Concerns over central fund distribution: Kerala to host south finance ministers

Kerala will host a conference of finance ministers and secretaries of southern states and Puducherry in Thiruvananthapuram, on Tuesday, in an effort to build consensus regarding the Terms of Reference (ToR) of the 15th Finance Commission.

Kerala Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac said here on Monday that Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu have confirmed representation in the meeting. Sources in the minister's office said Telangana would not send a representative.

Isaac reiterated that the commission's ToR are undemocratic and in conflict with the federal structure. Through the meeting, the participants are trying to address concerns about the formula adopted in distribution of central funds and mobilise a national debate on the matter.

The conference will be inaugurated by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Representatives will speak during the inaugural session and, later, present their position on six themes identified as central to the conference.

Isaac has already raised concerns over the Finance Commission considering the 2011 population census to base its ToR, a move that adversely impacts the southern states which attained considerable progress in taking up family planning measures. "Between 1971 and 2011, the population in Kerala has increased by 56% while the rise in northern states including Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh has been over 150%," he said.

Andhra Pradesh Finance Minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu, Karnataka Agriculture Minister Krishna Byre Gowda and Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanaswamy are expected to participate in the meeting. "From Tamil Nadu, instead of the finance minister, (Minister for Personnel and Administrative Reforms) D Jayakumar will attend," a source in the finance minister's office told DH.

The conference themes also cover Goods and Services Tax, release of grants to states and incentives to states based on populist schemes.

Isaac said he was not questioning assistance to states based on their social backwardness but said it could not be the sole criterion. "We have nothing against the commission or its composition; our concerns are about the terms of reference that prevent it from providing space for a fair discussion," the minister said.

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