States reject flexible CSS as eyewash

Written by Rajat Arora | Subhash Narayan | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 28 2012, 07:16am hrs
The Centres plan to win over state governments by providing them flexibility in running centrally sponsored schemes (CSS) has found few takers with state chief ministers cutting across party lines terming the offer an eyewash.

The Planning Commission has included the provision of flexi-Fund in the 12th Plan (2012-17) that would allow states to use 20% of the total allocation under CSS for projects designed by them.

They (the Centre) speak about flexibility, but there's hardly any change. They should really let us design the CSS according to our own needs. There can't be a policy of one-size-fits-all," Chattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh told FE.

Jharkhand CM Arjun Munda echoed the concerns, saying there's a lack of holistic planning. The Centre should give us our share instead of designing the schemes. State like ours suffer because our needs are different from developed states, he said. Currently, the Centre frames the guidelines and puts in a lions share of funds needed to run a CSS, leaving states with limited scope in implementation.

From April, the scheme would become flexibile, giving states autonomy to spend 20% of CSS funds allocated under a scheme after they restructur it as per their needs. But this would be possible only in a limited manner and after getting approval from the Planning Commission. This is what annoys states.

The Centre should give states share instead of designing a uniform scheme for the country," Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan told FE. The views of the state CMs go against those expressed by the Prime Minister earlier. The PM, in his inaugural speech at the NDC meeting, said that flexibility in the CSS would allow states to experiment, innovate and use the funds according to their needs.

CSS forms an important component of funding for social sector schemes run by state governments. The concern of state governments now is that the Centre would not only reduce its numbers from the next fiscal year, but also not give them complete freedom to run the balance schemes. The centre provided over R1,88,000 crore for CSS in 2011-12 from its budgetary resources. The government has already announced that it could bring down the number of CSS from over 147 now to about 49 from next fiscal based on the recomendations of a committee headed by Planning Commission member BK Chaturvedi.

The CMs said the recommendations made by BK Chaturvedi Committee lack clarity and that states weren't taken into confidence. Theres still very little clarity on flexibility in CSS, said Goa CM Manohar Parrikar.

Bihar deputy CM Sushil Modi also raised the same concerns. There are a lot of problems with CSS and the guidelines laid by the Centre are very rigid," he said.

However, minister of state for planning Rajiv Shukla said that to start with, 20% of flexi fund was a good step. If they (CMs) have concerns regarding that, they should raise the issue at the meeting. But I feel that 20% of flexi funds in CSS would help states to innovate and experiment with CSS according to their needs, he said.