If you are a Bengalurian, you would have definitely seen people getting caught violating traffic rules repeatedly. How many times haven't you felt that the fine is too small for creating the fear of law ? Have you ever wondered why the Traffic Police can't levy a heavier fine on those violators to bring some order into the chaotic scene on Bengaluru's roads? Sorry mate, you need to go to Delhi to ask for a change in the law!
That's right, Karnataka Traffic Police can't even raise the fine for traffic violations from say Rs 100 to say Rs 200, as the fine amounts are decided by the Central Government's Motor Vehicle Act. So, to even bring a small change in Traffic laws in Bengaluru, you need an amendment to the law in the Parliament at Delhi! This begs the question "Is this the way to truly practice federalism? "
The correct definition of Federalism
Federalism is a system in which power is shared between the central and state governments, creating what is often called a federation. India is a multi-lingual federation where stake holders have come together in a federation of states called the Indian Union. The states subscribing to any federation of states do so for personal material gain and for not any spiritual reasons. It's as simple as that, and India is no exception. What good a federal setup is India, if a subscribing state doesn't have the power to effect even a simple change to a local law?
Restructuring Centre-State relations
The Constitution of India appropriates the subjects on which each tier of government (State or Centre) has executive powers. The central government has the powers to enact laws on subjects under the union list, while the state governments have the powers to enact laws on subjects under the state list. Laws like the Motor Vehicles Act are under the Centre's control. How effectively a state can work in an administrative capacity if, even a basic matter of governance like traffic regulation is not under it's control? Is it not the time to relook at the subjects under the union list and possibly move those subjects which a state can manage more effectively than the Centre to the state government itself? On one hand, this will enable an effective administration and on the other reduce the amount of bureaucracy and amount of time that goes in getting consensus and approval between states and the Centre on such subjects.
Time for a Dialogue
India is a quasi-federal democracy where the federal dialogue with the states is more often than not predicated by the Union Government's administrative/policy-level decisions; i.e. the Centre decides on a particular course and only thereafter seeks input from the states. This must change. The time is ripe now for a dialogue to establish a true federal system that will strengthen the bonds of mutual cooperation, unity, and cordiality between the Centre and the States. The whole dialogue needs to consider that every state is in the federation expecting a win-win. Keeping in view the sea-changes that have been taking place in the polity and economy of India since the Sarkaria Commission has last looked at the issue of Centre-State relations over two decades ago, the Centre must examine and review the working of the existing arrangements between the Union and States and amend necessary laws to enable a more effective and efficient administration.
It's plain stupidity to have our system require approval from two thousand kilometers away for a matter worth two hundred rupees. Goddamn stupid.
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Posted by Kiran Batni on Aug 9, 2008