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Naveen urges Modi for Central schemes like North-Eastern, Himalayan States

Naveen Patnaik

Bhubaneswar: Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik today wrote Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging to allow Odisha to avail sharing pattern in the Centrally Sponsored Schemes at par with North-Eastern and Himalayan States.

“Odisha has been demanding Special Category Status for a long time. We have made relentless efforts to reduce poverty and improve human development indicators such as literacy, infant mortality, maternal mortality, nutrition, health, drinking water and other social infrastructure in our State. However, our State has a high percentage of population belonging to Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes. Historically, the physical and social infrastructure in a large number of districts has been inadequate requiring huge resources to plug the gap. Central schemes such as Special Plan for KBK, IAP for LWE affected districts, Backward Regions Grant Fund have been discontinued. Our repeated requests for allowing our State to avail sharing pattern in the Centrally Sponsored Schemes at par with North-Eastern and Himalayan States have also not been accepted. This issue needs urgent consideration,” Naveen wrote.

Besides, the Chief Minister expressed serious concern over the Terms of Reference (ToR) stipulated by the Centre in the 15th Finance Commission for devolution of funds to States and sought Prime Minister’s intervention in the matter.

The Presidential order dated 27th November, 2017 on constitution and Terms of Reference of the 15th Finance Commission has made significant departures from the Terms of Reference of previous Finance Commissions, which may have adverse impact on horizontal devolution for Odisha as well as vertical devolution for States. Our main suggestions during the consultations prior to notification of the Terms of Reference appear to have been ignored, he mentioned.

On vertical devolution, the Terms of Reference seek to put fetters on the remit of the Commission. Instead of giving the freedom to the Commission to arrive at its recommendations on resource sharing between the Centre and 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. For instance, the reference to the impact of enhanced devolution recommended by the 14th Finance Commission on the fiscal situation of the Union Government and the imperative of New India-2022 seem to nudge the Commission to adopt a particular stance, he added.

On horizontal devolution, the Terms of Reference make a radical departure by mandating the Commission to use the population data of 2011 while making its recommendations. Population criterion is a very important factor in determination of share of a State in the divisible pool. In order to encourage the States to stabilize population, successive National Population Policy Statements have taken 1971 Census population level as the basis for devolution, Grant-in-aid as well as other incentives, he further added.

Even the number of representatives in the Lok Sabha (on the basis of population) have been frozen at 1971 Census level through successive Constitutional amendments, the last being the 84th Constitutional amendment whereby the freeze was extended until 2026, Naveen mentioned.

In this context, the Terms of Reference for 15th Finance Commission asking the use of 2011 Census data 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 stablised our population. We demand that population data of 1971 Census should be used by the 15th Finance Commission while making its recommendations, the Chief Minister demanded.

In many of the performance based incentives indicated in the Terms of Reference, it may not be possible to have measurable indicators. Besides, there is no incentive for the States which have achieved the replacement rate of population growth. On the contrary, they will lose out as the population data of 2011 Census will be used by the Commission unless the Terms of Reference are suitably amended, he mentioned.

I would, therefore, request your personal intervention in the matter so that the issues raised above are appropriately addressed, Naveen concluded.

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