Cooperative federalism amidst COVID-19

  • IASbaba
  • May 16, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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Topic: General Studies 2 & 3:

  • Disaster and Disaster Management
  • Issues and Challenges Pertaining to the Federal Structure

Cooperative federalism amidst COVID-19


  • India’s success in defeating Covid-19 rests upon Centre-State cooperation . 
  • However, some recent developments have revealed tensions in the Centre-State relationship.
  • States act as first responders to the pandemic. It is important to supply them with adequate funds and autonomy instead of making them dependent upon the Centre. 

This editorial deals with the following:

  1. Nature of Indian federalism reflecting centralising tendency
  2. Causes of tension between Centre & states
  3. Steps to be taken

Nature/features of Indian federalism reflecting centralising tendency

  • Due to the centralising tendency of Indian federalism, K C Wheare referred to it as “Quasi federal”.
  • The Union List contains more numbers and important subjects (like defence, currency, external affairs, citizenship, railways) than the State List.
  • The Centre has overriding authority over the Concurrent List. 
  • The Parliament can by unilateral action change the area, boundaries or name of any state (Article 3 of Indian constitution).
  • The bulk of the Constitution can be amended by the unilateral action of the Parliament. 
  • During an emergency, the Central government becomes all-powerful and the states go into the total control of the Centre.
  • The governor is the head of the state but  holds office during the pleasure of the President.
  • Features like Single Citizenship, Integrated Judiciary and All India Services also signifies centralising tilt. 

Issues between the Centre & states during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Inadequate finances 

  • Due to the Covid-19 induced lockdown, the sources of states’ revenue have collapsed.
  • Their major revenues come from liquor sales, stamp duty from property transactions and the sales tax on petroleum products.
  • However, their expenditure such as on interest payments, social sector schemes, etc. remain unchanged.
  • States’ GST collections have also been severely affected. 
  • Contributions to the ‘Chief Minister’s Relief Fund’ or ‘State Relief Fund for Covid-19’ do not qualify as CSR expenditure while contributions to PM-CARES qualify as CSR. 
  • The suspension of MPLADS has created more differences. 

Managing COVID-19 zones

  • Zone classifications into ‘red’ ,orange’ and ‘green’ have evoked sharp criticisms from several States which demanded more autonomy in making such classifications. 
  • State consultation is a legislative mandate cast upon the centre under the Disaster Management Act of 2005. 

Migrant Crisis

  • The influx of migrant workers into their home states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, which already face financial and medical inadequacy, would worsen matters for the states. 

Measures to be taken

  • The Union government should direct Food Corporation of India to move the grains from the godowns to states.
  • Forming of the Inter-State Council a permanent body should be considered.
  • Management of disasters and emergencies  should be included in the Concurrent List. 


The Centre is required to view the States as equals, and strengthen their capabilities, instead of increasing their dependence upon itself.

The Centre and States must come together to fight this global pandemic. 

Connecting the dots:

  • Do you think the Indian federalism is biased towards the Centre? Analyse. 
  • In what ways can the Centre facilitate the states in fighting the covid-19 pandemic? 

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