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HomeOpinionIndia’s south is protesting a bit too much and a bit unfairly

India’s south is protesting a bit too much and a bit unfairly

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Without more resources, how do the poorer states improve their people’s health and education indices, so as to achieve better population control?

Does the south protest too much? Chief ministers and ministers of southern states are getting together to protest against the terms of the latest Finance Commission. For the uninitiated, such a commission recommends every five years how much of central tax revenues should be shared with the states and, within that, what should be the share of each state. The brief given to the new commission is that it should take into consideration the 2011 Census, and not the 1971 Census numbers, which were considered in previous Commission reports. The last Commission had given weight to both 1971 and 2011.

The change has generated some heat because the southern states fear a triple whammy. First, they have a better record of population control, and therefore will suffer in terms of their share of the tax revenue to be devolved from the Centre if 1971 is replaced by 2011. Second, they already lose out because greater weight is given to poorer states (income has so far got about twice the weight given to population). And third, the goods and services tax, being a consumption tax, will deliver more revenue to the non-producing (i.e. poorer) states. One writer has even said it is becoming “almost untenable” for Kerala and Tamil Nadu to thrive in the Indian Union.

A picture of TN Ninan, chairman of Business Standard Private LimitedSome context is necessary. Bihar gets a one percentage point extra share of central revenue, relative to its share of population. Surely, that is not the end of the world, especially when it involves the poorest state in the country. Besides, every Finance Commission creates its winners and losers. Between the 11th and 14th commissions, three of the southern states (the exception being the combined Andhra Pradesh) were significant losers in terms of share of central taxes. But northern and eastern states were also losers: UP, Bihar (including Jharkhand), West Bengal and Odisha. The gainers included the western giants Maharashtra and Gujarat. So one should not jump to facile north-south conclusions — especially since the commission has also been asked to reward fiscal performance and population control.

A lurking fear behind the ringing of alarm bells today is that, come 2026, when the state-wise allocation of Lok Sabha seats comes up for review, the use of the 2021 Census as the population base could result in the southern states losing out in terms of the number of seats, or share of an expanded seat total, in the house. This too is an alarmist view. Most states had between 1.4 million and 1.6 million electors per Lok Sabha seat in 2014, reflecting the national average of a little over 1.5 million. Other than the northeastern states, there were few stand-outs, like UP with 1.74 million and, at the other end, Kerala with 1.2 million.

Equalisation of seats in 2026, on the basis of population, could reduce Kerala’s representation from 20 Lok Sabha seats to 15. Unfair, you say? Yes, because you penalise success. But how fair is the current reality: For every 3.6 million electors, Kerala gets three seats, but UP only two? Still, this is not a straight north-south issue. Karnataka has slightly more electors per seat than Bihar. Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir have the same figure as Kerala: 1.2 million electors per seat. Goa has barely half a million. Taking the picture in its totality, there is little reason to expect radical change in the levels of Lok Sabha representation, such as to create a north-south cleavage.

Fairness also has a self-interest angle. The heartland states have less lucrative tax bases, and are more dependent on central funds. Devolution from the Centre accounts for a half or more of their total revenue; in Bihar’s case, it is three-quarters. Whereas the southern states are dependent on the Centre for only a third of their total revenue. The imbalance persists even after devolution, as seen in expenditure per head. Without more resources, how do the poorer states improve their people’s health and education indices, so as to achieve better population control? It’s that simple.

By special arrangement with Business Standard

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  1. This article doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. You are essentially saying that any state that does a good job in bringing population growth rate to reasonable levels and improving its economy should not be incentivized for doing so. Rather, a state that keeps voting for criminals like Lalu Yadav and is stuck up in caste politics at the cost of economic development deserves more funding.

    This is similar to saying that between two employees, the one with poor performance should be paid more bonus in a hope that next year that employee would perform better. And better performing employee should be paid less so that poor performer is motivated.

    How does this even make sense?

