Posted: Release Date – 12:45 AM, Friday – Nov 11 22
Author: Dr. Seela Subba Rao
Schedule 7 under Article 246 of the Constitution provides for a dual government, with a clear division of powers between the Commonwealth and the States, each of which is supreme within the limits allotted to it. The states are not the creators of the center, nor do they derive their powers from the coalition government.
On the other hand, like union governments, they derive their powers directly from the constitution and are free to operate within the areas allocated to them by the constitution. The Constitution makes detailed provisions for union lists, state lists, and parallel lists, etc., and divides all powers—legislative, executive, and fiscal—between unions and states.
However, the actual operation of the central-state relationship during these seven decades has caused controversy over the constitutional arrangement. This arrangement means that the center controls the states through different agencies, such as the governors, union instructions to state governments, delegation of union functions, grants and interstate commissions. Critics have expressed doubts about the current arrangement system and have suggested redistribution and adjustment to improve the relationship between the center and the state.
The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments of 1992 authorized the establishment of elected local governments and delegated a range of powers and responsibilities to them. Thus, the two-tier system of central and state governments in India became a three-tier system.
However, so far, little progress has been made in this direction. Local governments are still helpless and inefficient, and they are just the voice of the higher-level government. Currently, democracy has not been enhanced to the expected level in spite of nearly 32 lakh people’s representatives being elected to 2.50 lakh local government bodies across India every five years with great fanfare.
Certain provisions authorize States to participate actively in administrative, legislative and financial affairs. For example, states have the power to make their own laws based on the list of states. Likewise, they perform their administrative or administrative functions without too much intervention from the center. In addition, they perform certain financial functions, such as tax collection. All these functions make the country self-governing and make India a better federation.
Providing different lists ensures less confusion and conflict between centres and countries. Likewise, making parliamentary laws higher than state legislation ensures a simplified mechanism.
Covid-19 has left some scars, and the PM-CARES Fund is brought under the umbrella of corporate social responsibility. State funds do not receive the same treatment. As a result, corporations are more inclined than states to donate to the center, which has resulted in many states being financially constrained in enforcing welfare measures. In addition, the center’s delay in paying GST dues to states caused heartburn. With regard to legislative relations, states were not consulted on many statute-mandated matters.
The devolution envisioned by the Constitution is not just about delegation. This means that the law formally assigns clearly defined governance functions to local governments, backed up by adequate transfers of a package of fiscal appropriations and tax treatments. Provide them with staff so that they have the necessary funds to perform their duties. On top of that, local governments report primarily to voters, not to higher authorities.
The constitution mandates the election of city halls and boroughs every five years and obliges states to pass laws to delegate functions and responsibilities to them. A study by the Centre for Policy Research shows that all states have formally delegated powers to gram panchayat for five core functions of water supply, sanitation and roads, communications, street lighting supply and community asset management.
While some countries have handed over relatively more power to local institutions, true decentralization is still a long way off. The power to delegate functions to local governments rests with state governments. For a variety of reasons, countries have not delegated appropriate functions to local government agencies that seriously affect the efficiency and effectiveness of the system.
For example, state governments have been known to create parallel structures for the implementation of agricultural, health, and education programs — undermining areas where local agencies are constitutionally accountable.
Decentralizing functions is meaningless without providing funds to perform these functions. After nearly 30 years of centralization, local government spending as a share of GDP is only 2 percent, a very low figure compared to other major emerging economies such as China (11 percent) and Brazil (7 percent).
It is worth mentioning that in 1983, the Central Committee established the Sakarya Committee to review and review the working arrangements of the central government’s relations with the state. After much deliberation, the Sarkaria Committee made 247 recommendations, 179 of which were implemented in 2007. The committee also made recommendations to minimize the power of the coalition.
However, for various reasons, the demands of the union government’s minimization of power have not been met.
Since the relationship between the state and the center is very delicate, more institutional reforms are needed to remove friction.
Cooperative federalism should not be transformed into compulsory federalism. More institutions, such as the National Development Council, National Integration Council, and Interstate Council, must be established to strengthen the spirit of federalism.
There has been a paradigm shift in competitive federalism over the past few years, which bodes well for all regions. The higher-level government needs to act with a broader vision and, in accordance with the law, provide necessary support by all means for the all-round development of the lower-level government.
A higher government may go to great lengths to avoid a Machiavellian attitude when dealing with a lower government to avoid friction at all costs. Maximum harmony and perfect coordination are essential for the effective functioning of the federal system.
(The author is the former assistant general manager of Nabard)