13th CFC takes federalism to a new low - lower than Georgie took it

The 13th Central Finance Commission, a body appointed by president Pratibha Patil, is out with its recommendations. Not surprisingly, the commission delivers a further blow to India's future as a truly federal country. While the Commission claims that its recommendations are "consistent with the principles of federal finance" and "fiscal federalism", it's clear that the Commission does not have the slightest clue of what federalism is.

Why, you ask? This should suffice as an explanation: the commission has recommended that local self-government bodies be given a direct share in Union tax revenues, bypassing the state governments. Here's what Vinoj Abraham, who teaches at the Thiruvananthapuram based Centre for Development Studies, has to say about the dangerous proposal to ignore even the presence of state governments (such as the Government of Karnataka):
“It is like bypassing the state, and the Centre will be directly dealing with the local self-governments (LSGs). The LSGs will get their grants on the basis of their performance and their share from the tax revenues and states will not have much powers on them.”
Well well well - what are we getting to here? Wasn't it better in the times of the British when the Viceroy of India atleast realized the importance of paying due respect to the princely states - respect not just for history but also for good governance and democracy? When the beginnings of a politically united India were sown, a Chamber of Princes was formed by a Royal Proclamation on 8 February 1921 and inaugurated by the Duke of Connaught on behalf of the King-Emperor in the Dewan-i-am of the Red Fort in Delhi. King George V in his proclamation defined the limits of the Chamber of Princes - which was really the birth of political India - thus:
It will have no concern with the internal affairs of individual States or their Rulers or with the relations of individual States with my Government, while the existing rights of these states and their freedom of action will in no way be prejudiced or impaired.
If this is the responsibility with which a colonial government acted, and this is the concern for good governance, democracy and people's right to self-governance that it had, doesn't one expect the Government of Free India to be better? If a colonial government had the sensibility to not prejudice or impair the freedom of action of the Indian States, doesn't one expect the Government of Free India to be better? Doesn't one expect the Government of Free India to do better than (to use the words of King George V) impair the privileges, rights, and dignities of the States of India?

By George, what's going on here in India?


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