The Indian system of governance is described as federal with a unitary bias. While in essence, our nation is a federation of states, with the state governments coming together under the leadership of the union government at the centre, but retaining their liberty in policy making for the state’s internal affairs; multiple factors point to the Unitarianism that is being followed in the democracy.
This type of governing mechanism makes Indian governance system unique as compared to those of other nations across the globe.
The Indian Constitution is a well-defined archive of the guidelines that help govern our country. Part V and Part VI of the constitution describes multiple aspects of the Union as a whole and the states respectively.
To maintain its status as a federation as well as implement the unitary nature, the seventh schedule of the constitution allocates the powers and functions on various subjects between the centre and the states.
This gave rise to three lists of subjects namely- the Union List, which covers 97 subjects under the jurisdiction of the Union, the State List, with 66 subjects to look after and the Concurrent List, pertaining to 47 subjects in which both the Union and the State have authority to look into.
With such a variety of subjects to tend to, both the centre and the state government are tasked with huge responsibility to maintain the stability and ensure welfare and development of the citizens.
In the following passages, we will cover the features and responsibilities of Union and State governments in India, and then explore the centre-state relationship that exists in our country.
These factors are crucial in understanding the functioning of these governments. Finally we will also take a brief look at the current problems our country is facing and what possible measures responsible Union and State governments can take to overcome these issues.
Relation between union and state governments :
While both the governments at their level of jurisdiction exercise powers similar to each other, it is important to understand the fields that each government can get involved in to make decisions and enforce them. As per the seventh schedule of the Indian Constitution, 210 subjects of national and regional interests were identified and distributed amongst the state and the union.
Being a federal nation, administration is primarily under the supervision of the state. The agencies of administrations hire individuals through separate commissions- the state public service commissions hire administrative employees for the state government, while the union public service commission does the same for union government.
Yet we see no overlapping in the fields of services. The state deals with the subjects as listed in the state list of the 7th schedule of the Indian Constitution, whereas the Centre limits its interest to the union list. The concurrent list is a separate list which consists all the subjects that the Union as well as state can look into.
The successful implementations of the schemes of the Union government require cooperation with the state. It is the state which is responsible for the programmes to take effect. The existing multi-party system has contributed to the decentralisation as in the current scenario; many states are being governed by regional political parties as compared to national parties.
Hence, mode of the administration is under their wing. This gives a heavy electoral edge to the regional parties and forces the national parties to rethink their strategies and make much more personalised schemes to suit the specific regions.
Enacting schemes and programmes that are against the regional parties might not sit well with them and can form a big gap between the union and the state.
Yet if there is a political tug-of-war between the Union and the state, the former is bound to get the advantage. The division of powers highly favours the centre. There are more subjects under the union list than the state list. Additionally, the overriding power that the Centre exercises on the concurrent list, makes them more powerful than the state.
Furthermore, the states are not indestructible. There borders, area and names can be altered by the centre if necessary. This slightly differs from the original ideology of federalism, giving it the famous ‘unitary bias’.
Major functions of the Union and the State :
The functions and responsibilities of the Union can be summarised into six major classes. First one concerns the formulation, execution, evaluation and revision of public policy in various spheres which the party in power seeks to progress and practice. Secondly, they are responsible for coordination among various ministries and other organs of the government which might indulge in conflicts and wastefulness.
The third duty is to prepare and monitor the legislative agenda which translated the policies of the government in action through statutory enactments. Fourth responsibility is the executive control over administration through appointments, rule-making powers and handling of crises and disasters, natural as well as political.
They are also involved in financial management through fiscal control and operation of funds like Consolidated Fund and Contingency Funds of India. And lastly, they can review the work of the planning commission.
State government have a separate jurisdiction limited to the boundary of their state. They have separate departments for efficient functioning of the state like education, agriculture, transport, water supply, public health, sanitation, hospitals and dispensaries and others.
They are also responsible to ensure the internal security of the state and maintain the law and order. Hence state police forces come under the state’s jurisdiction.
The state legislature also covers the finances of the state which includes authorisation of all expenditure, taxation and borrowing by the state government. It has the power to originate money bills. It has control over taxes on entertainment and wealth, and sales tax.
To summarize, the Structure of Indian constitution deals with Union and State executive distinctly but the provisions follow a common pattern for the Union and the States. The system of distribution of administrative powers between union and states followed in the Constitution of India in various administrative fields.The Union Government is reliant on the States to give effect to its programmes.
The system of distribution of administrative powers has two objectives. It enables the union government with powers to control over administration of the state and at the same time it espouses several advice’s for intergovernmental cooperation and coordination.