Spirit of federalism lies in consultation  (GS-2, Polity, The hindu)

Context:-  The Indian Constitution may face a crisis in 2026 when there will be a dramatic change in the composition of the Lok Sabha due to new delimitation according to the new census. Seats in the Lok Sabha have reflected the 1971 census and have not rearranged according to changes in the population. The primary reason for this has been unequal population growth among States where north and south divide can be seen. 

Federal Features of the India Union:-

  • Two governments i.e. Union Government and State governments.
  • Division of powers between the union and its constituents.
  • The Seventh Schedule of the Constitution contains three lists such as the Union List, State List, and Concurrent List. here they have exclusive power in their sphere in the normal times. State government and central government have their own sphere to work on. 
  • State governments have a primary responsibility to govern such as health, education and agriculture
  • one nation­ one e tax, one market and one ration’ are signs of a strong nation state. 
  • Supremacy of the Constitution.
  • An Independent Judiciary.
  • Bicameralism or 2 houses of legislature.

Issues related to delimitation as according to new census:-

  • There will be a rivalry between democratic principles and federal principles:-

    • Democracy is about giving the power to all i.e. providing political rights; one head one vote. So the state which will have more population will have more votes. On the other hand federalism lies on the basis of distribution of power between central and state. In this context more power will be accrued by those states which will have more votes so there may be a time when power of smaller states may curtail.
  • Bigger States are likely to dominate the national conversation over smaller States because they have more votes.
  • Small States are of the fear that they would get a smaller share in the central aids or finance, a much reduced say in national issues, and be irrelevant in the political governance of the country.

What are the other issues related to Federalism:-

    • The refusal of the Central government of its legal commitment regarding Goods and Services Tax (GST) compensation shortfall on account of lower revenue.
    • The Centre argued that the lower revenues are the result of an “act of God” for which it cannot be held responsible.
      • As per the GST Act, states are guaranteed to have compensation for any revenue shortfall below 14% growth (havning base year 2015-16) for the first five years ending 2022.
    • Centre used its powers to dismiss or use the Governor to intimidate democratically elected governments in state. 
    • During the Emergency, education was moved to the Concurrent list which was earlier a State subject i.e. state sphere is shrinking.
    • Increasing centralisation in resource allocations and welfare interventions in the context of centrally sponsored schemeC.S.S schemes.
    • The shortfall of GST and response of Centre which shows lackadaisical approach for compensation by State governments.
  • Issues in the recent Farm Acts:-

      • That allows farmers to sell their produce outside the APMC
      • Its aim is to promote inter-state trade but the Acts are an encroach upon the State list.
    • Recent amendment in banking regulations by the central government  by bringing cooperative banks under the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) supervision.
  • Regionalism:-

    • Example of recent bifurcation of andhra pradesh into AP and telangana. 
    • Demand for separate gorkhaland bydesidents of darjeeling and demand of separate state by north Benagal.
  • Recently we have seen the central government, Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) State was converted into two Union Territories – J&K and Ladakh.
  • The concurrence of States is not needed for the formation and abolition of States and Union Territories.
  • For a country like India which is divided on the linguistic and communal basis any future perusal for pure federal structure could lead to disruption and division of states. 
  • Southern and western States are perceiving that their progress is being penalised: 
    • Southern States contribute more to the nation economically on one hand and on the other they don’t occupy a central space politically and are further marginalised culturally.  
  • Disputes between states over sharing of river water, for example between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over Cauvery water. 

Institutional transgression:-

  • Central institutions are increasingly weakening the police levers of State institutions.
  • Institutions such as the Income Tax Department, the Enforcement Directorate and the National Investigation Agency are being used to intimidate political rivals.
  • Centre creating a disadvantage for State governments in vaccine usage.
  • The Centre has been meddling with the appointments of vice­ chancellors in universities funded by the state.

Socio-cultural foundation:-

  • Besides the legal constitutional aspects of federalism, it is diversity in the cultural foundation of regions that sustains Indian federalism. 
  • Oneness among differences is the core of indian cultural sustenance.

 

What mechanism do other countries follows for representation of regions:-

  • For example Americans Constitution:-

    • The American Constitution restricts National powers over the States.
    • Each State regardless of size has two seats in the Senate which provides smaller States an outsized role in national governance.
    • Presidents are elected by electoral votes; there by president must win States rather than the total national population.
  • Other federations such as Switzerland and Belgium have adopted less extreme federalism

What about Indian federalism:-

  • According to K.C. wheare indian federalism is quasi-federalism.
  • According to G.Austin indian federalism is cooperative federalism.
  • Article 1 says India that is Bharat shall be the union of states.
  • According to Ambedkar India is a federal country but a strong centre.
  • India has one citizenship principle which is against federal principle.

Supreme court intervention:- 

  • State of West Bengal vs Union of India (1962):-
      • The Supreme Court held that the Indian Constitution is not federal.
  • S R Bommai vs Union of India (1994):-
    • The Supreme Court held federalism a part of the basic structure of the Constitution.

What is the way forward for this census issue:-

  • Powers of Centre with regard to the States Lists must be reviewed.
  • Provisions of constitution which deal with altering boundaries of States must deal with the fear of smaller States that they will be dominated by bigger ones.
  • More localised decision making is bound to increase national prosperity there by integrity and peoples involvement.
  • The role and composition of the Rajya Sabha must be expanded. This expanded role would allow smaller States a kind of brake over national majoritarian politics that adversely impact them.
  • Constitutional change and the change in financial redistribution between the States must require the consent of all States or a unanimous decision.
  • Constitutional provisions which deal with language and religion must also be kept intact and address any fear among southern states.
  • The minority must be protected by a comprehensive list of “consensus items” that require unanimous acceptance.
  • There must be a debate and consensus over breaking up the biggest States into smaller units that will not  by themselves dominate the national conversation.
  • The Sarkaria Commission Report had specifically recommended that there should be a “coordination of policy and action in all areas of concurrent or overlapping jurisdiction through a process of mutual consultation and cooperation is, therefore, a prerequisite of smooth and harmonious working of the dual system”.
  • while exercising powers under the Concurrent List, limit itself to the purpose of ensuring uniformity in basic issues of national policy and not more.
  • (NCRWC), or the Venkatachaliah Commission, had recommended that individual and collective consultation with the States should be undertaken through the Inter­State Council established under Article 263 of the Constitution
  • The Supreme Court itself had held in the S.R. Bommai vs Union of India case, the States are not mere appendages of the Union. The Union government should ensure that the power of the States is not trampled with. 

Swarn Singh

Plutus IAS Current Affair Team

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