June 21, 2022
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether an Inter-State Council will help improve Centre-State relations. We also look at Kerala’s plan to introduce door-to-door milking of cows, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Inter-State Council – Will It Help Centre-State Relations?
Federalism is a tricky subject of discussion in India. While some may see it as a stagnant concept over the decades, others see it as an evolving and dynamic concept. Changes to the party system have shaped how Centre-State relations have functioned. The two have had a rocky relationship over the past several years.
There have been renewed calls for the Inter-State Council to facilitate better relations and functioning between the Centre and states. Among those who have been vocal is Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin. Last week, he urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to resume meetings of the Inter-State Council (ISC). Will this put us on the road to better relations, or will it just be something that grabs headlines with no proper outcomes?
The constitution itself didn’t establish the ISC. At the time of its framing, it felt such a thing wasn’t necessary. Instead, Article 263 stated that an Inter-State Council can be formed at any time if the President feels it would be in the public’s interest.
In 1983, the Indira Gandhi government formed the Sarkaria Commission, headed by Justice Ranjit Singh Sarkaria, to examine the existing arrangements of Centre-State relations. It was tasked with providing recommendations within the constitution’s framework. Five years later, in 1988, it submitted a two-volume report.
In May 1990, the ISC was established on the recommendation of the Sarkaria Commission. It’s a permanent constitutional body. Its purpose is to look at policies and subjects of common interest and disputes between states. The Prime Minister is the Chairman. Chief Ministers of States and Union Territories having a Legislative Assembly are its members. Also amongst its ranks are six members of Cabinet rank in the Union Council of Ministers nominated by the Prime Minister.
The Council isn’t the most active or prominent. Not recently, at least. Over the past six years, it has held only one meeting, on July 16, 2016. This was the eleventh meeting of the Council since its inception. On May 22 this year, it was reconstituted. Stalin has been at the forefront of this effort to reinvigorate the Council. He wants any Bill of national importance that could affect states to be placed before the Council ahead of its introduction in Parliament.
There’s precedence for Stalin’s efforts and views. His father and former Chief Minister M Karunanidhi spoke about the need for a committee to examine Centre-State relations back in 1969. At the time, the state government appointed a committee headed by former Madras High Court judge PV Rajamannar. Its report recommended the ISC be immediately constituted.
At the last meeting, there were discussions about the Punchhi Commission’s recommendations on Centre-State Relations. States wanted a federal structure to remain amid concerns of growing centralisation. Another topic of discussion was the imposition of Article 356, which deals with imposing the President’s Rule. Now that the council has been reconstituted, is this a new beginning?
VIEW: It can be a fresh start
The pertinent word with the ISC now is potential. While Centre-State relations haven’t exactly been cordial recently, the ISC offers an opportunity for a common platform for Chief Ministers to put forth their views on the policies and actions of the Union government. If cooperative federalism is the goal, as many chief ministers want it to be, then the ISC is the right way to achieve it.
The past few years have seen some controversial policies take centre stage. The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the National Population Register (NPR), the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the farm laws, and now the Agnipath scheme. These policies weren’t discussed in detail. Instead, they played out in the streets resulting in violent protests and deaths. As political commentator M Gautham Machaiah wrote, a confrontational approach isn’t good for the country.
Broadly, the architecture of Indian federalism is based on relations between the Centre and the States. There’s not much room to settle inter-state disputes as it is. India doesn’t have adequate institutions to manage such conflicts. Look at the European Union (EU), for example. It has the economic and financial affairs council to coordinate tax policies. In 2005, Australian states came together to set up the council for the Australian federation.
COUNTERVIEW: What difference does it make?
An ISC sounds good on paper. In practice, the results have been less than stellar. Looking at its track record, there’s no guarantee that the Council will meet thrice a year, as Stalin has suggested. There are a couple of reasons to be sceptical. First, Prime Minister Narendra Modi isn’t likely to concede to a state’s demands for greater autonomy. Second, the Council will meet when the Prime Minister decides and not when the states want to.
The agenda is set by the Centre despite states lobbying for the ISC. The Centre draws up the consensus for the Prime Minister’s endorsement, which is final. There’s not really a substantial exchange of views or discussions held, only prepared speeches. Case in point, in 1997, the then-chief minister of Andhra Pradesh Chandrababu Naidu asked, what’s the point of chief ministers going to Delhi to make proposals only for them to be brushed aside. He said it was a waste of time.
