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

Articles by Govind BhattacharjeeSubscribe to Govind Bhattacharjee

Fifteenth Finance Commission Recommendations

While trying to balance the competing demands from the union and the states, the Fifteenth Finance Commission has done a commendable job, but has also sacrificed objectivity at times.


Tax on Agricultural Income

A 2019 Comptroller and Auditor General report has brought out glaring irregularities in the exemptions given to agricultural income for income tax purposes. Exempting large income on agriculture from taxation not only makes the agricultural sector a conduit for money laundering and concealment of black money, but also holds back the much-needed modernisation and reform of the sector. Although everyone agrees on the desirability of taxing agricultural income, successive governments have shied away from it for electoral reasons.

A House of Cards

The Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964, which apply to all public servants in the country, date from colonial times and are reflective of a colonial mindset. Civil servants no longer want to be treated as unruly kids ignorant of their roles and responsibilities. These dated rules must be consigned to the dustbin of history and replaced by a new code of ethics based on self-regulation, accountability, and transparency.

Is the Special Category Status Really Dead?

Though the Fourteenth Finance Commission report gives an impression that the special category status given to some states has de facto been abolished, the reality is that the benefi ts enjoyed by these states remain well protected. The biggest flaw of the special category mechanism is that the benefits flow in perpetuity without any accountability or performance monitoring of the states. This has made them overwhelmingly dependent on central funding. It is therefore imperative to bring in more accountability into the mechanism of such liberal transfer of funds and their end use.

MGNREGA as Distribution of Dole

According to the evidence presented in the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India and studies elsewhere, 11 years of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act have not been able to make much of a dent in rural poverty. This article also suggests some innovative ways to help improve the outcome of the scheme.

The Reality of Special Category States

The "special category" status accorded to certain states in the Indian Union allowed for much higher per capita central assistance compared to other states to flow unto these states enabling some of them to march ahead and prompting demands from others for this status. But these special category states were backward due to reasons of geography, while for the states which are demanding this status today, issues linked to governance lay at the root of their backwardness. Is it time to revisit the criteria and include others into this exclusive category by excluding those who do not need such assistance any longer?

Special Category Status

Even if Bihar is accorded Special Category State status, as its chief minister is demanding, it will not gain much because, by far, the larger proportion of transfers from the centre to the states is in the form of central and centrally-sponsored schemes. In any case, Bihar should be looking at other impediments to development and not an imagined resource constraint.

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