New Delhi: Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Friday defended the terms of reference of the 15th Finance Commission and said the body headed by N.K. Singh will do a “balancing act" while allocating resources to states, keeping in mind both their size by population and progress made in population control. Jaitley’s comments follow protests by many states, especially in the south, over the 15th Finance Commission’s mandate to use 2011 census data rather than the 1971 one for resource allocation.
The South Indian states, as well as Odisha and Punjab, have reduced population growth rates in recent decades while those of most northern states such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have remained high. Southern states allege that if the 15th Finance Commission uses the 2011 census data, more resources will be transferred to northern states, penalizing states that have succeeded in controlling population.
“If the economically less affluent are provided less, then the poor in India will remain poor because they will be provided less resources and the economically more progressive will be provided more resources. Obviously, that can’t be the intention of any government in power. So these 15th Finance Commission terms have been framed with great sense of responsibility keeping the balance in mind," Jaitley told the Lok Sabha, answering questions put by Congress member from Kerala, Shashi Tharoor.
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Jaitley said the 14th Finance Commission had the mandate to use only 1971 population data, but took into account data of both 1971 and 2011, assigning 17.5% and 10% weights respectively.
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“The 14th Finance Commission did a balancing act. I am sure the constitutional authority will continue to do a balancing act," Jaitley said.
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Rejecting Tharoor’s point that Lok Sabha representation has also been frozen till 2026 based on 1971 population levels, Jaitley said the two cannot be compared as one refers to preserving the representation of people while the other allocates resources to states.