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Finance Commission to address issues of freebies, compensation for green cover: Arvind Panagariya

He said that the finance commission has been a neutral body since 1952 and works professionally.
Last Updated : 24 June 2024, 14:27 IST

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Shimla: The 16th Finance Commission would address the issues pertaining to the distribution of freebies and compensation for providing green cover, Chairman Arvind Panagariya said on Monday.

Speaking with reporters here after deliberations with the Himachal Pradesh government, Panagariya said that expectations and needs of the state have been discussed and a 90-slide presentation was given by the officials which emphasized that the cost of everything is much higher in the state due to its difficult terrain.

Replying to a question, the chairman said, "The issue of freebies would also be addressed by the commission as we are aware that freebies have proliferated and there is a competition among the states and the political parties to give freebies..

It is pertinent to mention that the Congress government in the state had promised to give Rs 1,500 per month to women in the age bracket of 18 to 59 years in its poll manifesto released on the eve of the last assembly polls held in 2022.

He said that the finance commission has been a neutral body since 1952 and works professionally. This is the first state consultation and the commission would visit other states before deciding the parameters on which the recommendations would be based.

Himachal was chosen as the first state as monsoon is arriving and the state government has to attend to monsoon-related issues, the members said, adding that the old pension scheme is also an issue which would impact the expenses.

Addressing reporters later, Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu said, "We have explained the condition of the state and debt liability to the members of the 16th finance commission and apprised them that the previous BJP government took huge loans and we have to take loans to pay the debt.

"We said that water is our asset and if we put cess on it, the Court stays it and asked the commission to take into consideration that Himachal has huge forest cover (68 per cent of the total land) and we are the lungs of North India and we can increase our revenue if we permit to cut forests but we have put a complete ban on cutting of trees on forest land," he said.

The revenue deficit grant (RDG) was just Rs 3,000 crore this year. Earlier during the previous government the RDG was about Rs 10,000 crores, the chief minister said and added that we said that the RDG should be increased as being a hilly state with tough terrain the cost of construction is more here as compared to plain areas.

The hill and plain areas cannot have the same parameters, he said and added that parameters of funding for disaster can also not be the same for hilly areas.

The chief minister said that the state had been contributing immensely in maintaining the green cover (forest cover) of the Himalayan region due to which the State was suffering revenue losses to the tune of thousands of crores which had never been compensated.

In the larger interest of the country, the state government had imposed a complete ban on the felling of trees despite the fact that it could earn revenue of thousands of crores by cutting trees. Moreover, the state has also not been granted permission under the Forest Conservation Act (FCA) since 2017.

Sukhu urged the Finance Commission to provide liberal financial assistance to the state for its contributions to the nation. He emphasized that it was necessary to develop the border areas of the state to ensure national security and provide basic facilities to the people of the border areas to check their exodus.

He said that the state was prone to natural disasters and it should be given special preference in post-disaster management and relief and the disaster risk index should be made on the basis of possible disasters in Himachal Pradesh and all other Himalayan region states.

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Published 24 June 2024, 14:27 IST

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