QUESTION : The limited sovereignty of units at the periphery can be best ensured to the survival of federalism in India. Discuss.
THE ROPE OF FEDERALISM AND AN UNWANTED TUG-OF-WAR
Issues and Challenges Pertaining to the Federal Structure.
WHY IN NEWS ?
The recent Centre-West Bengal controversy over Political and administrative elements has brought attention towards the health of the federal structure in India.
• The recent issue is that the former Chief Secretary of Bengal reached late in the meeting called by Prime Minister to review cyclone relief work.
• Though both political and administrative state functionaries were requested to attend the meeting, the chief secretary along with West Bengal Chief Minister left the meeting abruptly.
• Consequently, the centre has sent showcase notices and a charge sheet for the chief secretary’s failure in fully and properly participating in the meeting.
• These events raised concerns regarding the norms of civil service conduct, political and administrative arrogance and revengeful behaviour.
Why the Centre’s action on the Former chief secretary of Bengal is unwarranted?
• Firstly, India is a ‘union of states ‘.
o The State governments are not subordinate agencies of the central government.
o As per the Constitution, the Centre’s decisions have primacy over those of the State governments.
o But the primacy does not extend to the holding of meetings.
• Secondly, most relief and rehabilitation work during natural calamity or disaster is done at the local level under the State governments.
o Also, the Disaster Management Act, 2005 operates mainly at the State, district and local levels.
o However, the States have given space to the Centre for disaster management for getting financial, technical and logistical support.
• Thirdly, civil servants are required to balance between loyalty toward states and loyalty toward center.
o IAS officers are ultimately subject to the control of the respective State governments when they are in the employment of their States.
o Otherwise, IAS officers will face trust deficit, if they show preference or loyalty to the central government just because they are appointed by the Center.
• Fourthly, the center has violated the norms required for “deputation”.
o As a measure of punishment, the former chief secretary for his conduct was initially called to the Centre on ‘deputation’ on the day he was to retire.
o This was done without the concurrence of the state government. But the concurrence of the state is required before an officer of its cadre is deputed to the Centre.
• Fourthly, absurd interpretation of the provision of Disaster Management act, 2005.
o Actions against the former Chief secretary is taken under Section 51(b) of the Disaster Management Act for failing to comply with the Centre’s direction.
o However, this section is meant to deal with cases of defiance of the lawful orders or action of the competent authorities under the Act for handling disaster management.
• Lastly, the All-India service officer or any officer has to act under the direction of his official superior.
o For an IAS officer, the State government is the official superior.
o If this is not followed, there will be chaos and indiscipline in administration.
The conduct of the former chief secretary and the reaction of the Central government must be seen in an overall context. Also, in these kinds of circumstances, one needs to use the wisdom of our tall political leaders to maintain proper Political and administrative elements for a healthy federal polity.
REASONS BEHIND SUCH INSTANCES :
State governments treating their respective states as their fiefdom.
Ruling party in the state, being different to that in Centre, thus state governments seeing the investigation by central agencies in their respective states as political vendetta by the central ruling party.
Central agencies are not bound to inform state forces before starting the investigation. Fear of leakage of the investigation news is another reason behind central agencies not notifying the state forces regarding the investigation in the state.
During elections, it is seen that State political parties generally protest against investigations connected to their aides and relatives, due to the fear of losing out votes.
Central Agencies being working under the pressure of central ruling party, thus not investigating the case properly.
IMPORTANCE OF FEDERALISM IN INDIA :
Article 200 of the Indian Constitutions stipulated that the states must obey the laws made by the Central government and during emergency situations it empowers the Union Government to make it all powerful.
• Single Constitution
• Single citizenship
• Flexibility of Constitution
• Integrated judiciary
• Appointment of the Centre
• All India Services
• Emergency provisions
Thus, federalism becomes a relevant and important factor of modern politics. The core objectives of Indian federalism is unity in diversity, decentralization in administration and devolution in authority. The state will be able to pursue goal of common welfare in the midst of diversity through federalism
CHALLENGES BEFORE INDIAN FEDERALISM :
Regionalism is where and individuals region is given preference, at times that of other regions as well. In a country as diverse and geographically vast as India, regionalism can tends to rear its ugly head from time to time. Some factors can be cultural as in the example of the Northeast states whose denizens feel that they are not culturally close enough to the rest of the country or the case of the southern states who feel they are not given their fair share of central funds despite having large states.
2. Centralized Amendment Power
In a typical federation, the power of amendment to the Federal Constitution lies on a shared basis between the federation and its units. In India, the power of constitutional amendment lies with the Centre under Article 368 and other provisions. Although ratification of half of the states is sought for in some limited areas, the states in the Indian Union have virtually no power in this critical area of governance.
