In a period of widespread discontent and chaos, a period of the increasing clamour for Autonomy and separate states, a period of the waking of the political consciousness and aspiration for managing of their own affairs by local communities and regions, I think it would be a legitimate to ask the question, do we need to rethink federalism in India? I think it is pertinent that every generation in order to move forward, should rethink and rework the underlying ideas that govern them and question those underlying assumptions and if need be dismantle those structures which have out lived their purpose. For my generation the task is humongous but equally important, exciting and worthwhile.
The whole idea behind the reorganisation of the current boundaries of the states in India is also the process to get at minimum government maximising liberty for its citizens and de-centralisation of power and efficient local resources management. These objectives have to be dealt with simultaneously to create a more perfect union. The politics in India has become regional in nature, where the influence of these parties has being having a dysfunctional influence on the central government. India being a centralised form of governance has had a deleterious effect on the democratic institutions as a whole. This trend needs to be arrested if we are to progress into a great nation. The incremental reforms or changes that have been brought about by the government over the past many years have only add fuel to the fire or this regional question- the question of autonomy. The time, I think, has come for a final settlement to the question of Autonomy, which is also the question fundamentally about federalism in India.
The founding fathers of this nation, in their profound wisdom and efficiency thought it right to have a stronger central government in a quasi-federal political setup, mainly to keep at bay the fear of balkanisation of this young Nation. The ghost of partition and the fear of disintegration of the country veiled their foresight. The problems they sought to keep at bay started haunting them immediately after independence and has since only compounded. The ghosts have grown larger and more violent, yet the ability to exorcize them remains imbecilic at best and outright incompetent at worst.
For any nation to progress and develop into a economic and military superpower, it has to have a sustained period of peace and internal stability. With the benefit of hindsight when we lok a history all the great empires were able to develop into great states because they were able to ensure periods of great peace and stability to their citizens. You may look at the roman, Chinese, Maurayan or the British and the American states they all share this character. But, due to the incompetency of our political class and the the failure to find long term solutions to the administrative problems of this country this period of peace and stability has been elusive. There are far too many internal problems in India at the present to haul us into a developed nation category. And, these problems in turn stem from one form or another relating to the question of Autonomy.
Of late the demand for new states and further demand for Autonomy within these sates has been growing, dividing the politics with a regional bias and disruption of public life. The main problem before the policy maker is no more simply how to solve these diverse problems but, how far do they go to get a final settlement leading to a more perfect union. This leads us to call into question the examination of the federal structure of the Union of India. During the drafting of the constitution a strong centralised government may have seemed the best suitable form of governance, but somehow it has failed to work as envisaged. This is not because the political class did not try their best to make it work but, due to the short sightedness of the founding fathers of this nation. The makers of the constitution failed to appreciate the diversity of the nation, when they were resorting to the centralised federation.
The nature of Indian federation is better described as a cooperative federalism where the states act as administrative agencies of the central government. This is where the problem lies. In effect the government has become too big to manage itself. The bigger a government gets the more inefficient and irresponsive it becomes. The idea is to keep the government small and its constituent units smaller. And, this shall be the basic idea guiding us to rethink federalism in India.
More often than is desirable, there is a lot of interference by the centre into the administration of the states. This had not been conducive to a healthy functioning of the federal structure. Now, not all the interference has been direct, more often it is disguised especially through the planning commission. An extra constitutional body is perhaps the biggest anathema to federalism. The sooner this super body is scrapped the better. Then there is the all-pervasive and sanctimonious article 356 of the constitution, where by the union government can at will decide whether a government at the states are being run according to the provisions of the constitution. And, of course the financial relationship between the union and the states which is to the disadvantage of the states. There are numerous others which impinge upon the functioning of the state governments.
Keeping in view these problems I am starting a series of proposals for the Rethinking of the whole federal structure in India. Should you wish to engage in a discussion upon the rethinking of the federal structure you may write to me @ firstname.lastname@example.org