On Monday, Rao Inderjit Singh, Union Minister of State for Planning, informed the Rajya Sabha and that the Special Category State status for some States had been discarded and that the Union government had decided to increase the share of net shareable taxes to the States from 32 per cent to 42 per cent for the period 2015-20. The minister also informed the Rajya Sabha that the 14th Fince Commission had not made any distinction between General Category States and Special Category States in the horizontal distribution of shareable taxes among the States. This is an initiative that ought to be hailed all over the country by everyone believing in the equality of States as far as Central grants and assistance are concerned. However, it is obvious that States that had long enjoyed the status of Special Category States are bound to be greatly chagrined at this sudden loss of special status that had been extended to them for over four decades. This anger found expression in the Assam Assembly on Monday when Assam Fince Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma proposed a censure motion against former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for being responsible for undermining Assam’s interests by various policies followed by the previous UPA government. Sarma told the Legislative Assembly that the 14th Fince Commission that had been constituted by the UPA government headed by Manmohan Singh had recommended doing away with the difference between Special and General Category States by enhancing the share of States in Central taxes from 32 per cent to 42 per cent. He also pointed out the UPA government’s discrimition against Assam through payment of a lower oil royalty.
Our views on the Special Category status for States is well known to our readers. Time and again we have had occasion to criticise the Special Category status to any State mainly for two reasons. First, such a Special Category status creates understandable ill will among productive and efficiently run States that have to pay for the discrimitory funding of States that are uble to create a surplus of their own through efficient planning, capable governce and a culture of hard work. Secondly, such special dispensations where Central assistance comes as 10 per cent loan and 90 per cent grant is bad for fiscal discipline and contributes largely to a culture of easy money without work. There is much more time spent in government offices on finding ways of siphoning out central funds than in any kind of actual work for development. It is worth noting that the creation of the Special Category status for backward States has failed to bring about the desired results even after four decades. It has failed just as the creation of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes that was envisaged by the framers of our Constitution as a sort of leg-up for disadvantaged sections of our population for a period of 10 years has failed despite being made a permanent feature of our polity. It has merely served to reject the wholesome principles of merit and competition that serve any society much better than the crutch of reservations. The unfortute part of such gimmicks is that we refuse to accept what has failed to serve the country simply because individual politicians without merit and qualifications cannot survive without gimmicks that sustain individuals. The Special Category status given to Assam and 10 other backward States has not maged to bring about the development of these States even in a span of four decades. For once, the Centre has woken up to the futility of providing crutches to healthy beings and decided to put an end to such waste of public money that has failed to yield any visible benefits. It has, therefore, opted for a 10 per cent increase in the States’ share of Central taxes that will benefit all States and cut out the waste incurred on States that have failed to increase productivity and ensure efficient performance despite several decades of a special dispensation. What we have now after discarding the Special Category status is better justice in the disposal of the Centre’s assistance to the States.