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india political mapAs India’s plurality gets destroyed in the name of one nation, one language and one culture, today, the self-governance of the state becomes a crucial tool in protecting the interests and rights of the communities in the nation. We have arrived at a juncture that calls for an expatiation of the federal system of government and the system of self-governance. The parliamentary proceedings and the plan for the country as conceived by the conservative faction, rather seems like a denouement against democracy and secularism.

India is a quasi-federal government, according to the Indian constitution. We do not have a federal system of governance in the strictest sense of the term, unlike our counterparts like Australia and the United States of America who favour the autonomy of the state in governance. One can argue that the Rajya Sabha’s inability to function as a body that protects the rights and interests of the states is due to the representatives being elected on the basis of population distribution in the states. As a result, a highly populated state like Uttar Pradesh has a greater number of representatives compared to the number of representatives from less populated states of the North-East. This uneven distribution of representatives hinders the possibility of the states maintaining their rights in the Rajya Sabha. A closer look at the current projects and schemes along the said lines allows a deliberation that the result of such representation is that the state governments end up playing marionettes and mouthpieces to the interests of the central government.

Sovereign governments reserve prerogative to devise their own economic policy, reassign their taxes, maintain public health and formulate education policies. The recent developments like the implementation of the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), the soon to be implemented Nation Education Policy (NEP) and the proposed Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Plan of 2020 makes one rethink the legislative powers of the state. The highest form of legislation that can be availed by the state in this quasi-federal set up is disproportionately limited to the vocal dissent the policies of the centre. This reduces the state to an instrument that promotes the interests of the central government while the execution takes a heavy toll on the state’s tax money.

One is compelled to bring to notice that, a colossal part of the state’s tax money has been spent towards the centre after the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 2017, thereby rendering State governments dependent on Central Government assistance for execution and sustenance of the former’s welfare schemes.

While the prohibition of partition deed of 1962 brought by Nehru, managed to suppress the voices for the rights to self-decision, Anna began advocating for the autonomy of the state. His protegee Dr. Karunanidhi had convened a three-person committee under the leadership of Rajamannar to review and examine the distribution of power between the Central and the State governments. This committee was the first of its kind in India. The recommendations of the committee had sent reverberations throughout the nation. The Sarkaria committee on the Centre-State Relations, set up during the tenure of Indira Gandhi was a response to the Rajamannar Committee report. However, the recommendations of the Committee were set aside.

In this continuum, the extant central government using its majority has managed to truncate the fundamental rights of the state in areas of Economy, Public Health, Education and Employment. The impact has been greater after liberalisation and privatisation.

The laws put forth by the state in an effort to protect its rights are often subjected to the approval of the Central Government. A manifestation of this statement is the Centre’s abrogation of the article 370 by which the borders of Kashmir were re-structured without the approval of the state government of Jammu and Kashmir.

An autonomous State Government is the plausible option for a state to protect its sovereignty and rights at the least and its Education, Environment and Employment policies at large. This autonomy of the state within the Indian nation is our hope for a fully Federal form of government. Being a state that has advocated for a federal system of government as an ideology, we are at a crossroad where Tamil Nadu has to further this cause to the other state governments. It is also imperative that, unlike the yesteryears, the ideology of federal governance has to develop into a thriving political discourse in praxis that enables the state to protect the rights and interests of the communities in the Indian Nation. A strong action plan for the advocacy of federal governance is the State Governments’ apparatus to confront the central government and facilitate amendments in the Indian constitution.

- R A

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