ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Centre-State Relations: Talking Shop

This was the sixth meeting of the Inter-State Council since 1951 when the Constitution came into effect. For more than 20 years, the central government resisted the implementation of the constitutional provisions enjoining the formation of such a council. Still the fact that the council had met only five times over a period of 25 years is significant, in the sense that the council's meetings are called as infrequently as possible. This time, however, the meeting was taking place after a lapse of no more than one and a half years. The position taken by some chief ministers was that meetings of the council should be convened much more regularly, once at least every year, so that no policy issue impinging on centre-state relations was sought to be settled unilaterally by the centre. But the centre was evidently in no mood to make such a commitment.

When several chief ministers strongly objected to the manner in which an additional term of reference (TOR) had been entrusted to the Eleventh Finance Commission (EFC) without prior consultation with the states, finance minister Yashwant Sinha reportedly did make a commitment that as soon as the final report of the EFC was submitted, a meeting of the council would be convened to discuss the commission's recommendations. If the finance ministry really intends to fulfil this commitment, the council might have to be convened in less than a year's time. But even this one-time commitment of the finance minister was not reflected in the closing observations of either the prime minister or the home minister. The finance minister himself had no explanation to offer why the particular TOR had been rushed through without consultation with the states. All that he had to say reportedly was that he had perforce to depend on the informal consultation process at that particular juncture.

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