Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Saturday that the Centre should have taken suggestions from state chief ministers before amending the terms of reference for the 15th Finance Commission.
He further stated that unilateralism is not good for the cooperative federalism and federal policy.
In July, the government had changed the terms of reference for the commission and mandated the panel to give suggestions for allocation of non-lapsable funds for defence and internal security.
“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 a chief ministers’ conference under the auspices of NITI Aayog. Otherwise, there would be a strong feeling that the government is trying to rob the states of due resource allotment,” he said.
“I think that it is not good for the federal polity of our country and cooperative federalism we all swear by these days,” Singh added while addressing the gathering at National Seminar on Additional Terms of Reference of the 15th Finance Commission: Implication for the States.
“The commission’s report goes to the Finance Ministry, and then it goes to the Cabinet. Therefore the government of the day can take a view that whatever the mandate of Parliament, the government would abide by that, rather than imposing its view unilaterally on the reluctant state commissions,” he said.
“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,” said Singh.
The senior Congress leader also talked about the role of commission. “There are certain basic issues like allocations for health, education and other important subjects like environment protection where all states have a legitimate interest. What should be done by the government is to evolve a broad national consensus in dealing with all these issues, otherwise, there would be bickering and dissatisfaction. This is not good for the federal polity of our country.”