UPSC IAS Exam: Cooperative federalism in India

IAS Preparation always requires a good understanding of UPSC Syllabus as a whole which comprises of Indian Polity, Indian Economy, Geography as a whole and Geography of India as a whole and the other Topics of Socio- Economic importance.  Cooperative federalism is one such topic which requires a deeper understanding and a comparative analysis with different countries because Indian Federalism is unique in various aspects.

After the Uttarakhand Issue of President Rule, this topic regains its importance for the IAS Exam. Here we discuss the Cooperative Federalism in detail.

IAS Exam preparation serves as a turning point in the candidate’s life irrespective of his or her selection in the Civil Services. IAS Preparation changes the life of the candidates, his perspective and the outlook towards life. Such changes in an aspirant’s life could only be possible if he/she is studying and experiencing the various issues of the society. The aspirants should think and develop his/her views towards the issues which are affecting the mass population of the country.

Cooperative federalism as followed in India with examples

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Federalism is the division of power between center and its various constituents, like provinces, states, cantons and so on. Cooperative federalism is a concept or subset of federalism where national, state and local governments interact cooperatively and collectively to solve common problems. They make variouspolicies separately but more or less equally or clashing over a policy in a system generally dominated by the national government, as in India or Canada.

Cooperative federalism creates such a relationship in which the national government has an upper hand in the policies and behaviors of state governments, often through the use of funding in kind or cash, manipulating the policies and norms (Ex – Freight equalization policy, SEZs etc), Constructing strategic highways or similar corridors and so on for programs. For example, if the federal government is interested in ensuring that national highways are well-maintained, they might create grants in aid, a specific kind of grant from the federal government that provides funds for the states to pursue a policy. In this case, the grants in aid would likely be for purchasing necessary constituents or other supplies, or might provide funding to pay contractors and road construction workers.

Why India followed Cooperative Federalism

In India Federalism is "an indestructible union of destructible states". It was perceived at the floor of the constituent assembly that states must be integral part of India denying any right to secede. Therefore, a need for strong union was anticipated and the constitution gave dominant power to the central government. However, adequate powers were also relegated to the states in order to administer and govern the local government with much efficacy. Such arrangements have been exhibited in the Union, concurrent and state list of seventh schedule. In order to streamline the development process and enhance the progress of all the regions, cooperation between center and state is utmost necessary. Such form of cooperative federalism is required more so in case of India, due to its vastness, enormity and extreme diversity.

India's cooperative federalism, however has greatly affected by the report of Simon commission and resultant Government of India Act, 1935. Indian constitution has heavily drew its features from this 1935 act. Cabinet mission, which divided India in Group A, B and C; was another prominent factor enabling India to adopt federalism.

How it works in India

The spirit of co-operative federalism in India is observed by following

1. Distribution of Powers,
2. Supremacy of the Constitution,
3. A Written Constitution,
4. Rigidity and
5. Authority of Courts.

Under this arrangement in the Constitution, Center has got dominant power as evident from following:

Cooperative federalism in India is practiced under following norms:

Examples in Other countries

Main features of federalism in prominent countries:

United States of America :




Examples of overriding the feature

Although, Indian set up is federal in character, however, its characteristic is unique and federal sui generis. The examples of overriding feature of federalism in Indian constitution are follows:

The way forward

Indian federalism is unique in its own sense; however, there are definitely some remedies to be done in order to streamline the efficacy of cooperative federalism in India. Some such remedies and related rectification can be highlighted by following points:

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