7 PM Editorial |Cooperative federalism during COVID| 26th May 2020


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Cooperative federalism during COVID

What has happened:

Recent developments due to COVID 19 have put strain on cooperative federalism. Cooperative federalism is crucial in combating COVID 19 as states are first responders and public health is a state subject under constitution. This article discusses federalism, cooperative federalism and recent developments resulting in strain on cooperative federalism. It also discusses the importance of Cooperative federalism during disasters.

Federalism and cooperative federalism:
  1. Federalism is independence of centre and states in their respective domains. Its features are dual polity with separation of powers, Bicameral legislature with representation of states, written constitution with rigidity in amendments to federal provisions, Independent judiciary to uphold federal principles
  2. Experts say India is quasi federal polity with unitary features such as All India Services, Governor, Article 3 – centre can create new states or change existing ones, Emergency provisions, Integrated judiciary, Residuary powers with centre as per schedule VII
  3. Cooperative federalism: It is administrative cooperation between centre and states, and a partial dependence of states upon centre. Though there is dependence on the centre, it does not result in weaker states but ensures progress.
  4. Major provisions of cooperative federalism in Indian constitution and other institutions:
    1. All India Services(article 312)
    2. Concurrent list of 7th schedule
    3. GST council, Inter State council (article 263)
    4. NITI aayog governing council
    5. Articles 258 and 258A-Mutual delegation of functions i.e. centre and parliament can confer powers and duties on state executive and vice-versa
    6. Article 252 – Parliament can legislate on state subjects if 2 or more states request.
Avenues of cooperation between centre and states during disasters:

Laws, policies, institutions which provide for cooperation are:

  1. NDMA-National disaster management act, 2005 provides for:
    1. Preparation of ‘National plan’ after consultation with states
    2. Binding regulations to implement National plan by centre to states
  2. NDMP – National Disaster Management Plan has a regional approach with clear demarcation of roles and responsibilities of all levels of center, state and district.
  3. State Disaster response funds receive contributions from the centre. Finance commission provides for these
  4. Cooperation between the National Disaster Response Force(NDRF) and State response forces. Pre disaster Cooperation includes training, operational readiness. Post disaster cooperation includes rescue and rehabilitation.
Importance of cooperative federalism during disasters:
  1. States are first responders for disasters like COVID. They provide food, healthcare, shelter, post disaster compensation. In the case of COVID, public health is a state subject. Hence states need adequate funds. Devolution of funds by centre must be timely.
  2. Cooperation ensures no duplication of efforts occur and resources are used efficiently.
  3. States deal directly with ground situation and hence have greater understanding. Hence clear picture of disaster can emerge only with cooperation between centre and states
  4. Basic services like Health care, Food and nutritional security, shelter are primarily under states domain. Hence state autonomy is crucial in ensuring these services are provided for effectively
  5. Difference in state capabilities – economic, governance, service delivery- require respective different strategies. This needs autonomy with some central assistance. State like Kerala where high level of governance capabilities with good public infrastructure need to have different strategy than states like UP, Bihar
Actions which have put strain on centre state Cooperation:
  1. Centre has classified areas into red, orange and green zones through notification. It has also prohibited states in changing such zone classification. States have demanded consultations and more autonomy in such classification. NDMA, 2005 mandates such consultations before such notifications.
  2. Corporate Social Responsibility-CSR exemption is provided only for donations to PM-CARES funds and not for CM relief funds. This reduces donations to CM relief funds. This is leading to salary, pension and welfare schemes cuts by states to account for shortfall in funds. States have demanded exemptions for donations to CM relief funds
  3. Delays in release of funds relating to GST, suspension of MPLADS scheme reduced available funds with states. Devolution of funds is an important part of cooperative federalism and is needed for funding disaster relief. States have demanded the centre for timely release of funds.
Going ahead:

Cooperative federalism through consultations, adequate autonomy, adequate funds and strengthening of state capabilities is the best way to combat COVID and future disasters

Related Revision topics:
  1. Federal distribution of powers – Legislative, administrative, financial
  2. NDMA, 2005

Link for the article – https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/reaffirm-cooperative-federalism/article31567966.ece

Mains question:
  1. What do you understand by cooperative federalism? Discuss its importance during disasters in the context of the recent COVID 19 pandemic?
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