Q) Despite the constant push towards cooperative federalism in India, the differences between the Centre and the states have grown over the years. Analyse the reasons for such conflicts and suggest possible solutions for this.

Why this Question?

Important part of GS Paper-II.

Key demand of the Question 

Discuss in detail the issues being faced by the States with respect to the federal features. Explain why despite upholding cooperative federalism, the tussle between centre and state governments for the rights of states are being continued. 


Analyse – When asked to analyse, you have to examine methodically the structure or nature of the topic by separating it into component parts and present them as a whole in a summary. 


Start by explaining what are the issues being faced by states with respect to federalism. 


Discuss the issues one by one such as fiscal autonomy, lack of resources, etc. and explain the underlying reasons.

In the next part, suggest an approach to overcome such issues.


Conclude by mentioning how federalism cannot be ruled out in a diverse country like India.

Model Answer

Cooperative federalism is the concept which reflects the relationship between centre and state where they both come together and resolve the common problems with each other's cooperation. With collaborative efforts and cooperation, different levels of governments in an amicable manner, contribute towards the growth of the country. It shows the horizontal relationship between union and states and shows neither is above the other. To ensure this relationship between centre and state, Indian constitution has incorporated certain instruments like inter-state council, Zonal council, 7th schedule etc.

Issues between Centre and states

  1. Trust Deficit between the Centre and the states is widening gradually. This is especially the case when the states are governed by parties different from the Ruling party at the Centre.
  2. Issues due to inefficient allocation of resources, delay in GST Compensation, etc. further turn the states against the Centre. 
  3. States like West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, and Assam have protested against the uniform approach of funding due to their different situations. 
  4. Office of the Governor- Governors of states are appointed by the President on the advice of the Central government. Recently, there has been controversy around this office as being partial towards the Centre. 
  5. Different states currently are at different stages of development and lack similar human and financial resources. This makes it difficult for them to compete with each other. 
  6. Unilateral decisions taken by the Centre on subjects that equally affect the states. This leads to over centralisation of powers. E.g.- some states have opposed the CAA, NRC and the Farm laws.

Measures that need to be taken

  • Strategic and comprehensive long-term policy for the Central government to deal with the contentious issues with the states. NITI Aayog can play a role in this regard. 
  • Empower the states towards optimum utilization of its resources like infrastructure, buildings, transportation and the human resource.
  • Cater to the resource needs of states with special demands. An independent body can be formed in this regard.
  • Include the states more aggressively in the decision-making process. 
  • Creating a fiscal structure where the states have greater revenue-raising authority, as well as greater decision-making power on spending.
  • India needs to move away from centralization-decentralization thinking, and embrace genuine fiscal federalism by permanently creating a fiscal power centre in the states.
  • Over the years multiple committees have recommended strengthening the Interstate Council where the concurrent list subjects can be debated and discussed, balancing Centre state powers. There is far less institutional space to settle inter-state frictions therefore a constitutional institution like ISC can be a way forward.
  • The Centre should form model laws with enough space for states to manoeuvre. The Centre should give enough budgetary support to states so as to avoid budgetary burden. There should be least interference in the state subjects.

A diverse and large country like India requires a proper balance between the pillars of federalism, that include autonomy of states, national integration, centralization, decentralization, nationalism and regionalism. The goal of inclusive growth can only be achieved by promoting federalism in the country directed towards simultaneous growth for all. While in certain areas, it might warrant greater powers to the Union(defence, currency etc), on the development front (education, health etc.) the Centre should respect the autonomy of the other two levels of government and consciously avoid the tendency to centralize powers and functions.