The Constitution of India gives a federal structure to the Republic of India, declaring it to be a “Union of States”.
Federalism is a system of government in which power is divided between a central authority and constituent political units.
Indian model of federalism is called quasi-federal system as it contains major features of both a federation and union. It can be better phrased as ‘federation sui generis‘ or federation of its own kind.
Indian federation was not a product of coming together of states to form the federal union of India. It was rather a conversion of a unitary system into a federal system.
Recently, 15th Finance Commission has raised South Indian States voices to turn India into a Federation by providing Financial Autonomy to states. India is federal Republic with some Inclination towards Central Government.
The pluralist character of India gives rise to many factors including regionalism. People from far northeast sometimes feel themselves at a formidable distance from New Delhi and people in southern part of the country with bigger states feel neglected having been within larger states.
(ii) Absence of Fiscal Federalism:
Asymmetrical sharing of revenue and resource crunch at the periphery results in uneven development across the country. The current Goods and Services Tax measure is feared by many states to be against fiscal federalism in India.
(iii) Unequal Representation of States:
With a view to preventing the evil of predominant influence of larger units over smaller units in a federation, most federations in the world have resorted to some constitutional mechanism like an equal representation of states in the Second Chamber and ratification of all amendments to the Constitution by states.
In India, there is no such provision of an equal representation of states in the Rajya Sabha, the Second Chamber and nor the states have any substantial say over the amendments done to the Constitution from time to time.
(iv) Centralized Amendment Power:
In India, the power of constitutional amendment lies with the Centre under Article 368 and other provisions.
Although ratification of half of the states is sought for in some limited areas, the states in the Indian Union have virtually no power in this critical area of governance.
(v) The Indestructible Union with Destructible Units:
Unlike successful federations, India Constitution doesn’t have the provision for the secession of states from the Union of India. The Union has been made indestructible with a view to protecting unity and integrity in a country like India.
The simmering demand for ‘Dravida Nadu’ comprising southern States and voice of separation in the eastern and western part of India pose a great threat to the unity and sovereignty of India.
(i) The interstate council should be further strengthened to become the critical forum for not merely administrative but also political and legislative give and take between the centre and states.
It should function in such a manner that it reflects the equal status of states and the centre. It should meet once a year.
Even though the ISC’s mandate is very broad, its aspiration has generally been limited to discussing affirmative action, welfare subjects and administrative efficiency and coordination.
(ii) As declared by the SC in SR Bommai Case, federalism is a basic feature of Constitution.
The tussle between Centre and state government in the form of President’s rule (Article 356), discretionary power of Governor etc., has created hindrance to governance. Thus, there is a need to arrive at cooperation between Centre and States, than competition of political parties.
With effective democratic decentralisation, fiscal cooperative and competitive federalism, inclusive growth the states can develop and integrity of the nation will not be hampered.