Centre’s major financial support for J&K, Ladakh on cards

Prez may relax conditions for FC award to UTs

Commission to visit UTs soon, report by Nov 30

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Nov 10: In a major boost to development prospectus of the newly created Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, the Central Government is all set to facilitate the 15th Finance Commission’s visit to the two UTs followed by handsome award for next five years beginning April 1, 2020.
The Finance Commission’s reported visit to the two Union Territories assumes significance as generally the Union Territories aren’t covered by the Commission.
However, as a special gesture, the Central Government is understood to have decided to relax certain conditions to allow the Finance Commission to visit the two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh as they were a combined State till October 31 and were bifurcated into the two UTs as part of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act passed on August 6 by the Parliament when special Constitutional provisions of the State were also scrapped.
“The Finance Commission headed by NK Singh has its term till November 30 and it was likely to visit the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh in the middle of this month, inter-act with officers and officials, Government representatives and all other stakeholders to take call on special Award for the two newly created UTs,” sources said, adding that the Award will be effective from April 1, 2020 for a period of five financial years.
According to sources, a Presidential reference would be required to facilitate the Commission’s visit to the two Union Territories as the Commission doesn’t have jurisdiction over the UTs which are directly governed by the Centre.
Five-year award of 14th Finance Commission will end on March 31, 2020 while the award of 15th Finance Commission for next five financial years will start from April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2025, sources said, adding that since Jammu and Kashmir was a State till recently, the Central Government was of the view that this time the jurisdiction of the Commission was required to be extended to the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh so that they get good amount from the Commission to carry forward developmental works.
Sources asserted that Ladakh Union Territory would require massive funds for infrastructural development after creation of the UT as it had to construct accommodation for several Government offices in Leh and Kargil districts as most of the offices were currently being run from make shift buildings. Leh even doesn’t have full-fledged Secretariat of the Lieutenant Governor, the Advisor, the Chief Secretary and others.
“Discussions to extend the jurisdiction of 15th Finance Commission over newly created Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh are on at the highest level in the Central Government,” sources said, adding that there was majority view that guidelines should be modified and reference made to the President of India to issue notification to facilitate Commission’s visit to both the UTs to assess their requirements and recommend award for them.
Going by the fact that undivided Jammu and Kashmir State’s budget for current financial year of 2019-20 was to the tune of Rs 88,819 crore, the Finance Commission will have to recommend handsome award for the two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh in view of the fact that the two UTs required to develop lot of infrastructure and carry forward the ongoing developmental works as own tax base of the UTs is very meager.
Sources said the Finance Commission Award for the two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh was justified on the grounds that this was for the first time that a State has been converted into the two Union Territories though there were some instances of the Union Territories becoming States.
Though recommendation of the award is exclusive domain of the Finance Commission based on requirements projected by officers and assessment of situation by the Commission itself, sources said the first Award of the Union Territories could run into hundreds of crores going by the focus the Central Government was paying towards development of the two newly created UTs.