The Old Testament narrates the story of Uriah and King David and the injustice that the latter committed against the former. The story goes like this. King David, one day saw a beautiful woman bathing. Apparently, the woman happened to be the wife of one of his men, Uriah. King David lusted after Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba; He desired her and later made her pregnant. Since she was the wife another man and the fact that Uriah was sincerely fighting for King David, the King decided to cover up his sin. He summoned Uriah from the battlefield, thinking that once when Uriah is back, he may have sex with Bathsheba and think that the child was his. Uriah, being a man of sincerity and dedication, decided to stay with his fellow warriors rather than going back home and sleep with his wife. After the repeated attempts of David to convince Uriah failed to owe to the latter’s dedication, David decided to get Uriah killed in the war. In order to get Uriah killed, David gave the order to his military general Joab that Uriah must be placed on the front lines of the battle so that the chances of him getting killed would be higher. As per the plan of King David, Uriah got killed and later, King David married Bathsheba. If we look at this Biblical story, we may see how Uriah was punished for his sincerity and love towards own kingdom. He was loyal and it return, he was treated with grave injustice.
Similarly, if we just look into the current developments in the Indian polity, we may see a King David, Uriah, and a Bathsheba. If the 15th Finance Commission in the new King David, the role of Uriah is being played by the Southern states. The nation would be committing grave injustice to the Southern states if certain recommendations of the finance commission are accepted and implemented on deciding the allocation of resources between the various Indian States.
The Finance Commission of India is a body which derives its power from Article 280 of the Indian constitution. Though the commission is granted with several duties and responsibilities in the domain of public finance, the most important amongst them is the responsibility to allocate the revenue resources between the centre and state governments. This is very crucial for a country like India as there are a lot of differences between all 29 States of the country, in terms of population, geographic area, tax base, availability of natural resources etc. The 15th Finance Commission is headed by former bureaucrat and BJP leader NK Singh and the recommendations of the 15th commission will come into effect from 2020 to 2025. The reason for the current tensions between the centre and the Southern Ssates are due to a particular Terms of Reference (ToR) given the Finance Commission, which directs the commission to use the 2011 census as the base year for population rather than the 1971 census followed until the 14th commission.
The problem with the shift from 1971 census data on population to the 2011 data is with the growth trends across the country; whereas the Northern states, particularly the BIMARU states, recorded a huge increase in the population, most of the South Indian States saw a relative decline in the population growth rates. The Southern states believe that if the 2011 census is used instead of 1971, then this would lead to an increase in the resources allocated for the Northern States and lesser revenue for the Southern states. The biggest problem would be that, by doing so, the Central government would penalize the Southern states for their social initiative to bring down the population growth rate. While the Southern states have done an exemplary job in population control, most of the BIMARU states have barely any initiatives to regulate the influx of the population growth. It was for the same reason, the 42nd amendment of constitution froze the population estimates with the 1971 census and made it mandatory to use it as a base for the purpose of delimitation. By allowing the finance commission to shift the base year from 1971 to 2011, the Central government is essentially mocking at the pursuits of the Southern states to reduce population and increase the standards of living.
For a country like India where the population becomes one of the biggest challenges, such policies without any vision would lead to a further divide between the North and the South and essentially, threatening the national integrity. Since the Terms of Reference acts as the guiding principle for the Finance Commission, any formula based on the latest census would definitely go against the interests of the Southern States by putting them at a disadvantageous position. What the Central government and the Finance Commission must remember is the fact that one cannot ensure national integrity and brotherhood through unitary administration; rather, only cooperative federalism can keep the country together.