[Answered] What is cooperative federalism? Discuss various roadblocks to cooperative federalism in India. How can it be strengthened in India?

Demand of the question Introduction. What is cooperative federalism? Body. Discuss various roadblocks to cooperative federalism in India. Suggest measures to strengthen cooperative federalism. Conclusion. Way forward.

Federalism is a system of government in which states or provinces share power with a national government. Cooperative federalism refers to a concept where various states cooperate with each other and with the centre to achieve the goals of growth, development of the states and the nation. They cooperate in working out details concerning which level of government takes responsibility for particular areas and creating policy in that area. The concept of cooperative federalism put forward the view that the national and state governments are partners in the exercise of governmental authority.

Various hurdles to cooperative federalism in India:

  1. Over-centralisation: As widely recognised, India is quasi-federal, with powers and resources being highly tilted in favour of the Union. The Union list has more items than the state list that enables more taxation power to centre.This acts as a major roadblock to cooperative federalism in India. Excessive central character, reduce active participation of states.
  2. Ineffective inter-state council: The Constitution provided for institutions like inter-state councils to serve as a platform for consultation between the centre and the states. The inter-state council has just turned out as a platform of talks with less progress on real issues. Inter-state council has met twice in 50 years, and has not been taken seriously as a vehicle of cooperative federalism:
  3. Presidential rule: The constitution has provided the President with power to take over state machinery in situations of state failure and emergency. Unfortunately, it has been misused by political parties to subvert state governments. Between 1947 and 1977, there were 44 instances when the power to impose President’s rule was exercised. In S.R. Bommai v. Union of India (1994), the limitation laid down by the Supreme Court has placed gentle breaks on exercise of this power, but it had limited effect.
  4. Taxation: Taxation powers are another contentious issue between state and the Central government. For example, in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) scenario, States have power to levy tax on sale of petrol, diesel, etc. and these would be revenues of the respective States. However, the GST Council is yet to recommend inclusion of these items under GST.
  5. Under-represented in finance commission: States are under-represented. Recommendations of the Finance Commission are placed before Parliament and States have no role in the debate. There is no provision for an aggrieved State to challenge the FC report or seek its enforcement. 
  6. Trust deficit: Trust deficit between Centre and States is widening. Several issues such as shrinkage of divisible pools plague Centre-State relations. Together, they make total cooperation difficult. Most state governments believe the thrust on federalism is limited to lofty ideas and big talks. Many States have shown their displeasure with the way the Centre has been dealing with the States. Recently, Kerala has used Article 131 to move against centre due to displeasure over Citizenship amendment act.
  7. One size fits all approach: A ‘One Size Fits All’ approach had been used for years, not taking into account the heterogeneity of different states and their local requirements. Due to this many states continue to suffer. Earlier planning commision and now Niti Aayog both have followed the same policy. This leads to difficulty in Policy implementation and working together.

Measures to strengthen cooperative federalism:

  1. Empowering states: NITI Aayog was formed to further empower and strengthen the states. NITI Aayog needs to act to provide the strategic policy vision for the government as well as deal with contingent issues. For example, the state should be empowered more for working to enable smart cities.
  2. Empowering states: There are several ways through which a country can achieve higher growth and promote economic activities. One of the ways is to empower states towards optimum utilization of its resources such as infrastructure, buildings, transportation and the most importantly its human resource.
  3. Fostering cooperation: All states should compete with each other regarding policies and its effective implementation. The Union government can include States in how decisions are made and enforced. The Union must develop newer conventions to foster cooperation. Aspirational district initiative has potential to foster cooperation at local level, enabling the states to work with the centre.
  4. 4.     Taxation: States must be given more power to tax and more grants should be given to them. One size fits all policy needs to be changed with focus to specific needs of each state.

The new challenges and issues need centre and various states to come together. Terrorism, militancy, organised crimes, problem of internally displaced persons, refugees issue, all these require that the country as a whole comes together. Cooperative federalism alone strengthens the nation from within by enabling it to withstand adversities and challenges because of its inherent resilience and malleability. Thus efforts must be made towards cooperative federalism.

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