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Indian Federalism & COVID 19

How COVID 19 has affected Centre-state relations?

1. The relationship between centre and states is affected due to politics between different political parties in normal times.

2. Partisan politics due to centre and states creates unfair relationships between them.

3. The outbreak of COVID 19 pandemic has suspended the politics of harassment of the state governments led by opposition parties.

4. But an element of asymmetry exists with centre having power to take decisions without the required deliberation with the states.

5. The centre is having an exclusive authority to hand down the lockdown decision to the states.

Which were the issues?

1. While Centre has the major responsibility to tackle the challenges posed by the pandemic to the public, it also must lead in facilitating the shift.

2. But the first phase of the lockdown was declared without consulting the state governments.

3. This created acute problems that had to be addressed by the state governments without getting enough time for preparations.

4. The state governments were in a difficult situation to handle the problems of migrant workers stranded in these states.

What should be done?

1. As health and home are state subjects, compliance of federal principles would have led to decisive participation of states in devising the strategy to deal with the pandemic. 

2. So, all parties and state governments should have been consulted before announcing a lockdown.

3. In the interests of the ideal federal structure, Centre has to learn from the experiences or best practices of opposition parties and the state governments.

4. A crisis of large proportions demands a decentralized approach that will increasingly empower the state- and district-level administrations.

5. A joint effort by all political parties and the state governments is needed.

6. The funding patterns for fighting the pandemic is also controlled by the centre. This is seen by:

a) Creation of Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) fund superseding the existing Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) and

 b) Suspending Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) and diverting it to Consolidated Fund.

7. The Members of Parliament (MPs) having a better connect with their constituencies would have been better equipped to utilise this fund in coordination with district administration and planning boards.

8. The current crisis of health and economy demands releasing additional funds by the centre and widening of the state fiscal deficit limits.

Forging unity is the responsibility of the government and that cannot be expected to be achieved by giving short shrift to reasonability and accountability.