3. Language Conflicts
Diversity in languages in India sometimes causes a blow the federal spirit of the Constitution. There are 22 languages constitutionally approved in India. Besides, hundreds of dialects are spoken across the country. Trouble arises when the strongest unit of the federation attempts to force a particular language on others. The tussle for official language in India is still a burning issue. The southern states’ opposition to Hindi as the official language of India has led to deep-seated language crisis in India.
4. Economic Incompatibilities of the units
Differences economic standards and relative economic and fiscal incompatibilities among the constituent states also pose a threat to a federation. The forces of imbalances in the field are demands for economic planning and development and for regional economic equality and financial autonomy of states. Demand for a financial equality of a region creates problems in a federation.
In India, some states are declared as poor and on the principle of equalization, are getting grants-in-aid. But the dilemma in a federation emerges that if the principle of equalization is adhered to, the national income and the total income growth will suffer.
5. Centralised Planning
Although economic and social planning is found in the Concurrent List of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution, the Union Government enjoys unbridled authority over national and regional planning in India. Centralised planning, through the Planning Commission, now NITI Aayog appointed by the Centre, considerable preponderance in legislative power for the Union, the financial dependence of the states on the Centre’s mercy, the administrative inferiority of the states make the states meek and weak.
It is very unfortunate that for some inexplicable reasons, a mountain has been made of a molehill, as the cliché goes. In these circumstances one misses the sagacity, wisdom and sophistication of some of our tall political leaders who steered the destiny of our nation in the past.
QUESTION : Analyse the possible impact of frontier technologies on developing countries and concerns over tech-aristocracy with possible ways to resolve all these technology related to feudalism.
IN THE DIGITAL ERA , THE RISE OF TECHNO-FEUDALISM
Technology and Feudalism
WHY IN NEWS ?
Technological disruptions are causing far-reaching upheavals in the economy, society and polity. The latest standoff between India and foreign companies over IT regulations is indicative of the growing power of tech companies to defy and undermine State power.
BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGICAL PROGRESS :
- Over the past few centuries, technological progress enabled the decline of feudalism due to
o the rise of industrial cities,
o induced labour mobility, and
o the transfer of economic power from the landed elites to the industrial- and middle-class.
- It culminated in the rise of the nation and nation-State and a central government strong enough to curb the arbitrary powers of feudal and aristocratic element.
- It increases productivity and brings citizens new and better goods and services that improve their overall standard of living.
- The benefits of innovation are sometimes slow to materialize. They often fall broadly across the entire population. Those who stand to benefit most—the poor and future generations—have little or no political influence.
MORE ABOUT TECHNO-FEUDALISM :
- The technological progress that gives rise to a tech-aristocracy while undermining State’s power is called Techno-feudalism.
- It rests on three pillars:
- Sheer computing power,
- The unprecedented concentration of economic power in a few private hands, and
- The ability of tech-aristocracy to shape society.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN OLD FEUDALISM AND TECHNO-FEUDALISM :
OLD FEUDALISM TECHNO-FEUDALISM
(1) Rested on control of land (1) Rests on control over digital real estate.
(2) Has exemptions designed to facilitate the accumulation of arbitrary power (2) Has exemptions such as intermediary rules, loopholes to bypass data localisation and tax compliance.
(3) Preached a doctrine of birth-based inequality (3) Perches meritocracy to justify its breaks on social mobility, except at the very top of the tech-aristocracy.
(4) Were small and deliberately fragmented to control the concentration of too much power by making economies of scale impossible (4) Such restrictions are gone as is evident by the rise of the Big Tech.
(5) Presented itself as the champion of liberty against the tyranny of the king and spoke a language of rights and duties.
SIMILARITIES BETWEEN OLD FEUDALISM AND TECHNO-FEUDALISM :
- Both corrupts feudalism corrupts and subverts the law and government to such an extent that governments find it impossible to take any action that could control their behaviour.
- They constantly engaged in a turf war to capture more physical/digital real estate.
CONCERNS OVER TECH-ARISTOCRACY :
- Tech-aristocracy has the power to intervene in local politics and unseat governments via subtle manipulation of political discourse by leveraging their control over data and means of communication.
o Aristocracy – highest class in certain societies.
- Tech-aristocracy enjoys arbitrary powers in matters of free speech.
- The ideas of due process, the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, and the right to appeal and seek judicial redress are being rendered meaningless, with the new tech-aristocracy imposing its private laws and acting as judge, jury and executioner.
- This is accompanied by a stagnation in the socioeconomic mobility of the masses due to restructuring of the economy caused by the same tech disruption.
- The anarchist ideas favoured by techno-feudalism serve the function of weakening the existing political order and legitimacy of the State.
- In this context, starting a discussion outside the academic and intellectual orthodoxy may be a step forward.