Aam Aadmi Party has sought Special Status for Punjab and also its inclusion in the list of Special Category States. It has also demanded a revision in the Terms of Reference of the Fifteenth Finance Commission. AAP Leader and MLA, Mr. Kanwar Sandhu has written two separate letters recently to the Union Finance Minister, Mr Arun Jaitley, in this connection. Mr. Sandhu has also written to the Punjab Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, demanding that he call an All-party Meeting on these issues so as to present a strong and collective case on behalf of the People of Punjab to the Centre."Punjab has a much stronger case than even states like Andhra Pradesh, which are seeking Special Status and inclusion in the list of SCS. While Special Status will help meet the political aspirations of its people through legitimate legislative means, its inclusion in SCS will help it come out of the economic and financial mess. Unfortunately, its case was never pursued vigorously since its bifurcation in 1966. Similarly, if Terms of Reference of the 15th Finance Commission are not revised, Punjab would be even harder hit in terms of devolution of funds from the Centre than states like Karnataka and Kerala, which are making a similar demand," he added.Mr. Sandhu said that it is important to raise all these issues forcefully as Punjab is facing a severe financial and economic crisis. "Besides, there is tremendous amount of disquiet among the people of the state due to Centre's indifference to its aspirations and expectations," he added.
In the first letter to Mr. Jaitley dated April 15, the AAP leader argued that Punjab had not been included in the list of SCS despite it fulfilling three of the five parameters, namely, strategic location along the borders of the country, economic and infrastructure backwardness, and non-viable nature of state finances (other two being, hilly and difficult terrain and low population density). Besides, he mentioned how on one hand the onus of producing the Country's foodgrains fell on Punjab, on the other, it was made to gift its river waters to non-riparian states in "national interest", forcing it to draw huge quantities of underground water to fulfill the national obligation.At present, 11 of the 28 states are included in the SCS list, which included the nearby hill states of J&K, HP and Uttarakhand, which adversely affected Punjab's industry. "Not only is all this making Punjab vulnerable to hostile designs of the neighbours, it is resulting in flight of valuable human resources to foreign lands, " Mr Sandhu stated.Incidentally, the State, which enjoys Special Status is Jammu & Kashmir. "Punjab too fits the bill perfectly as it is a border state which faced the brunt of external aggression and also law and order issues," he argued. While Special Status is granted to states by the Constitution through an Act passed by two-third majority in Parliament, SCS status is granted by the National Development Council.
In his second letter to the Union Finance Minister dated April 17, the Kharar MLA sought revision of the Terms of Reference of the Finance Commission on two counts. He stated that for devolution of funds from the Centre, in addition to the clause of "equity, efficiency and transparency", the Terms of Reference should also take into account, the "success of states in population control over the past decades." This is pertinent because the Commission will consider the 2011 Census instead of the 1971 Census.Mr. Sandhu stated that in terms of tax and non-tax revenues, the present Terms of Reference of the Commission take into account the states' "potential and fiscal capacity". He wanted the Terms of reference to be amended to also account for states like Punjab which are facing certain "constraints" in achieving their potential for no fault of theirs and for the wider interest of the Country. "Border states like Punjab are unable to explore and exploit their trade opportunities across the border due to adverse foreign relations of our Country with neighbours," the MLA added.The AAP Leader also wanted the Terms of Reference to be changed in line with the Constitutional provisions, which mentions that our Country is a "Union of States". The Terms should be suitably amended in spirit with cooperative federalism and constitutional obligations." Mr. Sandhu said.