Updated: Feb 16, 2022
A centralised federal structure was conceived by the Constituent Assembly to protect the Union of India from disintegration. But the growing dominance of the Centre over the states has resulted in increased friction between them. With the central government increasing its hold over the states in administrative, financial, and legislative domains, experts warn against the steady dilution of federalism and its multifold consequences. When it comes to financial matters, they contend that "one nation one tax" under the GST regime has made states heavily dependent on the Centre for release of dues.
In law-making, every second bill proposed by parliament is opposed by the states as encroaching on state subjects, for instance, the contentious farmers laws, dam safety law; the list goes on. During the pandemic, states complained the directions issued by the Central government made the states appear as subordinate partners. Many fear that federal space shrunk to the detriment of the constituent states.
On the other hand, supporters of a strong Central government defend this 'asymmetrical federalism', by stating that only a strong Centre can ensure political stability, and not cave into polarising and secessionist forces. Moreover, because of India's massive cultural heterogeneity and threats to national security, proponents deem this arrangement as necessary for the very survival of the nation.
What do such Centre-state entanglements say about India's federalism? And what should we be batting for - a more federalised structure or a stronger Centre? We believe there's a need to investigate the nuances of India’s federal framework through a balanced conversation.