Important policy initiatives taken to strengthen cooperative federalism

Net Indian, January 21, 2016

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has said that the urgency placed by the Union government for implementing GST (Goods and Services Tax) was because of its far-reaching implications that would help unify the whole country as a market.

Inaugurating the International Conference on “Cooperative Federalism: National Perspectives and International Experience” here yesterday, Mr. Singh said the Central Government had taken several important policy initiatives to strengthen the spirit of cooperative federalism.

“Foremost is the increase in the share of divisible tax-pool from 32% to 42%, as per recommendation of 14th Finance Commission,” he said.

He said the Union Government had also raised the non-statutory share from 21% to 26% and about 57.6% of the gross tax receipts are to be transferred to the states. These imply that more than half of the total receipts (including non-tax receipts) of the Centre will be transferred to the states, he added.

Another policy initiative was the establishment of the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog. Inclusion of the Chief Ministers of the States, and their regular interactions with the Union government for policy formulation would help better Union-State Policy coordination and coherence in formulation and design of schemes, he said.

“Besides, the successful completion of all Zonal Council meetings including meeting of Chief Ministers of the North Eastern Region in 2015 and reconstitution of the Inter-State Council in December, 2015 are instances which buttress my claim about this Government’s abiding faith in cooperative federalism,” he added.

Federalism is not new to India. Though in its primitive form, ancient kingdoms and empires had established this system in order to rule vast tracts under their jurisdiction. The framers of Indian Constitution, blending the best features of all the important types of federation, gave India a “union model of federalism”. Indian Constitution elaborately defines the power distribution between the federal Government and the States providing enough space for both, he said.

Functionally, it is an inter-dependent arrangement, where the Centre and the States collectively aspire and work towards the welfare of the people, he said.

Centre-State or inter-state issues, if any, are resolved by various mechanisms put in place including Inter-Governmental agencies and fora like Inter State Council, Zonal Councils, National Development Council, NITI Aayog, Governors’ Conference and Chief Ministers’ Conference etc. All of them, as integral part of the machinery of government, play a vital role in the harmonious working of a federal structure, he added.

“For a stronger and greater India, the Centre and States have to work together. The realization of the goal of faster economic growth coupled with distributive justice is not possible unless we work together in a spirit of co-operation. For this, the road map has to be laid out and we need to strengthen the institutions and mechanisms that will enable better Centre-State relations,” Mr Singh said.

Ms Naini Jayaseelan, Secretary, Inter-State Council noting that this was the first time that such a conference was being held, stressed that both the Centre and the states were not independent, but interdependent and both work for maximisation of the common good. This conference is a precursor to the international conference which will be held in March this year, where the recommendations of this conference will be presented, she added.

She also said that international experts from Australia, Ethiopia, Germany, Switzerland, South Africa and Canada would share their views in the Conference. It will have sessions on the themes of Institutions, mechanisms and processes to facilitate Cooperative Federalism, Fiscal Federalism with a focus on Institutional and Legal Mechanisms and on key social sectors namely Health and Education and Horizontal and Vertical cooperation on Internal Security and Crime and Green Federalism.

Mr Rupak Chattopadhyay, President and CEO, Forum of Federations said the horizontal cooperation may have the potential to enhance delivery across borders. New actors including Local Government authorities were getting involved in the inter-governmental relations.

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