Editorial

Positive federalism

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 8/25/2018 11:25:51 AM IST

 A lot has been said about the attempt to tinker with India’s constitution in order to ensure that the concept of federalism gives way to the chant of ‘one nation, one ideology’. However, the federal structure as per the constitution, does not exist in a vacuum of beliefs. It was not by chance but by design that federalism as is being understood, is not the foundation of India’s constitutional existence. The constitution of India itself has not described India as a federation. According to Article 1 of the Constitution, India is described as a “Union of States.” This means, India is a union comprising of various States which are integral parts of it. The Indian Union is not destructible. Here, the States can not break away from the union. They do not have the right to secede from the union. In a true federation, the constituting units or the States have the freedom to come out of the union. India is not a true federation. It combines the features of a federal government and the features of a unitary government which can also be called the non-federal features. The ongoing debate on protecting and even strengthening federalism does resurrect when any party in power at the Centre attempts to stamp its seal over the states. Those in power at the Centre have been chanting about turning India into a mono-cracy or a homogenous nation of ‘one nation, one people’; ‘one religion, one flag’ etc. Those who want to turn India into their one nation theory show their natural desire to exert control. There is this constitutionally fallacious argument that the current attempts to make state governments subservient to the Centre goes against the basic principle of federalism. The “cooperative federalism” that is being touted is in name only. States cooperate with the Centre’s demands, or else. Uncooperative state governments are penalized; their laws are not approved, they are not chosen for new programs or institutions, their legitimate funds are withheld, or worse, they are brought under President’s Rule. Of the 57 instances of President’s Rule studied by the Sarkaria Commission in the 1980s, “nearly 50% had resulted from central government wishes.” In 2012 more than 20 Bills passed by opposition-held state governments remained stalled by the Centre. True federalism makes both governments equally important and so, it is against the grain of true federalism if the party or coalition in power at the Centre sees states as fields to derive a kind of referendum of policies or achievements. It may not be needed to reframe the description of India constitutionally but more important to ensure that the values of democracy are upheld. Besides, true federalism requires clarity of responsibility, which makes each government better. Demand for autonomy over local matters has been a consistent source of conflict in India’s states, including Kashmir. The current confusion over India’s federalism has not only made these disputes worse; it has hurt governance on the ground. It’s about time that there is recognition of the real nature and benefits of federal principles, and works towards becoming a genuine federation. Ultimately a democracy can succeed only if keeps faith in the wisdom of people, and provides good reason for them to stay united. It’s time for India to become such a democracy, and therefore a true federation.

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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