR was the latest example for the Centre’s growing tendency to snatch state’s powers. “They are encroaching upon state’s powers, slowly, yet in a planned way. It is high time that we protected our rights,” he said.Yanamala Rama Krishnudu pointed out that the ToR facilitates protection of Central schemes and disruption of state schemes. In his opinion, the ToR should be rolled back and the FC be given more freedom to arrive upon its own devolution formula.
At the meeting, Karnataka pitched for a “win-win” solution that can help both the under-developed and progressive states. Its representative Krishna Byre Gowda wished the Centre will engage in a dialogue with all stakeholders.

“If they refuse, we can say that they are biased against progressive states. But poll-bound Karnataka won’t take the lead for a dialogue with the Centre as it could send a wrong message,” he said.
With the Visakhapatnam meet set to witness the participation of more states, the anti-Centre alliance would grow stronger. But a consensus solution to be formulated by the participating states too is a contentious issue as the objectionable provisions in the ToR may differ for each state. But for Isaac, the common demands are more stronger than the natural differences. “There will be consensus on the cut on state transfers, new restrictions and performance-based grants,” he said.

The absence of Tamil Nadu and Telangana in the conclave too revealed the challenges ahead for the anti-Centre alliance. While Telangana did not respond to Kerala’s invite, Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister O Pannerselvam retracted in the last minute.Kerala Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala too pointed out that though the meet is not political at all, there’s political relevance.

“There’s a move to encroach into the state’s rights. Going by the ToR set by the 15th Finance Commission, the best-performing states will be badly affected. The southeren states have come together as they are the ones mainly affected. We have nothing against the Centre supporting poor performing states. But it should not be at the cost of best-performers,” Chennithala said. Asked, Chennithala opined Tamil Nadu might have skipped the meet due to political compulsions.

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