With the Centre tabling the report of the Fifteenth Finance Commission, the Andhra Pradesh government is making a renewed attempt to seek special category status (SCS) for the state. A long-pending demand, SCS is one of the commitments made by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh before the state's bifurcation in 2014.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy congratulated the Centre on the Union Budget 2020-21.
"In these difficult times when the economy is sluggish and the sentiment is weak, the budget has been most reassuring and has provided necessary enthusiasm. There is, however, a sense of dissatisfaction in the people of the state of Andhra Pradesh, owing to the fact that there is no specific mention in the budget regarding the steps intended to be taken by the Centre to support the state," Jagan wrote.
Stating that he had highlighted the 'widespread distress' in his state multiple times, Jagan said that he was writing to Modi in the light of a statement contained in the report of the Fifteenth Finance Commission tabled in the Parliament.
Stating that bifurcation had benefitted Telangana but subjected Andhra Pradesh to "immense economic hardships," Jagan pointed that several announcements were made on the floor of the House at the time of passage of the AP Reorganization Bill, 2014.
The most important one of these, being SCS for the state.
"The people of the state have been subjected to gross injustice owing to the non-grant of SCS. The Centre has put forth the argument that, in accordance with the recommendations of the Fourteenth Finance Commission, SCS ceased to exist," Jagan wrote.
He also quoted a press release by the Ministry of Finance dated September 8, 2016, where it contended that the Fourteenth Finance Commission Report had not taken into account any distinction between special and general category states in determining their norms and recommendations, and therefore this has the effect of making the concept of SCS invalid.
"As a consequence, the state has undergone immense suffering putting a heavy burden on state government finances," Jagan wrote.
The Andhra Chief Minister said that given this, the state government had requested the Fifteenth Finance Commission to consider their request.
In their response to the state government, the Commission said that the issue was beyond their purview and came under the jurisdiction of the Centre.
In his letter, Jagan quoted the Chairman of the Commission NK Singh's response to reporters in October 2018, where he said, "It would be a transgression of the Presidential Notification by the Commission if it considers the issue of SCS as it does not figure in its Terms of Reference."
Jagan also pointed out that the report tabled in the Parliament said, "Some states have requested the grant of SCS. This does not constitute part of the mandate of the FC-XV and remains entirely in the domain of the Union Government, which can take an appropriate decision after due consideration."
"In this situation where the Finance Commission has taken a very clear stand that the issue of grant of SCS does not fall within the limits within which It operates, there is a very definite inconsistency between the stand taken by the Ministry of Finance and the stand taken by the Commission. The people of Andhra Pradesh remain hapless victims of this unfortunate scenario. I humbly seek your kind intervention in this matter," Jagan said in his letter.