What is Federalism?
Federalism is a system of government in which the power is divided between a central authority (central government) and various constituent (state government) units of the country. Like Belgium, India, Russia, and many more.
Federalism has two levels of government.
- One government work for the entire country for the common national interest.
- Other governments of provinces or states look out for the day-to-day administration of their state.
In a federal system, the central government cannot give orders to the state. The state government has its own power to do something which is not answerable to the central government.
Key features of federalism
- There are two or more levels (or tiers) of government. Central Government and State government.
- Each level of government has its own jurisdiction in matters of legislation, taxation, and administration even though they govern the same citizens.
- Powers and functions of each tier of government are specified and guaranteed by the Constitution.
- The fundamental provision of the constitution cannot change by any one level of government. The changes require the consent of both levels of government.
- The court has the power to interpret the constitution and the power of government. If disputes arise between different level of government, then the highest court act as an umpire.
- Source of revenue ensure the financial autonomy of the government.
- The federal system has dual objectives: to safeguard and promote the unity of the country.
The federation has been made by two routes.
Coming together federation: all independent states are coming together on their own for making a big unite so that they can increase their security by pooling sovereignty and retain identity. In this federation, all constituent states are equally strong and powerful. USA, Switzerland, and Australia are followed coming together federation.
Holding together federations: the large country decides to divide the power between the constituent states and the national government. The central government is more powerful than then states. Like India, Spain, and Belgium.
What makes India a federal country?
After independence, India has been emerged and the several states became a part of the country. The constitution declared India as a union of states. Indian union is based on the federalism principles.
The federalism features are applied in the provision of the Indian constitution. The constitution provided a two-tier system: union government (central government) and state government.
Later, a third tier was added in the form of a panchayat (towns) and municipalities (villages). This three-tier enjoy their separate jurisdiction. The constitution distributes legislative power between the union government and state government. Legislative power contains three lists:
- Union list – union list includes subjects of national importance such as the defence of the country, foreign affairs, banking, communication, and currency. The union government alone can make laws relating to the subjects mentioned in the list because we need a uniform policy on these matters throughout the country.
- State list – state list contains subjects of state and local importance like police, trade, commerce, agriculture, irrigation, forest, trade unions, marriage, adoption, and succession. The Union government and state government both can make laws on the subjects mentioned in the list. If their laws conflict with each other, the laws made by the union government will prevail.
- Residuary list – the Subjects which are not mentioned in any of the three lists are known as residuary subjects. Like computer software and many more.
Holding together federations do not give equal power to constituent units. All state in Indian union do not have special power. Some state enjoy special power under article 371 due to their social and historical circumstance such as Asam, Nagaland, Arunachal Pardesh and Mizoram, this special power provides them to protect their land rights, culture, and employment in the government sector. Indians who are not permanent residents of this state cannot buy any land or house here.
There are some area which is too small to become independent state and cannot merged with any existing states. Like Chandigarh, Lakshadweep, and the capital city Delhi. These city are called union territories. They do not have a special power like the state. these cities are run by the central government.
The judiciary plays an important role in implementation of constitutional provisions and procedures. In case of any dispute about division of power, the high court and the supreme court make decision. The union government and the state government have the power to raise resources by levying taxes.
How is federalism practice?
The constitutional provisions are necessary for the success of federalism, but it is not sufficient. The democratic politics of India are main reason of success of the federalism. These are the way in which this happened:
Linguistic states – The creation of linguistic states was the first test of democratic politics of our country. The journey of democracy was began in 1947. The several states were changed into new state to ensure that the people who speak the same language lived in the same state. some states were created on the basis of culture, ethnicity, or geography. Like Nagaland, Uttarakhand, and Jharkhand.
The central government has shown that the linguistic states have made country more united and administration work easy.
Language policy – The language policy is the second test of the Indian federation. India is a diversity of language country. Indian constitution made Hindi as official language of the country. But Hindi is the mother tongue of 40 per-cent of people. Besides Hindi, 21 other languages are schedule language by the constitution. The central government exam is conducted in many languages. The States have their own state language.
Unlike Sri Lanka , the leader of our country start to spread the use of Hindi. In 1965, English language was banned for official purpose by the constitution. Many states like Tamil Nadu gets violent so the central government agreed to continue to use English language.
Centre State Relations
Centre state relations – Centre state relations has been strengthen in federalism. The constitutions arrangements depends on how the ruling parties and leaders follows. The same party ruled at states and central government cannot enjoy autonomous federal units rights.
Decentralisation in India
When the power is taken from central and states government and given to local government, is known as Decentralisation.
The federal government has two or more tiers of government. The country like India cannot run through two tiers. States in India as large as independent countries like Europe. In terms of population, Uttar Pardesh is bigger than Russia, Maharashtra as big as Germany. The federal power sharing needs another tier of government in India that is third tier. The third tier is known as local government.
There have been several attempts to decentralise power to the level of villages and towns. Panchayats were set up in villages and municipalities and control by state government.
The constitution was made the third tier more powerful and effective in 1992.
- It is mandatory to hold regular elections for local government bodies.
- Seats are reserved for the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, and other backward classes in election bodies.
- One-third of all positions are reserved for women.
- An independent institution called the state election commission has been created in each state to conduct panchayat and municipal elections.
- The state governments share some power and revenue with local government bodies.
Third tier government in India
- The rural local government is known panchayati raj. Each village has a gram panchayat.
- This is a council consisting of several ward members called panch or sarpanch.
- The panchayat works under gram sabha.
- A few gram panchayats are grouped together to form panchayat samiti or block or mandal.
- The body of members are elected by all panchayat members in that area.
- All panchayat samities of the district constitute the zilla parishad.
- Zilla parishad chairperson is the political head of the zilla parishad.
- Members of lok sabha and MLAs of the district and some official bodies of district are also members of zilla parishad.
- Similarly, local government bodies exist in urban areas as well. Municipalities and municipal corporations are set up in the towns and cities. They are controlled by elected bodies.
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