A source close to OPS, however, told TNM that the TN government may send a bureaucrat to attend the Finance Ministers meeting.

TN Finance Minister O Panneerselvam to not attend southern FM meet in Kerala
news Finance Monday, April 09, 2018 - 13:24

Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, who holds the Finance portfolio, has decided to skip the South Indian Finance Ministers meeting organised by the Kerala government in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday. The meeting was called for by Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac following opposition among the southern states over the 15th Finance Commission’s Terms of Reference (ToR).

Speaking to TNM, a source close to OPS confirmed that the Deputy CM will not be attending the meeting, stating, “It was never part of his schedule. The TN government may send a bureaucrat to represent the state.”

The 15th Finance Commission is a body that determines how much tax money collected by the Centre is allocated to various states in the country. 

Most south Indian states have voiced their opposition to the Commission because the Terms of Reference have recommended using the 2011 Census to calculate population as against the 1971 Census, which was used by previous commissions. 

Southern states, which have controlled their population over the years, argue that changing the baseline will affect them.

Tamil Nadu’s decision to not attend the meeting comes even as the EPS government has taken a soft approach towards the Centre, choosing to be conciliatory on certain issues. EPS and OPS, who are facing the wrath of the Opposition and farmer groups in the state over the Cauvery issue, are dependent on the Centre taking a favourable decision regarding setting up the Cauvery Management Board.

OPS had earlier told reporters, “We hope that the 15th Finance Commission will ensure justice by providing enhanced allocation and encourage Tamil Nadu.” This despite OPS’s budget speech in the Assembly stating that Tamil Nadu had experience an ‘adverse impact’ on account of the 14th Finance Commission, which had for the first time given 10% weightage to the 2011 Census, while reducing the weight to the 1971 Census, which was given 17.5%.  

Tamil Nadu’s Leader of Opposition and DMK working President MK Stalin had in March written to the 10 Chief Ministers including EPS over the 15th Finance Commission. Terming it a travesty of justice, he urged the CMs – who belong to non-BJP states- to join him in demand modifications to the ToRs.   

Read: Stalin calls Centre’s allocation of funds to states a ‘travesty of justice’, writes to 10 CMs

Meanwhile, states that have confirmed their presence include Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Puducherry.

Karnataka’s Agriculture Minister Krishna Byre Gowda, who will represent the state, had called the Terms of Reference as "an unilateral decision" by the Centre that goes against federal co-operative structure of the country.

Read: Karnataka to participate in meeting of southern finance ministers: Krishna Byre Gowda

Pointing out that the Commission’s recommendation penalises states like Karnataka, he said, "The 15th FC unfortunately disincetivises the progressive states which have worked hard to implement the national schemes. We are demanding that the Centre makes changes in the Terms of Reference.”

He also went to argue that for progressive states that had already controlled its population, the Commission was in fact penalising them. “The Terms of Reference includes provision for incentivising efforts to bring down population growth to 2.1. Though on the face of it looks like a progressive measure, this provision excludes states that have already brought population rate down. So all the progressive states had gone ahead in using their own resources in order to achieve this national goal. Progressive states are punished for doing right things and delivering national duty," Byre Gowda said.

In an interview to TNM earlier, Kerala FM Thomas Isaac had said that the intention of the meeting was to have an exchange of ideas among the states.

“We may not even have a common agenda, but we will be exchanging our views. It’s a platform to raise views, a platform to raise concerns. Our intention is not to project it as a political issue, we have not invited political parties for the meeting, but state governments,” said the Kerala FM.

Isaac, who is a well-known economist had also noted that the ToR’s recommendation to use the 2011 Census would affect Tamil Nadu the most, stating, “It is Tamil Nadu which is the worst affected by this as the population growth in the state is much less. The share of Tamil Nadu, if population is kept as the criteria, will be reduced from 7.59% to 6.04%. Andhra may lose around Rs 40,000 crore. Kerala, in a year, would lose around Rs 20,000- to Rs 30,000 crores.”

Also read: ‘There will be a public backlash in 2019’: Kerala FM to TNM on central funds to states

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