Distinguished Lecture to Commemorate Acharya Kothapalli Jayashankar’s Birth Anniversary

On

Center-state Relations: Future of Federalism

11 August 2022

BPR Vithal Auditorium, CESS

Report of the Lecture

 

Title: Middle Class has to play its Role

 

Prof E Revathi Director of the Centre for Economic and Social Studies welcomed the invitees.  She said there is a need to familiarize the younger generation with the great personality of Dr. K Jayshankar and his contribution to the separate statehood of Telangana.  Dr Jayshankar participated in the Mulki movement as a student in 1952, he met the then Fazal Ali Commission to give his views opposing the Vishalandhra formation in 1969. He researched thoroughly the aspects of backwardness of the Telangana region from time to time. Dr. Jayshankar edited the book ‘Telangana: An Investigative Focus’ which is a compendium of the injustice and discrimination faced by the region in irrigation, employment, and funds. His life is a testimony of commitment, simplicity, and authority on data on Telangana’s deprivation on the socio-economic and political fronts.

Sri B Vinod Kumar, Vice-Chairman, State Planning Board, in his opening remarks said that in the present times a lot of friction is there between the Union and the States especially in states with regional parties at the helm of affairs. Initially after independence the first two decades of the 1950s and the 1960s,there were cordial relations between Centre and the states when Jawaharlal Nehru was the PM as the Govts in Centre and the states were one and the same.  In the later period regional political parties emerged in the southern states. In the regime of Mrs Indira Gandhi there was more friction particularly regarding the role of the Governor. Many intellectuals also studied the issues of Centre-State relations and there were many debates in the Parliament. Commissions also were appointed to study these issues like that of the Sarkaria Commission to study the relation between the Centre and the States. In recent times not only political issues but financial issues also have become the bone of contention between the Centre and the States. The Fifteenth Finance Commission categorically mentioned theUnion Govt. constitutes a Committee to review the FRBM Act which recommended the increase of percentage of FRBM limits, borrowings from open market and so on. Unfortunately the Union Govt. has chosen only a few recommendations as stated by the Finance Minister in the Parliament those which suited them and not the others. The Union Govt. is collecting taxes in the name of Cesson various items which is utilized by Union Govt itself for its own programmes. The Honourable PM declared that in the name of Cooperative Federalism the devolution to states has increased from 30 to 40 %.Butthe revenues collected in the name of Cess are not being distributed to the states. Politically the role of the Governor has become controversial. There are strained relations between the State Govt.and the Governor in almost all non-BJP ruled states.  Article 1 of the Indian Constitution states that India that is Bharath shall be a Union of States, as visualized by the Constituent Assembly and the leaders at the time of Independence. But the present Government of India is moving forward towards a Unitary Govt. rather than a federal govt.

Professor G. Haragopal, Visiting professor National Law School of India University of Bangalore (NLSIU) and former Professor of the University of Hyderabad, while delivering his address said that, except for the first decade of Independence, the Centre state relations are in strain, particularly during the past one decade. During the emergency (1975) the central government focused on poverty – alleviation and welfarism. While in the present times there is more focus on the promotion of private capital and withdrawal from welfarism.

Haragopal while recalling his association with Prof. Jayashankar said that each state has its cultural diversity, geography, socio-economic structure, and aspirations of people. Professor Jayashankar strongly believed that unlike the Andhra region Telangana has a different culture, geography, and living conditions and demanded separate statehood of Telangana to fulfil the aspirations of the people. Similarly, each state has its unique features which require autonomy from to state governments. Indian diversity demands more decentralisation and autonomy to the states as they are close to the people and answerable to them. But in practice, the state governments are made to depend on the central government for various subjects. The central government is enacting the laws on the state subjects concurrently without consulting the state governments. He has narrated the way  the new three farm laws (2020), and new education policy (2020), which are in the state and concurrent list, were passed in the Parliament without consulting the states. The hidden ‘centralization’ of the New Education Policies (NEP) is a critical threat to the federal system. He also took objection to the way the central government abolishing/ marginalising the institutions like Planning Commission, University Grants Commission and as well as imposed one nation one exam, one nation one tax, and demonetisation, etc., unilaterally.  The major loopholes were found in the GST bills, as the significant revenue accrued to the Centre and the State depends on the Union Government for the revenue allocations which is crucial for development of the states.

Haragopal pointed out that during the first decade of independence the then Prime Minister used to write letters very frequently to the chief ministers of the state governments about the functioning of the institutions of governance and thereby bringing consensus of all the political parties on the national as well as state issues. He urged the youth and public at large to realize the issues that are happening around us and be conscious of the divisive forces in society. The middle class has largely remained silent on the political happenings in the country and the future generations would blame us for this silence.  In this context, we need to consider policies that seriously empower the federal system. The State’s autonomy plays a vital role in the development process.