The ex-Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, during an event, said that the government should take the views of the chief ministers before changing the terms of reference (ToR) for the 15th Finance Commission. He also added that unilateralism is not good for federal policy and cooperative federalism. The Centre in July had changed the terms of reference. They had made it mandatory for the panel to suggest ways for allocation of non-lapsable funds for defence and internal security.
Speaking at the 'National Seminar on Additional Terms of Reference of the 15th Finance Commission: Implication for the States', Singh said, “The best course would have been for the Central government that if it wants to tailor the terms of reference, it should be backed by Chief Ministers' Conference, which is now under the auspices of NITI Aayog, otherwise there would be strong feeling that the (Central) government is trying to rob the states of due resource allotment. I think that it is not good for the federal polity of our country and cooperative federalism we all swear by these days. The commission's report goes to the finance ministry and then it goes to the Cabinet and therefore the government of the day can take a view that whatever the mandate of the Parliament, the government would abide by that rather than imposing its view unilaterally on the reluctant state commissions. I respectfully request to the authorities to still take this view that they will go by the advice of the Chief Ministers if there is new controversy with regard to additional terms of reference of the commission.”
The late Former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, in January, had said that the 15th Finance Commission's Terms of Reference had balanced the needs of states represented by latest population 'very well'. He had also said that there was progress made towards population control. Although concerns were expressed by some states back then, they expressed that they could be at a disadvantage due to their progressive policies that have reduced population growth in the context of proposed resource allocation by the Commission. Against this backdrop, Jaitley had told the House that Terms of Reference of the Commission have been framed with a very great sense of responsibility keeping in mind the balance.
(Inputs from PTI)