ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Rethinking India’s Federalism

Addressing the problems in local body governance requires a reimagining of federalism in India and moving away from the centre–state framework. Beholden to partisan politics and the state’s unwillingness to part with powers, local bodies have not been able to fulfil the potential envisaged for them in the 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution. The answer lies in locating their powers and functions in the Constitution itself.

Federalism in India tends to focus discussion almost exclusively on centre–state relations. Whether it is in the context of the goods and services tax (GST) or the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the impact of such measures and proposals on the constitutional relationship between the union and the states is usually what is discussed. While this is necessary and relevant in the Indian context, this is not the only frame within which we should view the topic. India’s government exists in three tiers: centre, state, and local bodies, such as municipal authorities and panchayats. As a federal system though, it is only two-and-a-half tiers. This is because the third tier, comprising the municipalities and panchayats, only has such powers that the state governments choose to give it.

While the GST, promotion of Hindi, and other such issues have brought up debates on centre–state relations, there has also been a recent surge in discussion over urban local government in India, given the increasing urbanisation and the governance failures in Indian cities.1 Rural self-government has also flourished but is once again in focus due to efforts of certain state governments to rein in their independence and inclusivity.2

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Updated On : 26th Jul, 2017

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