Vimarsha on Transforming Centre-State Relations a talk by Shri Dhirendra Singh
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Former Home Secretary Shri Dhirendra Singh delivered a talk on Transforming Centre State Relations under the Vimarsha series at VIF on July 11, 2014. The session was presided over by former Delhi Lt Governor Shri Vijai Kapoor.

In his opening remarks, Lt Gen R K Sawhney, Distinguished Fellow, VIF, recalled that the country’s leaders have had to grapple with the complex issue of Centre-State relations since the time of independence. The issue figured prominently in the debates in the Constituent Assembly which drafted our Constitution. The Constitution-makers had to contend with various formulations, keeping in mind the socio-political reality of India. There were those who felt that given India’s diversity, the Constitution must have a strong unitary tilt, as otherwise it would be difficult to hold the nation together. But, there were many others who felt that the Constitution must respect this diversity and the fact that India had emerged following the integration of many states. They therefore wanted the Constitution to have the features of a true federation.

After much deliberation, Dr.B.R.Ambedkar and his colleagues in the Constituent Assembly, which drafted India’s Constitution, eventually harmonized these diverse formulations and came up with a document that gave the states considerable legislative and executive powers, but vested the Centre with residual powers that would enable it to step in during emergencies like breakdown of constitutional machinery or when India’s unity and integrity was in peril, he said.

The diverse electoral preferences of the people of the country, the Sarkaria Commission’s recommendations and the critical interventions of the Supreme Court such as in the S R Bommai and B P Singhal cases have raised the prospects for a more harmonious relationship between the Centre and the States, which augurs well for the future, he said.

In his presidential remarks, Shri Kapoor termed the period between 1966 and 72 as the crisis period in Centre-State relations marked not only by the ‘Aya Ram Gaya Ram’ phase of politics but also 27 notifications for President’s rule and confrontational role of some state Governments.

He said the all India services were meant to be building blocks to maintain Centre-State relations but there has been a discernible change in the mindset of the all India officers who felt that the balance of convenience lay in aligning with the state Government.

In his talk, Shri Dhirendra Singh pointed out that though the Constitution does not speak of federalism, in the Keshavananda Bharti case, the Supreme Court had held that federalism is a basic structure of the Indian Constitution.

“If we have to transform Centre-State relations, we have to look at the Constitution in a holistic manner”, he said.
Advocating collaborative federalism, he lamented that there were many states which were rich in minerals yet were home to the poorest of Indians. These people need to be compensated adequately, he said.

Shri Singh gave several suggestions including strengthening the Rajya Sabha or the Council of States entrusting it with special responsibility in matters concerning the state and revival of the Department of States under the Ministry of Home Affairs as also reactivation of the Inter-state council and the zonal councils.

The talk was followed by an interactive session, in which the distinguished audience actively participated.

Event Date 
July 11, 2014
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