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FEDERALISM

 

 

 

 

POLITICAL SCIENCE

Chapter-2                                               (FEDERALISM)

 

Federalism:

            Federalismisasystemofgovernmentinwhichthepowerisdividedbetweena centralauthorityandvariousconstituentunitsofthecountry.Usually,afederationhastwolevels ofgovernment.Oneisthegovernmentfortheentirecountrythatisusuallyresponsibleforafew subjectsofcommonnationalinterest.Theothersaregovernmentsatthelevelofprovincesor states that lookaftermuchofthe day-to-dayadministeringoftheir state.Both these levelsof governmentsenjoytheir power independent of the other.

KeyFeatures of Federalism:

  1. 1. There aretwo or morelevels(or tiers) of government.
  2. 2. Different tiers of government govern the same citizens, but each tier has its own jurisdictioninspecificmattersof legislation, taxationandadministration.
  3. 3. Thejurisdictions oftherespectivelevelsortiersofgovernmentarespecifiedinthe constitution.Sotheexistenceandauthorityofeachtierofgovernmentisconstitutionallyguaranteed.
  4. 4. Thefundamentalprovisionsoftheconstitutioncannotbeunilaterallychangedbyonelevel of government. Suchchanges require the consent of boththe levelsofgovernment.
  5. 5. Courtshavethepowertointerprettheconstitutionandthepowersofdifferentlevelsof

government.Thehighestcourtactsasanumpireifdisputesarisebetweendifferentlevels of governmentinthe exercise of their respective powers.

  1. 6. Sourcesofrevenueforeachlevelofgovernmentareclearlyspecifiedtoensureitsfinancial autonomy.
  2. 7. Thefederalsystemthushasdualobjectives:tosafeguardandpromoteunityofthe country,while atthe same time accommodateregionaldiversity.

Therefore,twoaspectsarecrucialfortheinstitutionsandpractice offederalism.Governmentsat differentlevelsshouldagreetosomerulesof powersharing.They shouldalsotrustthateach wouldabideby itspartof theagreement.Anidealfederalsystemhas bothaspects:mutual trust andagreementto live together.

BalanceofPower:

            Theexactbalanceof powerbetween thecentralandthestategovernment variesfrom onefederationtoanother.Thisbalancedependsmainlyonthehistoricalcontextin which thefederationwas formed.

 

Therearetwokindsofroutesthroughwhichfederationshavebeenformed.Thefirstroute involvesindependentStatescomingtogetherontheirowntoformabiggerunit,sothatby poolingsovereigntyandretaining identitytheycan increasetheirsecurity.Thistypeof ‘coming together’federationsincludetheUSA,SwitzerlandandAustralia.Inthisfirstcategory of federations,alltheconstituentStatesusuallyhaveequalpowerandarestrongvis-à-visthe federalgovernment.

Thesecondrouteiswherealargecountrydecidestodivideitspowerbetweentheconstituent

States and thenational government.India, SpainandBelgiumare examplesof thiskindof‘holdingtogether’ federations.Inthissecondcategory,thecentralgovernmenttendstobemore powerfulvis-à-visthe States.Very often differentconstituentunits of the federation have unequalpowers. Some unitsare grantedspecialpowers.

 

TheIndian Federation:

Indiahademergedasanindependentnationafterapainfulandbloodypartition.Soonafter Independence,several princely states became a part of thecountry.The Constitution declared Indiaas aUnion of States.Although it did not usetheword federation,theIndianUnion isbased onthe principlesoffederalism.

 

TheConstitutionoriginallyprovidedforatwo-tiersystemofgovernment,theUnionGovernment orwhatwecall theCentral Government,representingtheUnion of Indiaand theState governments. Later, athirdtier of federalismwas addedintheform of Panchayatsand Municipalities.

 

List of Jurisdiction:

  • Union Listincludes subjectsof nationalimportance suchasdefenceof the country,foreign affairs, banking, communicationsand currency. They areincluded inthis list becausewe needa uniformpolicyonthesemattersthroughoutthecountry. TheUnion Government alone canmake laws relatingto the subjectsmentionedinthe Union List.
  • State List contains subjects of State and local importance such as police, trade, commerce,agricultureandirrigation. TheStateGovernmentsalonecanmakelaws relating tothe subjects mentioned intheStateList.
  • ConcurrentListincludessubjectsofcommoninteresttoboththeUnionGovernmentas wellastheState Governments,suchas education,forest,trade unions,marriage,adoption andsuccession. Both theUnionas well astheStateGovernmentscanmakelaws on the subjectsmentioned in thislist. If theirlawsconflict with each other, thelawmadeby the UnionGovernmentwill prevail.

