New Delhi: A panel that has been reviewing relations and the balance of power between the Centre and the state governments will submit its report to Union home minister P. Chidambaram on Monday, before its three-year term ends on 27 April.
The Commission on Centre-State Relations (CCSR) is expected to suggest in its report changes on an array of subjects—from the sharing of funds between the Union and state governments to the role of the Centre during caste and communal conflicts and the planning and implementation of big projects such as the interlinking of rivers.
Some experts, however, say lack of political unity may put paid to the implementation of any Union reforms that are recommended by the panel.
The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government set up the five-member CCSR, headed by retired chief justice Madan Mohan Punchhi, in April 2007 as part of the ruling coalition’s common minimum programme of governance. It came nearly two decades after the justice Rajinder Singh Sarkaria Commission submitted its report on the same issue.
“In the light of experiences and the requirements of a modern and rapidly processing economy, it is, in our view, time to revisit the entire scheme of assignment of tax powers to the different levels of government,” justice Punchhi said, while addressing a workshop of the commission about a year ago in Chandigarh.
Other members of the panel are Dhirendra Singh and V.K. Duggal, both former secretaries to the government; N.R. Madhava Menon, former director of National Judicial Academy; and Vijay Shanker, former director of the Central Bureau of Investigation.
Their report will come at a time when the government has promised to harmonize tax structures across the country by introducing the goods and services tax, or GST, in the fiscal year beginning 1 April 2011.
“We look forward to the report with great anticipation in terms of potential of the recommendation to unleash a paradigm which could change Centre-state relations as it is looked upon in the country,” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said.
Ravi Shankar Prasad, general secretary and chief spokesperson of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said: “The need of the hour is greater reciprocity rather than greater encroachment in times of tragedies like that of Dantewada and (the) deteriorating internal security scenario.”
He was referring to the growing threat of Maoist militants in parts of the country, exemplified by the recent killing of 76 security personnel in a single attack at Dantewada, Chhattisgarh. Poor coordination between the Centre and state governments is seen as a key reason for the failure to curb the Left-wing extremists.
Besides the main report, the commission is also likely to submit a supplementary volume including the responses of various political parties, state governments, Union ministers and civil society representatives.
A senior BJP leader, who responded to the commission on behalf of his party, said he knew of at least two other national parties that had asked the commission to desist from recommending a dilution of the powers of state governments. He did not want to be identified.
Analysts don’t have high hopes for change. “Whatsoever be the recommendations, in the present state of affairs it would be difficult for the government to implement them,” said Jagdeep Chhokar, founding member of the Association for Democratic Reforms.
“It is not only due to the fragile majority of the government, but (also due to) the lack of general political will and unity for bringing about reforms of this nature, which streamlines and weeds out the clashes in the federal structure,” he said.