The rationale of having the ISC is to get a wide perspective that would be all-encompassing and to have an integrated approach to consensus building. In highly polarised times like now, that seems unlikely. The time for this might have passed. From Stalin’s point of view, it might just be a political move, according to Tamil Nadu BJP President K Annamalai. He pointed out that during the Congress government at the Centre, Stalin never asked for a meeting, while at least Modi has convened meetings.
What’s your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) An Inter-State Council would help improve Centre-State relations.
b) An Inter-State Council would not help improve Centre-State relations.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
As Modi Celebrates Eight Years As PM, Three Economic Faultlines That Can’t Be Ignored
For the Left:
Why India Must Heed A Professor’s Warnings From 1937 About ‘Tamarind Tree Leaders’
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
School upgrades (Delhi) – The Delhi Lt Governor VK Saxena announced that 25 schools have been identified to upgrade their teaching, technological, and physical infrastructure. This will be part of a pilot project. Saxena spoke to teachers and staff and promised to transform these schools to the highest standards. Other schools run by the Delhi municipal corporation will also be transformed.
Why it matters: Last month, the Delhi Women Commission (DCW) conducted a surprise inspection at four schools. The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) also identified other schools in dismal condition with cracks on walls, no proper drinking water stations, and general unhygienic conditions. They sent a show-cause notice to the education department of the municipal corporation and wanted an explanation.
Door-to-door milking (Kerala) – The Kerala government is looking to adopt a door-to-door mechanised milking of cows scheme across the state. The region’s dairy cooperatives will assign a person for milking cows with mechanised mobile units and a two-wheeler for each person. Of the monthly charge of ₹1,000, ₹750 will be borne by the dairy farmer and the remaining by the cooperative.
Why it matters: The project was successful in Alappuzha, where it was implemented to overcome the shortage of milkers in the region. The project will be led by joint liability groups of dairy farmers. Each group will have 4-10 members. Despite the Oommen Chandy government setting up a mechanised dairy farm in Ukkinadka in Kasaragod in February 2016, its monthly expenses were high compared to revenues.
BJP’s new set-up (West Bengal) – The BJP has decided to shake things up in its party leadership in the state. Part of this includes the formation of an area committee and block committee. The inclusion is to strengthen the party’s grassroots organisation and to address discontent within the cadre that came to the surface recently. The area committee will be called the ward community in municipality areas. There will be 341 block committees.
Why it matters: The party has a strong organisational setup in states like Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, where it has tasted electoral success. In these states, the grassroots were given importance. The BJP had an unimpressive performance in the 2021 Assembly elections, losing out to the TMC. The state party unit blamed the poor organisational strength.
Astro tourism (Rajasthan) – Rajasthan is the first state to launch Astro tourism in its 33 districts. The Department of Art and Culture introduced a ‘Night Sky Tourism Project’ to encourage star gazing among tourists. Due to the lockdown and travel restrictions, people became interested in astronomical events that took place in the sky. Events and workshops will be launched for the tourists.
Why it matters: In 2021, the government organised a star gazing session for people to get some respite from the lockdowns. On March 3 this year, chief minister Ashok Gehlot announced the tourism initiative. The districts will soon get telescopes. An agreement was signed between the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, the Ladakh administration, and the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council to form the country’s first Dark Sky Reserve at Hanle in Ladakh.
Flood catastrophe (Assam) – The flood situation in the state has worsened as the number of affected has increased to 42 lakh over the weekend, according to the Assam State Disaster Management Authority. Five animals have also died at the Kaziranga National Park. More than 4,200 villages across 30 districts have been affected. The highest number of people affected was in Barpeta district with more than 12 lakh.
Why it matters: The Kopili, a tributary of the Brahmaputra, was flowing in the “extreme flood stage”. Water levels were above the danger limits. 15% of the Kaziranga National Park area remains flooded. A team from IIT Guwahati will use drones to survey the affected areas and aid relief work. The state reached out to the university for its help in assessing the flood situation.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
300 – The number of narrowbody jets Air India plans to buy as it looks to overhaul its fleet. It could include Airbus SE’s A320neo family jets or Boeing Co.’s 737 Max. It could be one of the largest orders in commercial aviation history.