Cooperative federalism can ensure backward States' dev

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Cooperative federalism can ensure backward States' dev

Friday, 18 March 2022 | MANAS JENA

The idea of building a strong India depends on development of all its States but growing inequality and imbalance in development of States and regions have raised many relevant questions over our cooperative federalism which has been in practice for last seven decades.


In recent times, the rankings of States based on various socio-economic status are being routinely exhibited by the Central Government but that does not culminate with any kind of special assistance to the backward ones who are in the bottom of the ranks.


The sharing of resources by the Centre is not based on backwardness of States. Odisha which has been demanding a special category status for a long time has failed to get any extra Central assistance to address its economic backwardness.


Not just Odisha but all the major mineral bearing States of India remain backward regions though they have been largely contributing to strengthen the national economy in many ways. These issues are not being raised and discussed in proper forums such as Parliament and Assemblies.


Historically, with huge diversities and differences, the formation of India emerged out of anti-feudal and anti-British struggle, whose motto was political unification and national unity. It  was much challenging those days.


The merger of feudatory States and tribal areas into one political entity and formation of States in a democratic process under constitutional governance have created new aspirations among common people but after many decades of the formation of modern States, the basic needs of people still have not been fulfilled. People are still struggling to access some of their basic needs such as food, shelter, health, education etc. Ideally the national development and economic growth must be inclusive of all its people. 


But it is being experienced that the resource rich eastern region of India still remains backward in many respects in comparison to other parts of the country. Currently, many large and developed countries such as USA ,Russia , Brazil are in practice of federalism as it best suits to the decentralisation of power while keeping the unity of the country intact. With the march of democracy towards more power to people, India as an emerging world economy and the largest democracy of the world must adopt and follow the best practices of federalism around the domain.


In post independent India, the old urban areas and business hubs have further developed into vibrant cities, mostly with support of the Central Government to build communication infrastructure such as national highway, port, airport, railway line, educational and health institutions.


The same way backward States and regions are not supported for their basic communication infrastructure development. Even today the situation has not changed much as the backward States have to stand before the Centre with begging bowl for assistance.


It is being observed that the national political leadership of the Centre mostly comes from bigger States having industries and urban centers and more representatives in Parliament. The relatively small States with less political influence are usually neglected in decision making process of the Centre, particularly in case of allocation of financial resources. It is being told that the Central institutions and authorities are being misused against States having different political affiliations or not falling in line with the ruling national parties.


The regional parties have no alliance in Parliament .They are some way or the other attached to national alliances headed by national parties. There have been continued political, constitutional and administrative issues that emerged out of experience of last 72 years of practice of federalism.


Considering our huge diversity, unequal development, the States must have full freedom to decide over the matter of economic affairs, especially for utilisation of their resources and management. The mineral bearing States must have power to take decisions for the best use of their available resources. They must have power to enter into negotiations of business with stakeholders of global mineral market within and outside,  including imposition of tax and royalties.


It is being suggested that in a most ideal form of cooperative federalism, the States must have more power. Everything must not be confined to Delhi or State capital, rather decision making must be decentralized.


Especially in the matter of human development, food security, social security, basic amenities, education, heath, agriculture, industry, communication, connectivity and local governance etc, the States and local bodies should enjoy full autonomy. The States must have power to collect all kinds of revenue from their respective territory and contribute a small portion to the Centre for its functions.




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