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India opted for quasi-federal structure after Independence. After Independence from 1947 to 1967, India experienced the centralized federalism. From 1967 to 1990, India witnessed confrontational federalism due to the emergence of other party governments at the state level. Since 1990, Co-operative federalism has been developed. The present NDA government has been focusing on the new concept of competitive federalism along with co-operative federalism for higher growth of the country.

In competitive federalism, states would compete with each other over a broad-range issues to provide citizens various services in a hassle-free manner. The policy of one-size-fit-all is replaced with different policies of various states based on their own priorities within the state. This spirit of competition has led to lack of inter-state mutual assistance. The NITI Aayog was formed to empower and strengthen the state governments. It also appointed regional councils to create cooperation among two or more states facing a common set of problems or amicably settle disputes.

While the competition between states, reflected in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index, has generated a lot of enthusiasm, this must be a continuing exercise. There are only few well-off states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Tamil Nadu which are competing. The proposed GST law may help some of the less productive states to raise the revenue. But the opposition of few well-off states with respect to revenue loss in implementation of GST system points that there is lack of will in participating in the process of competitive federalism.

We’ve seen various inter-state water disputes such as Krishna water disputes involving Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, Narmada water disputes involving Rajasthan, Gujarat, M.P, and Maharashtra, Cauvery water disputes involving Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, and various others. For this, under Article 263, an inter-state council was established. The Sarkaria Commission on center-state relations (1983-87) made a strong case for the establishment of a permanent inter-state council. Article 301 to 307 in Part 13 deals with the trade, commerce and intercourse within the territory of India, breaking all the border barrier between the states. Zonal councils have also been established in 1956 to narrow the gap between the states. Cases such as Cauvery water dispute and Sutlej Yamuna link canal issue have seen non-mutual assistance between the states to a wider extent.

Thus, it can be said that co-operative and competitive federalism are two sides of the same coin. This spirit of competition has led to the lack of mutual assistance between and among the states. It is competition with co-operation that will drive the real change.

 


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