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22nd August 2018 The Hindu Editorial Analysis under 10 mins series
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State finance commission's problems ; Debate in the geological dates of holocene and anthropocene periods

Shobana Shermeelee
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  1. 22nd Aug 2018 THE HINDU Editorial Analysis ha ii


  2. Strengthening the federal link . The State Finance Commission (SFC) is a unique institution created by the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments (CAs) to rationalise and systematise State/sub-State-level fiscal relations in India. It has few parallels in other federal systems. Its primary task is to rectify growing horizontal imbalances in the delivery of essential public services to citizens Article 2431 of the Constitution mandated the State Governor to constitute a Finance Commission within one year of the CAs (before April 24, 1994) and thereafter every five years. This means fifth generation SFCs ought to have submitted reports by now with around 140 reports that are supposed to be available in the


  3. ...public domain Till date, only Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala have submitted their fifth SFC reports. Many States are yet to cross the third SFO stage. The large majority has violated the mandate of the Constitution with impunity . The seriousness, regularity, acceptance of recommendations and their implementation which characterise the Union Finance Commissions (UFCs) are widely absent when it comes to SFCs. Therefore, the UFC has been widely acknowledged as a professional and quasi-judicial body when compared to the SFC A cursory survey of the composition of SFCs would reveal the overwhelming presence of serving and/or retired bureaucrats rather than...


  4. ....academics For historical reasons, UFCs, particularly from the third, have chosen a restrictive role of staying away from plan and investment allocations. SFCs normally could not do this although some have chosen the UFC path. Now that the Planning Commission has been dismantled, the 15th UFC has to spell out its decision-making domain The SFC is undoubtedly modelled on the UFC created under Article 280 and exemplified in Articles 2431 and 243Y. While the UFC is tasked with rectifying vertical and horizontal imbalances at the Union-State level, the SFC has to perform the same with reference to State/sub-State-level institutions. The Constitution treats a local government on a par with a State government, especially when it comes to sharing of financial resources


  5. What is not adequately appreciated is that the task of the SFC to correct horizontal imbalances is extremely difficult when compared with the UFC as SFCs have to consider nearly 2.5 lakh local governments to promote minimum essential services in rural and urban areas. By implication, an SFC is the institutional agency to implement the golden rule of cooperative federalism that every citizen should be assured minimum public goods irrespective of her choice of residence Article 280(3) has been amended to add clauses (bb) and (c) in order to take measures to augment the resources of panchayats and m on the basis of the recommendations "made by the finance commission of the state". These sub-clauses affirm the organic link between local governments and SFCs to fiscal federalism . It is only when inter-State disparities are reduced by the UFCs through


  6. ....their inter-se distribution criteria and intra-State disparities are reduced by SFCs through the horizontal distribution criteria, that the Indian federation becomes a sustainable and inclusive nation-state UFCs had no data problem in reviewing the finances of the Union and States. The financial reporting system of the Union and States is well laid down. On the other hand, local governments with no proper budgetary system are in deep disarray and, because of that, SFCs face a crucial problem of reliable data. Therefore, several sufficient conditions remain unfulfilled in the case of SFCs . The CAs left the task of adequately empowering local governments to discharge constitutional obligations to the States. Unlike the UFC, no SFC can easily ignore Articles 243G and 243W (which speak of planning "for economic development and social justice") and Article 243ZD (which...


  7. ....mandates that every State constitute a district planning committee for spatial panning and environmental conservation at the sub-State level) The hard truth is that no UFC has done its homework in reading and analysing SFC reports. Without understading the reality at the sub-State level or highlighting which report went wrong, where and how, no UFC can legitimately guide States or contribute to improving the goals of constitutional amendments All the terms of reference of UFCs (since the 11th)iterate the need for suggesting measures to augment the resources of panchayats and municipalities as a core task. In sum, SFCs have not been provided with the necessary environment to play their rightful role in Indian fiscal federalism


  8. Defining the Holocene Last month, India received the happy news that that one of the three newly designated geological ages of the Holocene Epoch was named after Meghalaya. The Intenational Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) a body of geological timekeepers, had djvided the Holocene Epoch, which began 11,700 years ago, at the 8,200-year and 4,200-year points, thereby creating the Greenlandian, the Northgrippian and the Meghalayan Ages e Primary criticism for this came from geologists for whom the new Holocene subdlivisions had undercut a proposal for a more important geological stratification the Anthropocene Epoch. The idea that human influence on earth has heralded the beginning of the new geological epoch, bringing the Holocene to a close, was first proposed in the late 20th century


  9. o Later, Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen argued that the "Anthropocene Epoch" ought to begin at the start of the industrial revolution (1800 AD). This point in time could be marked, as geological epochs often are, by rising carbon dioxide levels in polar ice. But although the idea of an Anthropocene was widely accepted, their proposed start date was not Other researchers said that 8,000 years ago was a better starting point, when agriculture first begam in Eurasi Yet another group suggested 1610 AD, when the European colonisation of the Americas led to an unprecedented mixing of new-world and old-world specie . A third contender was the mid-20th century, known as the Great Acceleration, when concrete, aluminium and plastic were disseminated across the planet. Given these disagreements over the Anthropocene start date, the epoch hasn't been formalised ye


  10. . In the meantime, another set of researchers was working to stratify the Holocene Epoch. The reason was convenience: the Holocene was already being divided by researchers, informally, into the early, middle and late Holocene, but the lack of a formal definition was leading to con Ultimately, they setfled on a division based on two climatic events The first, 8,200 years ago, was a catastrophic melting of glacial lakes resulting in a global drop in temperatures. The second, 4,200 years ago, was a massive drought around the planet's mid-latitudes, which is thought to have triggered the decline of civilisations such as the Akkadian and the Indus Valley The controversy is related to the 8,200-years ago start date of the Northgripp an now coincides broadly with one of the Anthropocene start dates