GUWAHATI, March 6 � At a time when the Government of India is facing demands for more powers to the States to deal with the problems facing the states, a report of a committee, constituted by the Assam Government in this regard is gathering dust at New Delhi for more than a decade now. Both the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the United Progressive Front (UPA) Governments at the Centre failed to take any action on the report so far.
The Assam Government constituted a committee headed by then Minister Thaneswar Boro in the year 2000 to examine the matter and give recommendations and the committee submitted its report later that year and it was immediately forwarded to the Government of India for necessary action.
The committee recommended that the subjects under the Union list in the Constitution of India should be drastically reduced and most subjects, particularly those relating to economic development should be brought under the State list. The Concurrent list should be abolished, the committee recommended. The Central Government should retain its powers in matters of foreign affairs, defence, currency and communications as well as of the administration of justice, office of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Election Commission of India, National Commissions for Human Rights, Women, SC and ST and similar institutions of the Republic, the report said.
In matters of communications, given the worldwide trend towards globalization and economic liberalization, the states should be given the freedom to attract private investments.
The committee pointed out that finance is one of the most crucial aspects of Centre-State relation and the states should be given more powers to impose taxes and determine the limits of public borrowings. The scope of the Finance Commission should be enlarged to cover the total financial assistance to the states by way of loans, devolution of revenue etc. The resources for distribution through the Finance Commission should be increased and adequate funds should be provided to the states keeping in mind their backwardness and development needs, the report said. The committee also stressed the need for reducing and modifying the role of the Planning Commission.
The report pointed out that the emergency provisions of the Constitution have been a constant source of friction between the Centre and the states and those should be reviewed and amended suitably.
The committee stressed the need for providing greater scope for the smaller states like the states of the North East region in the deliberations in the Parliament and recommended that the Rajya Sabha should be reconstituted in the lines of the USA senate to provide same number of seats to all states irrespective of their size. The committee said that the recurring problems including the problem of floods in Assam should be treated as national problems.
Meanwhile, commenting on the issue, former Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta rued that both the NDA and UPA Governments kept the report in the cold storage and till date, no serious discussion has been initiated on the same let alone implementing the recommendations.
Mahanta said that majority of the problems of Assam could be solved if the Centre agrees to give more powers to the states and it would also lead to overall economic development of the state. He said that as the Centre kept quiet about the report of the committee, he handed over a copy of the report to the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh during his recent visit to the state.