• Federalism is a system of government in which power is divided between a central authority and various constituent units of country.
• A federation generally has two levels of government.
• One is government for entire country that is generally responsible for a few subjects of common national interest. others are governments at level of provinces or states that look after day-today administering of their state.
• Both these levels of government enjoy their power independent of other.
• In unitary system, either there is only one level of government, or sub-units are subordinate to Central Government. Central Government can pass on orders to provincial or local government.
• But in a federal system, Central Government cannot order State Government to do something. State Government has powers of its own for which it is not answerable to Central Government.
• Both these governments are separately answerable to people.
• There are two categories of federation.
• first group is made up of independent states that come together on their own to make a bigger unit. They do this to increase their security by sharing sovereignty while keeping their own identities. United States, Switzerland, and Australia are all part of this type of “coming together” federation. In this type of federation, all of states that make it up usually have same amount of power.
• second category is where a large country decides to divide its power between constituent States and national government. India, Spain, & Belgium are examples of this kind of ‘holding together’ federations. In this second category, Central Government tends to be more powerful than States.
Features of Federalism
• There are two or more levels [or tiers] of government.
• Different tiers of government govern same citizens, but each tier has its own jurisdiction in specific matters of legislation, taxation, & administration.
• jurisdictions of respective levels or tiers of government are specified in constitution. So, existence & authority of each tier of government are Constitutionally guaranteed.
• fundamental provisions of Constitution cannot be unilaterally changed by one level of government. Such changes require consent of both levels of government.
• Courts have power to interpret Constitution and powers of different levels of government. highest court acts as an umpire if disputes arise between different levels of government in exercise of their respective powers.
• Sources of revenue for each level of government are specified to ensure its financial autonomy.
• federal system has dual objectives: to safeguard and promote unity of country, while at same time accommodating regional diversity.
Federation in India
• Constitution originally provided for a two-tier system of government, Union Government or Central Government, and State Governments.
• Later, third tier of federalism was added in form of Panchayats and Municipalities.
• These different tiers enjoy separate jurisdictions. Constitution provided a threefold distribution of legislative powers between Union Government and State Governments by providing three lists of subjects.
• Constitution contains three lists:
(1) Union List includes subjects of national importance such as defence of country, foreign affairs, railways, banking, communications and currency. They are included in this list because we need a uniform policy on these matters throughout country. Union Government alone can make laws relating to subjects mentioned in Union List.
(2) State List contains subjects of State and local importance such as police, trade, commerce, agriculture, and irrigation. State Governments have power to make laws on these subjects.
(3) Concurrent List includes forests, trade unions, marriage, adoption, & succession. Both Union and State Governments can make laws on subjects mentioned in this list. If their laws conflict with each other, law made by Union Government will prevail.
• subjects that do not lie in these three lists Union Government has power to legislate on those ‘residuary’ subjects.
• All States in Indian Union do not have identical powers. Some States enjoy a special status. States such as Assam, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram enjoy special powers under certain provisions of Constitution of India [Article 371] due to their peculiar social and historical circumstances.
• These areas, like Chandigarh, or Lakshadweep, or capital city of Delhi, are known as Union Territories. These territories do not have powers of a state. Central Government has special powers in running these areas.
• sharing of power between Union Government and State Governments is basic structure of Constitution. This is not easy to make changes to this power-sharing arrangement. Parliament cannot on its own change this arrangement. Any change to it has to be first passed by both Houses of Parliament with at least two-thirds majority, then, it has to be ratified by legislatures of at least half of total States.
• In case of any dispute about division of powers, High Courts and Supreme Court make a decision.
Linguistic Diversity of India
• Our Constitution did not give national language status to any language. Hindi was identified as official language.
• This 2011 census recorded more than 1300 distinct languages which people mentioned as their mother tongues.
• The 22 major languages called official languages are included in Eighth Schedule of Indian Constitution.
• The 22 official languages are Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu.
• In terms of languages, India is most diverse country in world.
Decentralisation in India
• When power is taken away from Central and State Governments and given to local government, it is known as decentralisation.
• Under decentralisation, all States set up Panchayats in villages and Municipalities in urban areas.
• A major step towards decentralisation was taken in 1992. Constitution was amended to make third-tier of democracy more powerful and effective.
• Seats are reserved in elected bodies [Panchayat and Municipalities] and executive heads for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes.
• At least one-third of all positions are reserved for women in Panchayat and Municipalities.
• An independent institution known as State Election Commission has been created in each State to conduct panchayat and municipal elections.
• State Governments are required to share some powers and revenue with local government bodies. nature of sharing varies from State to State.
• Rural local government is popularly known by name Panchayati raj.
• Each village, or a group of villages in some States, has a Gram Panchayat. It is a council consisting of several ward members, often known as Panch, and a President or Sarpanch. They are directly elected by all adult population living in that ward or village. This is decision-making body for entire village.
• panchayat works under overall supervision of Gram Sabha. All voters in village are its members. It has to meet at least twice or thrice a year to approve annual budget of Gram Panchayat and to review performance of Gram Panchayat.
• Some of Gram Panchayats are grouped together to form a Panchayat Samiti or block or mandal at district level. members of this representative body are elected by all Panchayat members in that area. All Panchayat Samitis or mandals in a district together constitute Zilla [district] Parishad.
• Municipalities are set up in towns. Big cities are constituted into municipal corporations. Both municipalities and municipal corporations are controlled by elected bodies consisting of people’s representatives. municipal chairperson is political head of municipality. In a municipal corporation, such an officer is known as Mayor.