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Federalism: Constitutional Amendments And Centre-State Relations

Authored by Neha Kumari, pursuing LLM at Chanakya National Law University, Patna

Federalism: Constitutional Amendments And Centre-State Relations
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India's political governance utilises a federal structure in which different levels of government have the authority and responsibility to raise and allocate funds. The Union Government, State Governments, and Local Governments use various taxes and non-tax sources to distribute resources to different sectors and issues. This federal setup is necessary due to India's vast size and diverse demographics, which require region-specific policies and implementations. While this structure provides flexibility for each tier of government to address their areas of concern, it also creates complexities in defining responsibilities and resource-raising powers, resulting in overlaps between governmental levels. 

India emphasises three primary areas that will improve this structure: the allocation of authorities for the mobilisation of resources among the three tiers of government, the accomplishment of these tasks by various government levels, and the division of responsibilities among the three tiers of government. India's quasi-federal structure, comprising 29 states and 7 union territories, establishes three features for various levels of government: the assignment to separate revenue sources, the division of functional tasks, and a system of intergovernmental fiscal transfers. The Union list and State list, respectively, outline the exclusive powers of the federal and state governments. The union list assigns the central government responsibility for areas such as foreign trade, money and banking, macroeconomic stability, defence, etc. State governments, on the contrary, in the same direction, are in charge of maintaining public order and the agricultural sector.

In January 2000, a conference was held in Delhi to examine how Western ideas have influenced Indian thought in the 20th century, specifically in constitutional writing. The conference organisers presumed that the Indian Constitution was based on certain principles, including federalism. However, it is worth noting that the Indian Constitution does not explicitly mention federalism as an abstract concept. Rather, it recognises federation as a concrete system of governance that involves the division of power between the central government and the state governments.

India has always operated as a federation, with power distributed among various state governments and union governments. Although India has been more centralised than other federations, such as the United States, it has never functioned as a unitary state like France or the United Kingdom. The Indian Constitution remains silent on the topic of federalism because the distribution of power between the centre and the states is what defines the country's federal character.

Modern federations differ from traditional confederations that date back to 1787 when the American Constitution was adopted. The American colonies desired a stronger national government than what was feasible under the 1781 Articles of Confederation, which defined a loose alliance among the states.

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