- ADVOCATES DRASTIC RECAST OF THE CONSTITUTION FOR AUTONOMY TO STATES
- SAYS CENTRE SHOULD RETAIN ONLY KEY SUBJECTS OF NATIONAL CONCERN
- DEMANDS 50% SHARE OF TAXES FOR STATES
- SEEKS BASIC AMENITIES FOR PEOPLE RATHER DIVERTING PRECIOUS RESOURCES ON CAPITAL INTENSIVE PROJECTS OF BULLET TRAINS
- REQUESTS PM TO IMMEDIATELY BAIL OUT DEBT STRESSED STATES OF PUNJAB, KERALA AND WEST BENGAL
- DEMAND SIMILAR INDUSTRIAL INCENTIVES FOR PUNJAB AS EXTENDED TO NEIGHBOURING STATES
NewZNew (New Delhi) : Punjab Chief Minister Mr. Parkash Singh Badal today called for drastic recast of the constitution to give the country a genuinely federal structure, with the centre having exclusive jurisdiction on subjects of national concerns, such as Defence, External Affairs, Currency, Railways and Communications and a few others.
“Federalism is the only way to ensure speedy development to make India a true economic superpower and a world leader. States are like limbs of the country’s body politic. Strong limbs mean a strong body. Strong states mean a strong India. Upto now, there has been a confusion between a strong India and a strong centre. We stand for a strong and genuinely federal India,” said Mr Badal.
The Chief Minster said that the formula for distribution of resources between the centre and the states needs to be drastically reversed. The states must get a 50% share out of the central taxes and non-tax revenue, instead of the present 32% and these funds should be given in an untied manner, without prior conditionalities.
The distribution among states also should be based on a transparent formula in an untied manner instead of through political discretion under which larger states walk away with all the funds.
At present, the share of untied grants to states constituted only 15% of the plan funds and the remaining 85% were determined by the centre. These should be completely reversed, with the states getting 85% as untied funds.
Likewise, Mr. Badal underscored the need for a formula to give weightage to share of the scheduled caste population in a state, locational disadvantage such as live international border and contribution to National food security etc.
Taking part in meeting chaired by the Prime Minister on the need to replace the Planning Commission with a new mechanism in tune with the federal principle, the Chief Minister welcomed the proposed Council of Chief Ministers headed by the Prime Minister to replace PCI for making the goal of cooperative federalism a reality.
The Chief Minister termed this conference as historic for the country as henceforth the planning for the growth of this country would undergo drastic change with states having more say in the development of the states and the country. He said in the last 67 years of Independence the development process had become unitary in nature.
Mr. Badal said that the Shiromani Akali Dal was the first party in the country to advocate a federal structure for the country and for decentralising authority and planning process. Now the entire country is advocating what we did. We welcome the initiative of the Prime Minister on making the planning process truly federal, with greater fiscal and planning autonomy to states,” said Mr. Badal.
The Chief Minister also strongly advocated the need for replacing the archaic Planning Commission of India (PCI) with a meaningful alternative mechanism in tune with the federal spirit of the constitution, but added that the exercise must go beyond a mere change in name. “The temptation to create a new body in its place should be resisted. More important than the nomenclature of the body is its composition, its mandate and terms of reference.” What is required is a fundamental change of approach.”
Mr. Badal said that the PCI which was superimposed on the country’s constitutional structure through a mere administrative order violates the federal spirit, as it places excessive powers regarding planned development in the hands of the Centre. In this background, now the time has come for a drastic recasting of the constitution to make it genuinely federal in the light of our experience of the past 67 years.
Mr. Badal suggested the proposed council to be named as National and States Development Council (NSDC) having constitutional status and statutory powers leading to elimination of discretionary powers. Apart from taking policies decisions, the Council should also deliberate the country’s proposed stand before forums like World Trade Organisation (relating to agriculture etc), SAARC (inter-country border trade etc) which directly affects the states.
The Chief Minister also opined that an Executive Body comprising advisors, experts and specialists should be put in place to assist the Council. Keeping in view the federal structure, the members of the Executive Body should be drawn from the states.
Mr. Badal also suggested for the establishment of Regional Councils consisting of the Chief Ministers of similarly placed states and chaired by the PM to converge and speed up the process of development. Likewise, the State Planning Board should also be restructured to bring them in tune with changed socio-economic environment. Besides these, the Prime Minister should hold meetings with the Chief Minister of each state once in a quarter to resolve many burning issues.
Mr. Badal said that the NSDC should meet at least twice a year to deal with issues like the Indian economy, flagship programmes of the Union Government, human resource development, poverty alleviation, energy and environment. Similarly, the Regional Councils should meet bi-annually for strengthening economic and social development in the region. He said that although Punjab was in favour of continuation of five year plan cycle at the national level, but it wanted States to have autonomy for preparation of annual plans.
In a significant suggestion, he advocated doing away with the prevalent system of seeking approval from the Centre for their annual plans. He demanded the Five year Plan to be formulated in the background of perspective or long term plan, laying down the foundations of the future vision of the economy.
On setting up of innovation and knowledge hub/think tank, the Chief Minister said that the public policies should be formulated on the basis of thorough research by think tanks for which the state level research institutes and universities should be included in these think tanks vis-a-vis states should also establish such think tanks.
Similarly, even on state subjects, the centre had slowly acquired authority not only to legislate but even to control all the funds. He emphasized that though Agriculture was a state subject but all the key decision regarding the costs of inputs and outputs i.e. prices of agricultural produce were taken by the centre without taking state governments in confidence. Now even education has been monopolized by the centre. He also stressed that the country needs to focus on providing basic amenities like drinking water, toilets, quality education etc. instead of diverting precious resources on capital intensive projects like bullet trains.
The Chief Minister also requested the Prime Minister to take immediate action to help the three debt stressed states of Punjab, Kerala and West Bengal without any further delay. He also stressed that Industrial incentives given to some adjoining states must be extended to Punjab.
Emphasizing the need for restructuring the Finance Commission, Mr. Badal pointed out that this platform should have given due attention to this vital issue by making a part of its agenda and even suggested that the terms and reference of every Finance Commission should be discussed in the proposed Council in order to harmonize the Finance Commission with it to have far more better and effective coordination.
The Chief Minister was accompanied by his Principal Secretary Mr. SK Sandhu