  2. Ninan is held in high esteem for his competent writings on economic issues. But not for this piece I am afraid. He is off the mark. He says “It’s that simple”. but actually the contrary view is simpler to understand.
    At the outset let us be clear, it isn’t a north-south tussle at all. The distortion being done by new parameters could happen to any state. It’s just that this has happened to Southern states at this point of time.
    There are two issues. First. Reallocating Loksabha representation (thereby also Rajyasabha representation) on the basis of 2011 census or later, instead of 1971 as hitherto, thus rewarding population growth in a state. Is that what we want to do? So some day states with least or negative population growth may come to lose most of their Loksabha representation? This is absolute nonsense.
    Second. Distribution of tax revenue. Here again, as per changed parameters population explosion in a state is being rewarded with more funds drawn from those other states who have shown a better performance on that front. Simpler thing is to allocate maximum revenue collected from a state to be used in that state.

    • It isn’t about “performance” of “controlling” population.

      It’s just the SIMPLE FACT that those who PAY their tax — must be the beneficiaries of it.

      If somebody else gets it — they must be worthy of it.

      70 years of being fed and clothed and these Gangaa-lovers can’t get national average literacy. And then YET expect us to continue support — is unentertainable.

      You’ve had your support and for more than long enough (this should’ve been demanded a decade ago). Now, live on what you earn.

  3. South has paid the most for all these years and cant continue like this. If the govt. in northern states cant manage basic stuff better find alternative but not at the cost of south indian states. People pay tax and in return don’t get their dues. ! your article to me in senseless ! Statistics can be interpreted the way you want and for your convenience. ~

    • Chandigarh has a higher GDP per capita than every single southern state, I really don’t see why those in the south are complaining. We’re all Indian and should be helping each other out in order to achieve prosperity. As for corruption in the north that’s a completely different story and probably what Southerners should be focusing on. I suppose most people forget that the reason that the south has more educational facilities is because they wouldn’t have been able to compete agriculturally with the north upon independence and when princely states had been integrated.

        • There are more bihari migrants in the north than the south, Raj you really need to do some research and come up with an actual argument if you want to be taken seriously.

          • But apparently not good enough to keep them all there? Where do they even migrate to?

            The whole stretch of beasts from that desert hole to Jharkand can be spotted sub-Vindhyas.

            I hope the place you were referring to soon becomes large enough to accommodate the several millions living in the South and West.

            We shall bless thy prosperity.

  4. The thing here is are people of southern part of India ready to share the resources pouring out in different proportions with the people who do not contribute to that resources in any manner. Firstly yes they are as this is a nation not by agreement of states but by union of it. The problem with south people is not representation in the upper house or the lower house it’s about why do people of the south got to give 30% taxes of the country with only 20% population. Paying tax is duty of citizens of this nation but when only a part of the union pays the most taxes and the other 80% of the population is paying 70% of taxes. This itself makes them feel deprived. When you are following rules laid by institution like parliament you expect fruit out of it but if start feeling deprived something is not going right at institutional level. All of this said there are still few questions pertinent and needs answering.
    1. Is central government doing their duty in allocating funds to states not based on voters but based on some rigid regulations?( Why all of sudden give a package to bihar before elections but not after it?)
    2. If it is doing so why didn’t the so called poorer states did not normalise till date?
    3. If not does this indicate failure in governance at institutional level?
    4. If people start feeling they are not part of this country does this mean indian government failed the people or the people failed the indian government?

  5. Now many starts accepting that southern states prospered better than northern states. thanks to regional parties atleast for this.

