Asymmetric Federalism

Asymmetric Federalism

News: The recent SC verdict on abrogation of Art 370 (Special provision with respect to J&K) has highlighted the nature of asymmetric federalism existing in India.

What is Asymmetric Federalism in India?
• Asymmetric federalism in India refers to the unequal powers and relationships in political, administrative, and fiscal arrangements between the federal units constituting a federation. This asymmetry can be viewed in both vertical (between the centre and states) and horizontal (among the states) senses.

Types of Asymmetric Federalism in India

Vertical AsymmetryHorizontal AsymmetryFiscal Asymmetry
Article 3 - The Centre can unilaterally alter the state names and boundaries.Art 371-371J- Special position, powers, and protection enjoyed by some states.Centrally sponsored schemes (CSS)- For special category status states, the Centre pays 90% of the funds required in a CSS, as against 60% in the case of normal category states.
Article 352 & 356- Provisions related to imposition of National Emergency and President’s rule.Schedule 5- The administration and control of tribal areas in 10 statesHorizontal devolution among states based on achieving certain criteria such as Income distance, demographic performance etc.
Governor – Appointed by Central government and is a representative of Centre.Schedule 6- The administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram. 

What is the significance of Asymmetric Federalism in India?
• Plurality of Indian society: India has a diverse and pluralistic society with multiple religions and languages, and asymmetrical federalism is a necessary framework for a multicultural and multinational country such as India.
• Protection of minorities: By giving more power and autonomy to regions where certain minority groups are concentrated, asymmetrical federalism helps ensure that these groups are not marginalized.
• State-specific issues: By giving more power to states, asymmetrical federalism can help ensure that the state-specific issues are given the attention and resources they need to be effectively addressed.
• Accommodation and integration: Asymmetrical federalism is a system that allows for self-rule within the framework of shared rule, and it follows the principle of weighted and differentiated equality.
• Strengthening federalism: Asymmetric federalism strengthens federalism by ensuring a balance of power by ensuring decentralization of power and decision-making as per requirements of the federal units.

What are the challenges with the Asymmetric Federalism in India?
• It has a tendency to promote regionalism and separatism.
• It creates imbalances in decision making and resource allocation often leading to perception of favoritism and discrimination. For example, as seen in case of erstwhile J&K state where development of Ladakh was ignored.
• Some regions benefit from preferential funding or fiscal arrangements, while others may receive fewer resources, resulting in economic disparities and regional imbalances.
• Political principles and factors are taken into consideration while implementing these principles which comes at the cost of required development and public interests.

Conclusion
• The Indian constitution is blend of rigidity and flexibility but emphasizes on a strong center visa-vis states. There should be right balance between Symmetric, cooperative and asymmetric principles of Federalism that promotes Good Governance and serves interests of every section of the society. 

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