GS-2 Polity- Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure
A pandemic is defined as “an epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people”.(WHO)
COVID19:affected more than 5 million and resulted in a loss in excess of 80000 lives.(current DATA in India)
- There has been a raging debate regarding the distribution of subjects in the 7th schedule of the constitution.
- Bibek Debroy wanted rationalisation of Centrally Sponsored Schemes.(why the centre should spend on subjects like health and why the states should not spend on national defence.)
- Counter argument by M Govinda Rao-
- defence is a “national public good” and has to be a Union subject.
- division of subjects should be on the basis of respective comparative advantage.
- (national public goods are in the federal domain and state-level public service are in the state domain.)
India’s response to the pandemic:
- provides a lesson in understanding what the distribution of powers should be like.
- initial unilateral lockdown by the centre.
- eventually moved on to working with the states towards a collective response.
- improving mechanisms of federal governance.
Reorganisation of Federal Distribution:
- primarily focused on achieving economies of scale in vaccine procurement.
- knowledge production for setting standards and guidelines for the states.
- mitigating inter-state externalities.
- States continue to play the dominant role in execution of the actual response.(fundamental principles of comparative advantage)
- Centrally Sponsored Schemes must continue.(should be restructured)
- need for an appropriate forum to discuss issues like:
- reviewing federal organisation of powers
- restructuring of central transfers.
- Some subjects need to put in the concurrent list.(Health:- states have limited power;Centre invariably has to spend.)
- 15th Finance Commission:- recommended shifting health from the State to the Concurrent List.
- Ashok Chawla Committe:-similar recommendation for Water.
- emerging challenges are linked to the State List subjects or the ones that rely on actions by states need to pursue the change.
- climate change.
- the Centre must expand its role beyond the mitigation of inter-state externalities.
- address the challenges of security and sustainability.
The GST reforms is the most recent instance of such reworking of the Centre-state roles for a greater and collective goal.
A similar consensus-building for sectors like health, rural development and agriculture can be achieved through GST Council like institution- Inter-State Council.