            ResiduaryList:Anythingoutofpurviewofabovementionedlististakenasresiduary subject.UnionGovernmenthas the power to legislate on these subjects.

 

  • SpecialStatus:JammuandKashmirhasitsownConstitution.Manyprovisionsofthe Indian Constitution arenot applicabletothis Statewithout theapprovalof theState Assembly. Indianswhoarenot permanent residents of this Statecannot buy landorhouse here.Similarspecialprovisionsexistforsome other States of India aswell.

 

  • UnionTerritories: Therearesomeunitsof the IndianUnionwhich enjoyverylittlepower.

TheseareareaswhicharetoosmalltobecomeanindependentStatebutwhichcouldnot bemergedwithanyoftheexistingStates.Theseareas,likeChandigarh,orLakshadweep

orthecapitalcityofDelhi,arecalledUnionTerritories.Theseterritoriesdonothavethe powersofa State.The CentralGovernment hasspecialpowers inrunningthese areas.

 

Thissharing ofpower betweentheUnionGovernmentandthe Stategovernmentsisbasictothe structure oftheConstitution.Itisnot easytomakechangesto thispowersharingarrangement. TheParliamentcannotonitsownchangethisarrangement.Anychangetoithastobefirst passedbyboththeHousesofParliamentwithatleasttwo-thirdsmajority.Thenithastobe ratifiedby thelegislatures of atleast halfofthe total States.

 

 

Reasonsfor SuccessofFederalismin India

 

LinguisticStates:Thecreation of LinguisticStateswas thefirst andamajortest fordemocratic politics inourcountry.Sinceindependence,manyold Stateshavevanished andmanynewStates havebeencreated.Areas, boundariesandnamesoftheStateshavebeenchanged.In1947, the boundariesofseveral oldStates ofIndiawerechangedinorderto createnewStates. Thiswas donetoensurethat peoplewhospokethesamelanguagelivedinthesameState.SomeStates werecreatednotonthebasisoflanguagebuttorecognisedifferencesbasedonculture,ethnicity orgeography.TheseincludeStateslikeNagaland, UttarakhandandJharkhand.Experiencehas shown that theformation of linguistic Stateshas actuallymade the country, moreunited. It has alsomade administrationeasier.

 

Languagepolicy

AsecondtestforIndianfederation isthelanguagepolicy. OurConstitutiondidnot givethestatus ofnationallanguagetoanyonelanguage.Hindiwasidentifiedastheofficiallanguage.ButHindi isthe mothertongueofonlyabout 40 per cent ofIndians. Therefore,there weremanysafeguards toprotectotherlanguages.BesidesHindi,thereare21otherlanguagesrecognisedas Scheduled Languages bythe Constitution.

 

Promotion of Hindicontinuesto be the officialpolicy of theGovernmentofIndia. Promotion   doesnotmeanthat theCentral Government canimposeHindion Stateswherepeoplespeaka differentlanguage.TheflexibilityshownbyIndianpoliticalleadershelpedourcountryavoidthe kindofsituationthatSriLankafindsitselfin.

 

Centre-State relations

Restructuring the Centre-Staterelationsis one morewayinwhichfederalismhasbeen strengthened inpractice.

 

SituationDuringCongressMonopoly:Formajorpartofthecountrysamepartywasinpower inbothcentreandstate.Asaresultstategovernmentswerenotinapositiontoenjoytheir rights.Whenever,therewas adifferentpartyinpowerinaparticularstate,centralgovernment triedto undermine itsinfluence.Constitutionwas usuallymisusedto topple unfriendlygovernment inthose states.

 

SituationintheEra of CoalitionGovernment:After 1989patternhashiftedtomulti-party coalition governmentatthecentre.Asaresultanewcultureofpowersharingandrespectforthe autonomy of StateGovernmentshasdeveloped. Itcanbesaidthatnowthefederalism ismore developedinIndia.

 

Linguistic diversity of India

AsperthelatestCensusReport,1991of Indiaheldin1991thereare1500distinctlanguages. Theselanguages were grouped together undersome majorlanguages.For example languages like Bhojpuri,Magadhi,Bundelkhandi,Chhattisgarhi,Rajasthani,Bhiliandmanyothersweregrouped togetherunder‘Hindi’.Evenafterthisgrouping,theCensusfound114majorlanguages.Ofthese 22languagesarenowincluded in theEighthScheduleof theIndianConstitutionandaretherefore called ‘ScheduledLanguages’. Others arecalled ‘non- Scheduled Languages’. In termsof languages,Indiais perhapsthe mostdiverse countryinthe world.

