History of federalism in India
Period of Cooperative federalism 1950 – 1960
Maximum cooperation between Centre and State. Just after India’s independence. Nehru enjoyed the confidence of the nation. It was also a period of Congress dominance over the centre as well as the States. Except on the issue of formation of new States, the relations between the centre and the States remained quite normal during this period. The States were hopeful that they would be making progress with the help of the grants-in-aid from the centre. Besides, there was considerable optimism about the policies of socio-economic development designed by the centre.
Period of Decentralised Federalism 1960 – 1967
Disputes between Centre and stated over financial dependency of states on Centre. War in China in 1962 created a setback. Growth of linguism and regionalism led to demand for de-centralised development. Congress was losing its dominance in the mid 1960s.
Period of Struggle 1967 – 1971
Dominance of Congress ended when non-Congress governments came to power in 8 states. States demanded autonomy (DMK – Tamilnadu)
Period of Inverted federalism 1971 – 1977
Dominance of Indira Gandhi and the Congress party. Puppet ministers of the Centre were placed at the states. Though there was a weakening of central leadership in 73 and 75, emergency in 75 brought back centralised nature of leadership.
Period of Decentralised Federalism 1977 – 1980
In 1977, for the first time since Independence, a non-Congress government at the centre. Governments of different parties at the Centre and states.
Period of Inverted Federalism 1980 – 1989
Fall of Janata government; Indira Gandhi came back to power. Confrontation between Centre and States. Popularly elected governments in AP and J & K were dismissed. Rajiv Gandhi came to power in 1984 after her death. When opposition parties won in Karnataka, AP, Sikkim, Kerala, West Bengal and TN, arrangements were made to increase influence of Centre in the states. This led to demand for regional autonomy from DMK (Tamil Nadu), CPM (West Bengal), TDP (Andhra Pradesh), Janata Dal (Karnataka), Lok Dal (Haryana), National Conference (J & K)
1989 – till date
Subsequent elections have made minority coalition governments at the Centre. Central government is dependent on regional parties. This trend has strengthened decentralised federation.
Conflicts in Indian federal system
Centre State relations
Till mid 1960s since Congress was ruling in both the Centre and many states, Centre-State relations were smooth. When there were different parties at Centre and States, the states started protesting what they saw as unnecessary interference from the Centre. It was after Congress dominance died that issues of autonomy came up and more attention was given to the concept of federalism.
“It is the Sappers and Miners who go in advance clearing the bushes and the thorns and preparing the way for the tanks in the Army. I plead with the ruling party to use us as Sappers and Miners to clear the way for them. We are not mindful of the dust we would gather in the course of this task. The ruling party should utilise our services for getting more powers transferred from the Centre to the States.” – Arignar Anna [C. N. Annadurai, former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu] May 6, 1957.
Demand for more autonomy
Many States (Tamil Nadu, Punjab, West Bengal,) and many parties (DMK, Akali Dal, CPI-M) have made demands of greater autonomy for the states from time to time.
Office of Governor
The Governor is not an elected office holder. He is appointed by the central government and therefore, actions of the Governor are often viewed as interference by the Central government in the functioning of the State government.
The Sarkaria Commission (that was appointed by the central government to examine the issues relating to centre-State relations) recommended that appointments of Governors should be strictly non-partisan.
President’s rule in states
In the event that government in a state is not able to function as per the Constitution, the state comes under the direct control of the central government, with executive authority exercised through the Governor.
Article 356 is invoked if there has been failure of the constitutional machinery in any state of India. During President’s rule, the Governor has the authority to appoint retired civil servants or other administrators, to assist him.
There have been numerous instances when the Centre has misused this provision to topple governments in the states led by opposition parties.
Another demand is that States should have independent sources of revenue and greater control over the resources. Items generating revenue are under the control of the central government. States are dependent on grants and financial assistance from the centre. This distribution of economic resources is considered lopsided and has led to charges of discrimination against States ruled by an opposition party.
Armed Forces Special Power Act
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), is an act of the Parliament which was passed on 11 September 1958. It is a law with just six sections granting special powers to the Indian Armed Forces in what the act terms as “disturbed areas”. The Act has received criticism from several sections for alleged concerns about human rights violations in the regions of its enforcement, where arbitrary killings, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and enforced disappearances have alleged to have happened.
Irom Sharmila Chanu (link) is a civil rights activist who has take the world’s longest hunger strike against the Malom Massacre
The opposition to the domination of Hindi (in Tamil Nadu) or demand for advancing the Punjabi language and culture are instances of this. Some States also feel that there is a domination of the Hindi-speaking areas over the others.
Demand for new states (link)
In 1956, reorganisation of some States took place on linguistic basis. Till now, new states are being created on the basis of cultural, ethnic identities and administrative efficiency. Go to mind map to see map of India at various times with evolving boundaries of states.
Planning Commission is extra-constitutional body with the Prime Minister as Chairman. The authority of the state is marginalised. State governments need to approach Planning Commission for more funds or for redirecting funds. The state ministers feel they know much more about what their states need than the people at the Centre.
There have been disputes over borders and certain cities like Chandigarh, Belgaum. Sharing of water has been a source of dispute. Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra are battling over sharing the waters of Narmada river and Tamilnadu and Karnataka over the river Cauvery. Such disputes are settled through negotiations. If not, they go to the Supreme Court for help.
Special Provisions for some states
Jammu & Kashmir – the only state with a separate constitution and dual citizenship.
History: At the time of independence, J & K was a princely state with the option of joining India or Pakistan. The king, Maharaja Hari Singh joined India. (To know more on how that happened, read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hari_Singh)
Special Provisions: (Article 370 – link in main topic)
Central government cannot use Union list and Concurrent list without the consent of J & K J & K has a separate constitution and a separate flag.Emergency cannot be imposed on J & K without their approval.
Some other states
Article 371 (link in main topic)
Special provisions to protect the interests of the tribal population have been made for north-eastern states namely Nagaland, Manipur, Sikkim, Tripura, Mizoram, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
Special provisions have been made for Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Goa
The Sarkaria Commission was set up in June 1983 by the Central Government to examine the relationship and the balance of power between the Centre and the states and to suggest changes within the framework of the Constitution.