New Delhi: The controversy regarding the mandate of the 15th Finance Commission (FFC) further escalated on Friday with Odisha joining its Southern counterparts in opposing the mandate of the FC which allegedly favours Northern states that have a higher population growth rate.
In a letter written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday alleged that the terms of reference of FFC departed significantly from the past FCs. “Instead of giving freedom to the commission to arrive at its recommendations on resource sharing between the centre and the states based on the respective needs and after due consultations, there are leading suggestions in the ToR indicating the overriding priorities and concerns of the Union government," he said.
The ToR set by the government has asked the FFC to review increased burden on the centre due to the 42% tax devolution mandated by the 14th Finance Commission to states given the continuing imperative of the national development programme. Patnaik alleged these references to FC by the central government “seem to nudge the commission to adopt a particular stance."
The controversial mandate of using 2011 Census data instead of the earlier practice of using 1971 Census data, Patnaik said is contrary to National Population Policy Statements and the assurances to states which have actively implemented population stabilisation measures. “It will have a huge adverse impact on our share in devolution as Odisha is already below the population replacement rate of 2.1% indicating that we have stabilised our population. We demand that population data of 1971 Census should be used by the 15th Finance Commission while making its recommendations," he added.
Among major states, Bihar (25.1%), Chhattisgarh (22.6%) and Jharkhand (22.3%) have the highest decadal (2000-2011) population growth rates, according to the 2011 census. On the other hand, southern and eastern states like Andhra Pradesh (11.1%), West Bengal (13.9%) and Odisha (14%) have among the lowest decadal population growth rates.
The southern states led by Kerala have also opposed the terms of reference, demanding the use of the 1971 census so as not to penalize southern states that have achieved replacement rate of population growth.
However, speaking on the matter, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said the allegation of favouring Northern States over Southern states was “baseless". Union finance minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday also called the controversy “needless". He said although the 14th FC had no specific mandate for using the 2011 census, yet it rightly allocated 10% weight to 2011 census population data to capture the demographic changes since 1971 to make a realistic assessment of the needs of states.