 

Decentralisationin Inidia:

Avastcountry likeIndiacannot berunonlythrough two-tiers of governmentas discussedabove. StatesinIndiaareaslargeas independentcountriesofEurope.Intermsofpopulation,Uttar Pradeshisbiggerthan Russia,Maharashtraisabout as big as Germany.Many of theseStatesare internallyvery diverse interms of dialectsor local languagesspoken, interms of eating habits and cultures.

 

So,federalpowersharinginIndianeedsanothertierofgovernment,belowthatoftheState governments.Thisisthe rationale for decentralisation of power.The basicideabehind decentralisationisthattherearealargenumberofproblemsandissueswhicharebestsettledat thelocallevel.Peoplehavebetterknowledgeofproblemsintheirlocalities.Theyalsohavebetter ideas onwheretospendmoneyandhowtomanagethingsmoreefficiently.Besides,atthelocal levelitispossibleforthepeopletodirectlyparticipateindecisionmaking.Thishelpstoinculcate ahabit of democratic participation. Local governmentisthebestway torealiseoneimportant principle of democracy, namely localself-government.

 

Amajorsteptowardsdecentralisationwas takenin1992.TheConstitution wasamended tomake thethird-tier of democracymore powerfuland effective.

  • Now itis constitutionallymandatory to holdregular electionsto local governmentbodies.
  • Seatsarereservedintheelectedbodiesandtheexecutiveheadsoftheseinstitutionsfor theScheduledCastes,ScheduledTribes and Other BackwardClasses.
  • At least one-third of all positionsare reservedfor women.
  • AnindependentinstitutioncalledtheStateElectionCommissionhasbeencreatedineach

State toconductpanchayatandmunicipal elections.

  • The State governments are required to share some powers and revenue with local governmentbodies.Thenature of sharing varies from StatetoState.Rural local governmentispopularlyknown bythenamepanchayatiraj. Eachvillage,oragroup of villages insomeStates,hasagrampanchayat.Thisisacouncilconsistingof severalward members,oftencalledpanch,and apresident orsarpanch. They aredirectlyelectedby all theadult population livingin thatwardorvillage.It isthedecision-makingbodyforthe entirevillage.Thepanchayatworksundertheoverallsupervisionofthegramsabha.All thevotersinthevillageareitsmembers.Ithasto meetatleast twiceor thrice ina yearto approvetheannualbudgetof thegrampanchayat and to reviewtheperformance of the grampanchayat.
  • Thelocalgovernmentstructuregoesrightuptothedistrictlevel.Afewgrampanchayats aregroupedtogetherto formwhatisusuallycalledapanchayatsamiti or block or mandal. Themembers of thisrepresentativebodyareelectedby allthepanchyatmembersinthat area.All thepanchayatsamitisormandalsinadistricttogetherconstitutethezilla(district)parishad.Mostmembers ofthezillaparishadareelected.Membersof theLokSabhaandMLAsofthatdistrictandsomeotherofficialsofotherdistrictlevelbodiesare alsoitsmembers.Zillaparishadchairpersonis the political head of the zillaparishad.

 

Similarly,localgovernmentbodiesexistfor urbanareasaswell.Municipalitiesaresetupintowns. Bigcities areconstitutedintomunicipalcorporations.Bothmunicipalitiesand municipal corporationsarecontrolledby elected bodies consisting of people’s representatives. Municipal chairpersonisthepoliticalheadof themunicipality.Inamunicipalcorporationsuchanofficeris calledthe mayor.

 

Democratic Politics

 

Thisnewsystemof localgovernmentisthelargestexperimentindemocracyconductedanywhere in theworld. There are now about  36 lakh elected representatives in the panchayatsand municipalitiesetc.,alloverthecountry.Thisnumberisbiggerthanthepopulationofmany countries intheworld.Constitutionalstatusforlocal governmenthashelpedtodeependemocracy inourcountry.Ithasalso increasedwomen’srepresentationandvoicein ourdemocracy.Atthe sametime,therearemanydifficulties.Whileelectionsareheldregularlyandenthusiastically, gramsabhasarenot heldregularly.Most stategovernmentshavenottransferredsignificant powersto the local governments.Norhave theygivenadequateresources.Weare thus stilla long wayfromrealisingtheidealofself-government.

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