Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Half-Baked Federalism

A ribbon produced in support of Federation of Australia in 1899.

 India is a federation of states. A federation heavily biased towards central government. The idea of an extremely strong centre might have been historically important, but with growing economic and social integration of states within the federation, the nation should think of granting more autonomy to states, primarily within the constitutional provision and sometime even amending those provisions.

The autonomy of Jammu & Kashmir has been a question of debate. In retrospect, it seems, many are against it because it is available to that state only. Given similar autonomy to Maharashtra or Bihar or Punjab, they will hurriedly leap at it.

About 70 years into independence, the nation should essentially look into concepts like dual citizenship (domicile requirements in colleges are doing it indirectly). The federation should be strengthened by transferring more rights to states. And inhibiting abrogation of elected state governments (aka The President rule) other than in extreme situations.

Per my perspective, dual citizenship can help deal issues of large scale in-migration (and thus infrastructure mismanagement), child labour, labour abuse, human trafficking etc. States should be given authority to admit or deny citizenship on the basis of parameters like education, skill and may be patronage(in cases like that of Teesta Seetalwad, where she feels at risk in Gujarat - I don't buy into her arguments though).  Right to live, work anywhere should be subject to conditions. Essentially, citizenships should be looked into as something to be earned (an incentive of good education can be citizenship of Karnataka or for that matter Bangalore and so on). This will also make local electorate to force their representatives to develop infrastructure in their places rather seeking asylum in other states in squatter settlements in sub-human conditions (read slums of Delhi and Mumbai).

The states should also be strengthened monetarily and pseudo-states like Delhi should be avoided. The monetary strengthening requirement can be seen in begging and sanctioning of grants like the package Bihar got in a recent poll rally, in what can be seen as one of the filthiest display expected of a prime minister (will never achieve unbeatable Rajiv Gandhi, "jab bade ped girte hain..."). Revision of revenue share of states from 32% to 42% is one such step and essentially needs to be incorporated into policy and should not be dependent on mercy of a central government. We can't be sure if our next prime minister will come with experience of being a state chief minister (probably that should be made into an eligibility criteria for the post of PM) and thus would be as understanding of such federalist policies or not.

With limited knowledge of mine, I am able to highlight some of the goods that some of state reforms can bring about. Essentially there are more goods that can be achieved and there must be some flaws in suggestions I have mentioned, these should be ironed out and a better federation should be evolved.