States wary of ‘one-size-fits-all’ central schemes

July 25th, 2010 - 5:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh By Rana Ajit
New Delhi, July 25 (IANS) An increasing number of states today are growing restive about the central government’s increasing tendency to impose its schemes on them irrespective of their efficacy and feel the “one-size-fits-all” approach no longer works for them.

The resentment was highlighted during the 55th National Developmental Council (NDC) meet here Saturday, which was chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and saw virtually all chief ministers in attendance, apart from key members of the central cabinet.

Cutting across political affiliations of their ruling parties, even some Congress-ruled states such as Maharashtra expressed reservations against central schemes — which was literally resented by parties with both Left and right-wing ideologies.

“There is a growing tendency on the part of the central government to start ambitious and populist schemes for which they take credit at the expense of states by lowering allocations,” Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said.

“Earlier discussions favoured reduction both in the number and allocation of resources for centrally-sponsored schemes. Far from this, we see a reverse trend to expand these schemes in multiple ways including through legislation”, said Kumar.

“This represents an increased encroachment on the autonomy of the states contrary to the spirit the Constitution,” he said.

“The 13th Finance Commission also recommended that initiative should be taken to reduce the number of one-size-fits-all centrally-sponsored scheme,” Kumar said and expressed resentment that such schemes were announced without any consultation with states.

The central government, in contrast, has often found states lacking in implementing various programmes and this has been one of the reasons why it now increasingly prefers to fund local bodies at the grassroots level directly for various schemes.

Bihar’s anguish was also reflected by Communist-ruled Kerala. Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan said state governments have been opposed to centrally-sponsored schemes - such as those on roads, education, employment and healthcare - for a long time.

“We demanded instead that the sum spent on them should be directly handed over to tyhe states to spend as per their own requirements, rather than on some uniform, one-size-fits-all basis,” the Kerala chief minister said.

“The union government has not only ignored this request but is now making available, under these schemes, large sums of money directly to various agencies in the state, bypassing the state government budget,” said Achuthanandan.

“This erodes accountability and sets an unhealthy precedent,” he warned.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was equally angry. “In recent years there has been a dangerous tendency on the part of central government ministries to tarnsfer funds directly to Panchayati Raj institutions, bypassing the state government,” he said.

“We have a well-defined federal structure and any tendency top tinker with it or disturb it will have grave consequences in the future.”

Chief Minister Ashok Chavan of the Congress party-led Maharastra government, too, voiced reservations against such practices of the federal government and sought meaningful role for states in formulating such schemes.

“Equally important is the need to reduce the state’s share in implementing these schemes keeping in view the fact that state governments have limited resources of their own and have to depend upon the central government for devolution of fund.”

(Rana Ajit can be reached at rana.ajit@ians.in and biz@ians.in)

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