[Editorial Analysis] Adverse changes, federalism imperilled

Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: Federalism
Mains level: Centre state relations, Federalism

Context:

• The current government is increasing centralisation and being accused of growing incursions into sectors where State governments have a primary responsibility to govern such as health, education and agriculture.

• Slogans such as ‘one nation one tax, one market and one ration’ are again part of such appeals to a narrative of a strong nation state rather than one of governance.

Union encroachment:

• Author argues in post independent India, the Centre, on several occasions, has used its powers to dismiss democratically elected governments.

• During the Emergency, education was moved to the Concurrent list which was until then a State subject under the constitutional division of responsibilities.

• It is seen that there has been increasing centralisation in resource allocations and welfare interventions.

• The shortfall of GST and the Centre’s lackadaisical response to demands for compensation by State governments are known.

• The Centre has been accused of encroaching into domains under State government control through centrally sponsored schemes in sectors such as education and health where States are required to spend about 85% and 82% of public expenditure, respectively.

State-capital relations:

• The author argues that there has been consolidation and expansion of a few big business groups seen to be close to the central ruling party, at the expense of smaller players.

• Insulating Indian big business from global competition by choosing not to enter into the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

• The writer says that it has eroded the power of small businesses through support for GST and the call for a single national market.

• Regional parties tend to rely on regionspecific rent thick sectors for political funding such as mining and real estate.

• The author alleges that the central ruling party has sought to curtail this through a levelling of corruption allegations and the use of central agencies to keep regional parties in check.

Institutional transgression:

• Another challenge is in the use of executive and legislative aggression.

• Central institutions are increasingly weakening the policy levers of State institutions. Institutions such as the Income Tax Department, the Enforcement Directorate and the National Investigation Agency are being used to intimidate opponents.

• Direct transfers to beneficiaries of welfare schemes bypassing States are also contributing to this factor.
• Centre is increasingly ignoring elected representatives of State governments, holding meetings with State secretaries and district collectors on issues that are primarily under State control.
• Recent example was a recent meeting by Minister of Education Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank with State Education Secretaries on implementation of the New Education Policy.

• The Centre has now put State governments at a disadvantage in vaccine usage by fixing differential pricing for procuring vaccines for them. This forces State governments to pay more even as they are deprived of their revenue shares.

Way forward:

• According to Partha Chatterjee, “beside the legal constitutional aspects of federalism, it is diversity in cultural foundation of regions that sustains Indian federalism”

• However, this diversity is being challenged at present. Markers of regional identities and regional sociocultural practices are now interpreted as belonging to a pan Indian Hindu tradition.

• ‘Dravidian’ is attacked as a creation of the British with support from Christian missionaries, emptying the term of its anticaste politics.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the RDSO (Research Design and Standards Organization), consider the following statements:

1. RDSO (Research Design and Standards Organization) of Indian Railways has become the first institution to be declared Standard Developing Organization (SDO) under “One Nation One Standard” mission of BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards).

2. Bureau of Indian Standards is an institution under the Union ministry of Science and Technology.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Answer: A

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