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Cooperative federalism in India


Political scientists have classified governments into unitary and federal on the basis of nature of the relationship between national government and regional government .Federal governments are one, in which powers are vividly divided between central and regional governments as enshrined in Article 246 & Schedule 7 of the Indian Constitution with distinct list defining the scope of power i.e. State list, Concurrent list and Union list.

Indian Constituent Assembly was well aware that federalism was important to absorb huge diversity but simultaneously gave it a Unitary Bias to counter cessation tendencies as India was a "Nation in the Making". This process of Nation making was boosted by an innovative attribute of Federalism termed as "COOPERATIVE FEDERALISM" by GRANVILLE AUSTIN, which lucidly means cooperation between Union and States. However, Cooperative Federalism is not new to India; its root can be traced in the history.

Since the ancient period, kingdoms or empires has ruled Indian subcontinent through a federal policy of non-intervention in local affairs. Hence, chieftains were left very much alone. Successful monarch Akbar understood diversities of the subcontinent and hence ruled through a policy of cooperative Federalism.

Further disintegration of Mughals is partly attributed to centralised tendencies of monarchs like Jahangir and Aurangzeb. Moreover, Revolt of 1857 was also the result of intervention measures of British like Doctrine of Lapse, etc.

Cooperative Federalism was one of the major instruments used by prominent Vallabhbhai Patel to persuade and cajole 492 princely states to join Indian union.

Under Nehruvian era, State Reorganization Act, leading to the formation of five zonal councils was an important step towards cooperation. However, Federalism soon came under threats which can also be witnessed in contemporary times.

This threat is in the form of frequent use of Article 356 imposing president rule, as seen recently in Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh. Also, obscure distinction of power has led to conflicts between Delhi government and central government.

Further, special powers to Armed forces through AFSPA in some states have led to serious concerns about human right violations. "Sharmila Irom", who recently ended her fast after 16 yrs calling for the abolition of AFSPA, can be well quoted in this context.

However, few positive notes can also be pinned up here in recent context. Firstly, 42℅ devolution of funds to states as declared by Finance commission and Secondly, Land boundary agreement between India and Bangladesh in which states like West Bengal, Meghalaya, Assam and Tripura fully cooperated with the central government.

Cooperative Federalism is an important tool in healing many evils like inter - state and intra - state inequalities. Centre can provide Grant in aid to poor states which are disadvantaged because of adjoining international border, difficult terrain etc. Cooperative Federalism also attracts attention in case of Naxalism where central police like CRPF, BSF are used to tackle this problem helping states to attain peace.

Moreover, one may argue, Cauvery dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu or Sutlej -Yamuna canal dispute between Punjab and Haryana can be solved through cooperation.

With the advent of 21 century, new challenges of global nature like climate change don't recognise state frontiers. Pollution and conservation issues reflect the uncomfortable tension between decision-making processes of the government at centre -state- local levels. Further, Disaster Management transcends interstate boundaries.

Globalisation has reinforced the need for concurrence between geographical, climatic, environmental and technological diversities, inter as well as intra-states, so that they may link with the global processes for viable and sustainable development and growth.

Since the world has become a global village, the country's internal security and political problems are open to external influence verging on interventions. Problems like terrorism, organised crimes, refugees and internally displaced persons need to be handled through centre -state cooperation.

Hence there is urgent need to strengthen this cooperation. In this context, S.R Bomai case worth mentioning, in which Supreme Court decreed centre to apply President Rule only on substantial constitutional reason and put it under the ambit of judicial review.

Further, Article 263 dealing with Inter- state council is important and this council needs to be strengthened. Also, Union government should take initiative by winding up ministries dealing with state subject leaving states with greater space. Moreover, Centre should be more conscious while dealing with Concurrent list in which central laws can overrule state laws.

Finance commission should be given control of all funds hence leaving no place to discretionary grants which are often biased.

Competitive Federalism is another instrument of efficiency and cooperation. However, a fair competition needs to be encouraged as all states are not equally capable or resourceful of competing with each other.

India is a beautiful melting pot of diversity. The same needs to be valued and cherished. And there is not a better way to do so than by cooperative Federalism. In the famous words of Justice Nani Palkivala - "WHO DIES IF INDIA LIVES AND WHO LIVES IF INDIA DIES....." People of several states sink or swim together, and that in long run, prosperity and salvation are in innovation and not conflict; cooperation and not competition.

- ANKUSH SHARMA