Why Punish Us For Controlling Population, Enraged Southern States Ask

Every five years, a finance commission decides how to split the money raised through taxes between the centre and India's different states.

Tamil Nadu and other southern states say it is only 1971 census that must be considered


  • Dispute over distribution of taxes between centre and states
  • New proposal rewards those with bigger populations, says south
  • Were being punished for controlling population growth, says south
New Delhi: One of the BJP's top strategists, Ram Madhav, held an important meeting this morning on what has blown up as a huge dispute between the central government and the four large southern states. Ram Madhav met with NK Singh of his party; last year, Mr Singh, a former top bureaucrat, was named the head of the 15th Finance Commission. The controversy in which he is centrally placed lies in whether southern states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala will get a smaller share of tax revenue only because their population has decreased - an accomplishment for which they should be rewarded, not penalised.

Sources said after this morning's meeting that measures will be taken to ensure that is not the case. Southern leaders like MK Stalin, the leader of the opposition in Tamil Nadu, E Panneerselvam, the Chief Minister of the state, and others say they need a clearer assurance and accuse the centre of highway robbery and of plundering the spirit of federalism that Prime Minister Narendra Modi claims to champion.

Every five years, a finance commission decides how to split the money raised through taxes between the centre and India's different states.  Among the biggest factors in deciding the allocation is a state's population - for this, the census of 1971 was being used. But now, the centre has asked for the distribution of revenue to be based on the population data of the last census, conducted in 2011. This drastically shrinks the share of states like Tamil Nadu who have succeeded in easily beating the national average when it comes to controlling population growth. At the same time, the share of revenue due to northern states like Bihar would expand significantly only because their share of the population is much larger.

"States like UP and Bihar have not done the hard work needed to improve development indicators, including empowering their women; thus they have a still-exploding population, even as the South and East see their populations decline. Rewarding states for failing is fundamentally unfair to those who have made sacrifices in the past," writes columnist Mihir Sharma for NDTV.

The 14th finance commission introduced the more recent 2011 census as an element in its calculation - and even that slight change cost Tamil Nadu nearly Rs 6,000 crores, its politicians have said.

Now, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and others say it is only the 1971 census that must be considered.