What is Federalism?
Fig: Federal government vs Unitary government
Kinds of federations
Special Note: Only 25 countries of the world’s 192 countries have the federal system. Most of the large countries of the world are federations.
What makes India a Federal country?
- All the features of federalism are present in the Indian Constitution. The only difference is that in addition to the two-tier system, India added a third — panchayats and municipalities.
- The Constitution has made provisions for distribution of legislative powers between the Union government and the State governments.
- These powers come under three lists –
There might be some subjects that do not come under any list. (For example, Computers). The Union government has the power to make laws on these ‘residuary subjects.’
Special Features of the Indian Federation
Centre is more powerful than the states. All states do not have same powers.
- No dual citizenship, like the USA. Every citizen votes as an Indian.
- The Constitution provides special powers to the Centre if there is an emergency in the country.
- Chandigarh, Lakshadweep or the capital city of Delhi are too small in area to become independent states and are called Union Territories. The Union government has the power to run them.
- According to the Constitution, the powers of the states and the Union government is specified, therefore if any change is needed, it has to be passed by both houses of the Parliament with at least 2/3 majority. Then it has to be ratified by the legislatures of at least 1/2 of the total states.
- The judiciary has the power to oversee the implementation of the Constitution.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2003, has a new scheme called the Overseas Indian Citizenship (OIC) scheme which allows overseas Indians (of specified countries) to hold dual citizenship.
The specified countries are:
- New Zealand
- Republic of Cyprus
- United Kingdom
- United States of America.
HOW IS FEDERALISM PRACTISED
- New states have been created. Areas, boundaries and names of the states have been changed.
- Creation of new states was done on two bases:
(i) Culture, ethnicity or geography, e.g., Nagaland, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand.
(ii) On the basis of language, e.g., Andhra, Maharashtra and many others.
1. Our Constitution has not made any language the national language of India.
2. Hindi is the official language spoken by 40% of the population.
Fig: Hindi belt of India (people speaking hindi language)3. Besides Hindi, 21 other languages are recognised by the Constitution. They are:
4. English was to cease as an official language in 1965. But there were agitations in many states [specially Tamil Nadu] against this, so English is allowed to continue. English is the 22nd language.
- only 0.02 per cent Indians have English as their mother tongue.
- 1% know English as the second or third language. The Census of 1991 recorded 1500 distinct languages claimed by people as their mother tongue.
- After grouping them under some major languages, the census found 114 major languages.
Example: Bhojpuri, Magadhi, Awadhi, Braj, Bundelkhandi, Chhattisgarhi and Rajasthani were grouped under “Hindi”.
- Even after grouping, people who knew Hindi as their second and third language, the total number of Hindi-speaking people was less than 50%.
The way Constitution has made the Centre and the States share powers has also strengthened federalism in India.
DECENTRALISATION IN INDIA
1. India has a three-tier system of government.
Fig: Three tier system of government2. The three-tier system was adopted because:
(i) India is a very big country.
(ii) Difficult for the union and state governments to manage big provinces and huge population.
3. Decentralisation means that some power is taken away from the central and state governments and given to local governments.
REASONS FOR DECENTRALISATION
In a big country like India, it is essential to have an elected government at the local level also.
- Local people have better knowledge of local problems.
- Local people have better ideas of where to spend money and which problem to tackle first, of how to manage things more efficiently.
- Common citizens can be involved in decision-making, concerning their needs and how to plan development.
- People can approach a local government for solving their problems easily and quickly. The cost is also reduced to the minimum.
- Local governments provide training in becoming active participants in the working of a democracy. It trains one for leadership.
- Local governments at grass root level ensure stability, strength and health of democracy.
The 73rd Amendment (1992) concerned the rural local governments (referred to as Panchayati Raj Institutions or PRIs). The 74th Amendment made provisions for urban local governments (Nagar Palikas). They came into force in 1993.
- 1992: Amendments to the Constitution (the 73rd and 74th amendments) made the three-tier system more powerful and effective.
- Before 1992: The local bodies were directly under the state governments. Regular elections were not held and the local bodies did not have any resources or powers of their own, no real decentralisation.