Chanakya IAS Academy Blog

The article talks about the Inter-state Council, the mechanism devised in the Constitution to maintain cooperative federalism.

  • B.R. Ambedkar once described India and its states as “one integral whole, its people a single people living under a single imperium derived from a single source”
  • But the political and economic context has changed drastically since then. The relationship between the centre and the states has failed to keep pace with its evolution.
  • The Inter-state Council (ISC) meet convened last week after a decade’s gap is thus all the more significant.
  • The discontent there—chief ministers have voiced their concerns on issues ranging from adventurism by governors to shifting of subjects from the state list to the concurrent list—makes that gap particularly puzzling.
  • Based on the Sarkaria Commission’s recommendations, it was constituted under Article 263 of the Constitution in 1990.
  • It proved to be crucial in the implementation of many of the commission’s 247 other recommendations, such as altering the states’ share of central taxes.
  • The council helped bridge the trust deficit between the centre and the states. If not always a problem solver, it at least acted as a safety valve.
  • There are other bodies such as the NITI Aayog’s Governing Council—it has a similar composition, including the prime minister, chosen cabinet ministers and chief ministers—that could address centre-state issues.
  • But the ISC has constitutional backing, as against the NITI Aayog which only has an executive mandate.
  • This puts the states on more solid footing—an essential ingredient in building the atmosphere of cooperation needed for calibrating centre-state relations.
  • This latest meet has shown some positive signs. The centre was willing in principle to discuss and implement some of the Punchhi Commission’s recommendations on centre-state relations, broadly falling under legislative, administrative and financial heads.
  • But if the ISC is to be more than a talk shop, it must show that it can follow up.
  • For instance, with regard to legislating on education and forests—both subjects that have been transferred from the state list to the concurrent list—the centre would do well to consult states more extensively and offer them greater flexibility.
  • The core issue in the current political turmoil relates to the actions of Governor. A number of chief ministers had much to say about adventurism by governors at the ISC meeting.
  • The Punchhi Commission has recommendations here as well:
  1. Fixing governors’ tenures.
  2. Mandatory consultation of chief ministers before the appointment of governors.
  3. Choosing individuals who have been outside active politics for at least a couple of years.
  • The centre did not commit to anything, which was expected, given the delicate nature of the issue. But the ISC remains the best venue for addressing such concerns.
  • Tax devolution is another crucial issue:
  • The acceptance of the 14th Finance Commission’s recommendation to change the quantum of the funds allocated to the states from 32% to 42% of the tax pool was well received at the council meet, for the most part.
  • But some states came up with discrimination shown by centre against states headed by different political parties.

Question: The challenges of maintaining a federation are many, but the solution is no mystery: healthy debate and discussion. In the light of this statement,critically analyse the mechanism provided in the Constitution to promote cooperative federalism.

Suggested Approach:

  1. Mechanisms provided in the Constitution.
  2. Critical analysis of the mechanisms.
  3. Measures needed to be taken.
  4. Importance of cooperative federalism as conclusion.


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