Class 10 Civics

Federalism in India

Federalism is thriving in India right from the day India became a free nation in 1947. What are the reasons for success of federalism in India?

Reasons for Success of Federalism in India

Linguistic States: The creation of Linguistic States was the first and a major test for democratic politics in our country. This was done to ensure that people who spoke the same language lived in the same State. Some States were created not on the basis of language but to recognise the differences based on culture, ethnicity or geography, e.g. Nagaland, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand.

Language Policy

A second test for Indian federation is the language policy. Our Constitution did not give the status of national language to any one language. Hindi was identified as the official language. But Hindi is the mother tongue of only about 40 per cent of Indians. Therefore, there were many safeguards to protect other languages. Besides Hindi, there are 21 other languages recognised as Scheduled Languages by the Constitution. Hindi was not imposed on non-Hindi areas for most of the period after the independence.

Centre-State relations

Restructuring the Centre-State relations is one more way in which federalism has been strengthened in practice.

Situation during Congress Monopoly

For a major period; after independence; same party was in power in both centre and states in most parts of the country. Those were the days of Congress monopoly in India. In those days, the central government often undermined the rights of the state governments. Many states were brought under President’s rule at slight pretext of assertiveness from the state government.

Situation in the Era of Coalition Government:

After 1989, the pattern has shifted to multi-party coalition government at the centre. As a result a new culture of power sharing and respect for the autonomy of State Governments has developed. It can be said that now the federalism is more developed in India.

Linguistic diversity of India

As per the latest Census Report, 1991 of India held in 1991 there are 1500 distinct languages. These languages were grouped together under some major languages. For example languages like Bhojpuri, Magadhi, Bundelkhandi, Chhattisgarhi, Rajasthani, Bhili and many others were grouped together under ‘Hindi’. Even after this grouping, the Census found 114 major languages. Of these 22 languages are now included in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution and are therefore called ‘Scheduled Languages’. Others are called ‘non- Scheduled Languages’. In terms of languages, India is perhaps the most diverse country in the world.

Decentralisation in India

A vast country like India cannot be run only through two-tiers of government as discussed above. Some of the Indian states are bigger than independent countries of Europe. The population of Uttar Pradesh is more than that of Russia. These states are internally very diverse in terms of variety of dialects, eating habits and culture.

Hence, a need for creating a third tier of government was always being felt. There are many local issues which can only be solved by a local governing body. It is also possible to ensure direct participation of people in such a governing body.

A major step towards decentralisation was taken in 1992. The Constitution was amended to make the third-tier of democracy more powerful and effective. The local governing bodies were given constitutional status.

  1. Now it is constitutionally mandatory to hold regular elections to local government bodies.
  2. Seats are reserved in the elected bodies and the executive heads of these institutions for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes.
  3. At least one-third of all positions are reserved for women.
  4. An independent institution called the State Election Commission has been created in each State to conduct panchayat and municipal elections.
  5. The State governments are required to share some powers and revenue with local government bodies. The nature of sharing varies from State to State. Rural local government is popularly known by the name panchayati raj.
  6. Each village, or a group of villages in some States, has a gram panchayat. This is a council consisting of several ward members, often called panch. The president of the panchayat is called sarpanch.
  7. Members of a panchayat are directly elected by the all the adults who are living in the panchayat.

The local government structure goes right up to the district level. A few gram panchayats are grouped together to form what is usually called a panchayat samiti or block or mandal. The members of this representative body are elected by all the panchyat members in that area. All the panchayat samitis or mandals in a district together constitute the zilla (district) parishad. Most members of the zilla parishad are elected. Members of the Lok Sabha and MLAs of that district and some other officials of other district level bodies are also its members. Zilla parishad chairperson is the political head of the zilla parishad.

Similarly, local government bodies exist for urban areas as well. Municipalities are set up in towns. Big cities are constituted into municipal corporations. Both municipalities and municipal corporations are controlled by elected bodies consisting of people’s representatives. Municipal chairperson is the political head of the municipality. In a municipal corporation such an officer is called the mayor.