  6. All the major industries are set up in the southern states , for that no Northern states have ever protested. Southerns will say that they have provided better infra so industries automatically shift there, well then North states should also impose tax barriers for products from south states like UP have huge consumers, as similar to India is for the west. north states could get better deals for their consumption level. They can get far cheaper products from China then from southern states. Northerners never complained of this private industries generating jobs in the south , because we have till now never thought that way. Now when southerns have made some good money they are showing their true thinking about north. They were complaining about north Racism all since independence and now look who real racist are. North generates huge amount of Food too, states like UP are compelled not to use their fertile land for industry. Its right time Northern states and people sense the thinking of southern people and make their house in order else these southerns will Rip u whenever they get the chance, we cant depend on southern people for sure, they are pumping all their manufactured products in north, their private universities are getting large amount of money from Northern students, its better to ask Union gov for barriers for products from south entering the north and lets force Industries for north localisation or get products from china. Uniting India as a single country is not only responsibility of Northerners who are trying to let it remain united since independence. looking at many of the comments by southern people on various forum it seems they hate northerners more than Pakistanis hate Indians, they keep complaining about capital in north, which has nothing to do with the north people itself as a matter for fact South have Bengaluru Chennai etc, west got Mumbai east got kolkata north has only Delhi wheres the disparity in that. Some Goa minister said northerners need not to visit goa , as if goa is only heaven on earth, he is showing his thinking just because he is getting Russian backpackers there, this itself show their attitude. southern minister have been elected from northern states in RS like Parikar ,GVL rao etc, we never made a fuss about it but if something of this kind would have happened to south they would have made a huge national debate out of it.

  7. 1- 1% Indians have 73% of india’s total wealth, so what if they say they don’t want their tax to go elsewhere, they want govt to spend the money for them only and surplus tax should be reserved for them only for future! So we should now divide India in rich and poor cause rich don’t want to spend money for poor.

    2- South India is no rich, they do have poors also, so what if South Indian rich would demand no tax sharing for poor South Indians? So now will you divide your southern states? Like rich karnataka and poor karnataka, so tax paid by rich will be spend for rich only, and tax paid by poor will be spend on poor only?!

    3- in economy where rich pays more tax poor gets more benefits, if you don’t care about poor and coming with such absurd North vs South idea, they tell me what to do with poor! Should we kill them or burn them because they are less fortunate in this capitalist sucking country?

    5- what if Northern states would say why most of Indian military people are from North and they loosing their lives for guarding south people! So now would south force its so called rich people to guard borders and seas?

    6- I’m Korean-Indian, live in Korea, and seeing Indian mentality reaching rock bottom again doesn’t surprise me, cause because of such mentality you were slave of Arabs and Europe for ages..

  8. The answer to the last sentence is the northern states should do less corruption, be more disciplined, be more law abiding then every thing is will fall in place I am not saying that southern states are paragon of virtue but the population by and large is much better disciplined, law abiding and less corrupt than northern states so you should get what u deserve that is justice.

  9. Should we not talk about same argument for manning armed forces to defend India? Would southern states be willing to send more men & women to join troops? By raising south & north divide, we are attacking basic fabric of unity. You get some and you give some. Let us stop attacking concept of India by doing not only this but so many other things all over the country.

  10. I do not know where you’re from Ninan.

    I DO NOT care for the North. They can what they like with their own money. Not mine. If they want to educate or cloth or feed themselves, learn to live with what ya have.

    You have NO right to STEAL me! That is my wealth that has been BUILT by EFFORT over decades!

    If the North cannot get basic literacy and family planning drives and as you say, needs several thousands of crores of Southern money to do it. (Which ya don’t, without fodder, railway scams and sand and construction mafias — a wilful government can do this WELL within their means) — we may well leave.

    Protest? This is our right. Give us OUR money, or we’ll fight for it the way and WILL create a situation where we need not pay to the Union of India any longer.

    & decades of leeching wasn’t good enough, and now you almost act as if you hav a claim on my income? Have ya people NO shame?!

    The South. the West (Goa, MH) and the East are throroughly fed up. No more vegetarian terrorism, tax loot of Hindi stuff-downs.

    You risk the country!

    • You, Mr. Chatterjee, if you are for real please dont harbour any illusion about WB being any better than UP or Bihar…I appreciate the genuine concern of ppl from South who I agree should not be penalized for their hardwork and dilligence. And they do have all the rights to chastized us lesser beings in cowbelt but I will not allow this liberty to anyone coming from your shambolic state.

