Q . It is being said that India has a different form of the federal structure and is termed as asymmetric federalism. Comment.   (15 marks, 250 words, GS-2)



  • Begin with the nature of Indian union.
  • The next para could be the federal features of India and comparing it with other federal nations.
  • Third para could include the shortcomings in Indian federal structure.
  • Final para could be about further improvements and measures that could be taken.

Nations are described as ‘federal’ or ‘unitary’, depending on the way in which governance is organized. The Supreme Court has noted that the essence of a ‘federation’ is the existence of the Union of the States, and the distribution of powers between them.

The main forms of administrative units in India are the Centre and the States. But there are other forms, too, all set up to address specific local, historical and geographical contexts. Besides the Centre and the States, the country has Union Territories with a legislature, and Union Territories without a legislature.

The Indian Constitution provides for division of powers among Centre and States through Lists in Seventh Schedule and also through several provisions according to which either the Centre or State could act. Also there are certain provisions which can be amended only with the concurrence of the States and Centre alone can’t act.

Just as the Centre and the States do not have matching powers in all matters, there are some differences in the way some States and other constituent units of the Indian Union relate to the Centre. This creates a notable asymmetry in the way Indian federalism works.

Another example of asymmetry in the Indian federal structure is the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution contains provisions for the administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.

However, there are certain shortcomings which are against the concept of federalism. The provisions of Emergency provides for the conversion of Union into a Centralised nation by vesting all powers into the Centre. The financial control of the resources majorly in the hands of Centre is also against the notion of federalism. But these were introduced as these suited the national interests.

Recent time has saw the emergence of a new concept with respect to Federalism i.e. Cooperative Federalism whereby each unit i.e. Centre or State concedes some powers or authority for the common cause or for the national interest as was evident in the Land Border Agreement with Bangladesh. The current pandemic of Covid-19 has also provided for certain examples of Cooperative Federalism.

The federal structure could be further improved by providing more autonomy in decision making and in financial matters to the States but that should not be against the national interest. Overlapping of powers and authorities often leads to conflict and thus could be reduced by clearly defining the sphere of power sharing between Centre and States.

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