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ASYMMETRIC FEDERALISM

SYLLABUS: GS MAINS PAPER 2

As a normative idea and an institutional arrangement which supports the recognition and provision of an expansive “self rule” for territorially concentrated minority groups, Asymmetric Federalism has recently received bad press in India.

ASYMMETRIC FEDERALISM

It means federalism based on unequal powers and relationships in administrative, political, and fiscal arrangement between the units constituting a federation.

In simple words, it involves the granting of differential rights to certain federal units.

Why is it said that India has asymmetric federalism?

1. The main forms of administrative units in India are the centre and the states but there are other forms too, all set up to address specific local, historical and geographical contexts.

2. Besides the centre and states, the country has Union Territories with a legislature and Union Territories without a legislature.

3. There is another significant tier of administration under the framework of asymmetric federalism that is sixth schedule of constitution.

Sixth Schedule of constitution: It contains provisions for administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.

4. Just as the centre and the states do not have matching powers in all matters, there are some differences in the way some states and other constituent units of the Indian Union relate to the centre. It shows asymmetry among centre-state ties.

RECENT ISSUES REGARDING DILUTION OF FEDERALISM

● The dilution of Article 370 in 2019 which gave Jammu and Kashmir, a special constitutional status.

●There is also an attempt to dilute and dissolve Article 371, which among others, gives expansive constitutional powers to Nagas over land and resources (Article 371A) and to Manipur’s Hill Areas Committee (Article 371C) over tribal identity, culture, development and local administration.

● Issue is about dissolving the power of district council.

●The reasons which are provided behind dissolutions are- Distinctive constitutional status to territorially concentrated minorities inhibit national/state integration, development and peace.

●Asymmetric federalism increasingly rallied around the majoritarian idea of a monolith, homogeneous nation

● Article 371-A (added by 13th amendment act 1962): It includes provisions for Nagaland.

The Acts of parliament relating to the following matters would not apply to Nagaland unless the state legislative assembly so decides. The matters include religious or social practices of Nagas; Naga customary law and procedure; administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law; ownership and transfer of land and its resources.

● Article 371-C (added by 27th amendment act, 1971): It includes  provisions for Manipur.

The President may provide for the constitution and functions of a committee of the Legislative assembly of the state consisting of members of that assembly elected from the Hills of that state; The President can also direct that the governor shall have special responsibility to secure the proper functioning of such committee.

Approach of government of India for preserving tribal identity 

AN INTEGRATIONIST APPROACH

1. Integrationist approach is based on deep suspicion over the ability of tribal group, to self govern.

2. The integrationist approach has been conveniently invoked to delegitimize continuing demand for constitutional asymmetry in Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh and in other places in North east India.

3. Tribal “self rule” would leverage “tribalstan” or “communistan” and would be detrimental to India’s territorial integrity and security.

4.  The Integrationist approach powerfully resonates in two recent attempts by Manipur’s government to

i) Stall the introduction and passage of the Manipur (Hill areas) Autonomous District Council (Amendment) Bill, 2021.

ii) Induct nine Assembly members from the valley areas into the Hill Areas Committee.

The speaker order to induct 9 assembly members from the valley areas is seen as ‘malicious’ and ‘direct assault’ on the Hill areas of Manipur.

Under Article 371-C, this transgression of a domain exclusively reserved for President of India under Manipur legislative assembly (Hill areas committee) order 1972.

It is seen as the majoritarian state’s attempt to grab tribal lands through legal manipulation.

CONCLUSION

Asymmetry in administrative, political and economic spheres in federal system is unavoidable and in fact, may be necessary not only to come together but also to hold together. Recognising and institutionally accomodating tribal distinctiveness not just as a matter of political convenience, but as a valuable and enduring good will be key to promote the state’s integrity, stability and peace in the long run.

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