      • Firstly, you miss the IYRE in the beginning. My step-dad when they were married was a Bengali. So I carry the name.

        Shambolic? Shukla thinks that those who multiply by the dozens in a generation have a right to go one-up over WB which at least, has far better social indicators?

        Wake up. You guys are uncomparable, and rightly so. Unfortunately, in all the wrong ways.

        • Those social indicators that you guys keep boasting of in kerala and WB does not bring food to the table….at best its a statistical manipulation and at worst an outright fraud.

          Dont forget that migration is probably the most original endeavour of human beings because it is invariably abiut survival. Large number of malyali presence in Middle east is a living proof for that.

    • chatterjee saab, the most poorest is west bengal due to its communist policies, it represents poverty, hunger and communism, i have seen its conditions and it looks worse than bihar, plus it has students going to jnu and toing the line of china, as a mumbaikar , i love the nation and am ready to help bihar and UP but we hate feeding traitors of 1962 and people migrate elsewhere from bengal because of lack of infrastructure and poor hygiene, but lecture others on economy when bengal cant feed its people, to top it , they support mao or lenin more than indian leaders and india

  11. The South is raising valid concerns. We Mumbaikars feel the same way about picking up so many of India’s bills. While sharing the food equitably is an Indian tradition, the kitchen is where joint families begin to unravel. To add to the objective sense of grievance, issues of identity, largely dormant for so long, are being stoked by the imposition of a monochromatic vision. To the good people of Kerala, some parts of the cow belt must look like Somalia …

    • What are you complaining about Sir..dint u read it in the first few paras that tge early Finance commission were biased in favour of Maha n Gujarat. Your comparison of some parts of cow belt to Somalia is indeed deplorable and betrays your filthy mindset. Dont divide our great nation. UP n Bihar have never hesitated in giving wat all they have for our nation. Currently, they need ur help and u act as if they are Pakistan…reflect sometimes…joint families do not unravel in kitchen but rather ones greed takes over sense of belonging and ownership.

      • Giving what ya have?

        Like debts? Hindi (non-consensual obviously)? And, dirt..? Immigrants (mostly unwanted and unwelcome)?

        You may keep it. Fix your attitudes, and mores and we can then drivel about “unity”.

        • if it werent for those dirty but hardworking labour how would cities be built. Anyways dont forget almost all of coal and most of other minerals to run the factories comes from this part. Dont let your hatred and pettiness to get better off you.

      • I know Hindi-belt people don’t lose any opportunity to criticize Bengal and Bengalis. But you are in fools paradise if you think Bengal is like UP and Bihar. Just visit the Niti Aayog website and see nutrition related data of different states. Consistently the Hindi-belt states fare the worst and consistently Bengal is ahead of these states. Health is a crucial development indicator whether you agree or not. Secondly the question of population growth rate. Bihar and UP ‘s population growth rate is comparable to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Whereas WB’s population growth is already below replacement level it compares with states like Kerala and TN as well as several developed countries. And if come 2026 Parliamentary seats are assigned in terms of population. States like WB or Kerala stands to lose for the work they have done to check population growth. On the other hand Hindi-belt states which is growing in population as Afghanistan increases its share due to lack of family planning. That would be plain unfair.

  12. The South is raising valid concerns. We Mumbaikars feel the same way about picking up so many of India’s bills. While sharing the food equitably is an Indian tradition, the kitchen is where joint families begin to unravel. To add to the objective sense of grievance, issues of identity, largely dormant for so long, are being stoked by the imposition of a monochromatic vision. To the good people of Kerala, some parts of the cow belt must look like Somalia.

  13. ” … there is little reason to expect radical change in the levels of Lok Sabha representation, such as to create a north-south cleavage … ”

    Laughable conclusion. The author needs a course on ‘Introduction to Logic 101’, before being allowed to write anything.

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