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UPSC Online Editorial Analysis



Title:Who wants federalism?

Written by:PratapBhanu Mehta

Topic in syllabus:Polity – Federalism (GS-2)

Analysis about:This editorial talks about how political culture in both centre and state play role in sustaining federalism in India.(In short – Our misshapen federalism is not about Centre vs states, but co-produced by political culture in both)


  • Federalism –
    • Federalism in India refers to relations between the Centre and the States of the Union of India. The Constitution of India establishes the structure of the Indian government. Part XI of the Indian constitution specifies the distribution of legislative, administrative and executive powers between the union government and the States of India.
    • The legislative powers are categorised under a Union List, a State List and a Concurrent List, representing, respectively, the powers conferred upon the Union government, those conferred upon the State governments and powers shared among them.
    • Article 282 accords financial autonomy in spending financial resources available to the states for public purpose.
    • Article 293 allows States to borrow without limit without consent from the Union government. However, the Union government can insist upon compliance with its loan terms when a state has outstanding loans charged to the consolidated fund of India or a federally-guaranteed loan.
    • The President of India constitutes a Finance Commission every five years to recommend devolution of Union revenues to State governments.
    • Under Article 360, the President can proclaim a financial emergency when the financial stability or credit of the nation or of any part of its territory is threatened.
    • The Union and States have independent executive staffs controlled by their respective governments. In legislative and administrative matters, the union government cannot overrule the constitutional rights/powers of a state government except when presidential rule is declared in a State.
    • The Union’s duty is to ensure that the government of every State is carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution as per Article 355 and Article 256.

Introduction:  How India federalism is opportunistic?

  • The Indian Constitution was designed to be opportunistic about federalism. As BR Ambedkar had put it, “India’s Draft Constitution can be both unitary as well as federal according to the requirements of time and circumstances.” As he went on to say, “Such a power of converting itself into a unitary state, no federation possesses.” The ideological underpinnings of this flexible federalism are still the default common sense of Indian politics.

Various aspects of Indian federalism& concerns:

  • The imperatives of security, state building, and economic development are always allowed to trump federal pieties.
  • The first was a genuine concern about whether a centralised state could accommodate India’s linguistic and cultural diversity.
    • The States Reorganisation Act and the compromises on the issue of languages was a victory for federalism.
    • It allowed India to use federalism to accommodate linguistic diversity.
    • Since only an identity-based politics in a state can be a genuine threat to the Centre, taking that off the political agenda actually gives the Centre a freer hand on other aspects of federalism.
    • So long asregional linguistic identities are not threatened there is no natural source of resistance to centralisation.
  • The second underpinning of federalism is actual distribution of political power.
    • The rise of coalition governments, economic liberalisation, regional parties, seemed to provide propitious ground for political federalism.
    • Political federalism is quite compatible with financial, and administrative centralisation.
    • But what fragmentation of power effectively meant was that each state could bargain for certain things; or very strong leaders could veto central proposals.
    • It is striking that the period of fragmented power, strong chief ministers, did nothing to strengthen the institutions of federalism “Federalism for me but not for thee” — this can be evidenced in the bifurcation of erstwhile Andhra, which was done against the resolution of the state legislature, and in Kashmir which was stripped of statehood.
    • Regional parties do not necessarily imply a coalition for federalism.In the current farmers’ agitation, these contradictions are on full display.The federalism argument against the farm bills is the strongest legal argument.
  • The third thing that sustains federalism is the political and institutional culture.
    • The culture of past government was, to put it mildly, committed to the most extreme interpretation of flexible federalism, including procedural impropriety to oust opponents.
    • Because of the increasing presidentialisation of national politics, a single-party dominance with powerful messaging power, and change in forms of communication, the attribution of policy successes or failures might change, diminishing the stature of chief ministers considerably.
    • The other source of institutional culture might be the Supreme Court. But there is little in the Court’s conduct that allows us to predict where it might come down on federalism issues. To be fair, there was mostly a bi-partisan consensus on honouring the technical recommendations of institutions like the Finance Commission.
  • The fourth thing that sustained federalism was what Louise Tillin has brilliantly analysed as “asymmetrical federalism” — special exemptions given to various states.
  • The most far-reaching change in the Indian Constitution on federalism was GST. It does increase centralisation in the system.
    • The states did push back against the possibility of the Centre reneging on its commitment on payments. But except in the case of financial meltdown at the Centre which seriously affects all states, there will not be much pushback.
  • Most states are reluctant to honour more decentralisation within, to rural and urban bodies.
    • It is true that the Centre disproportionately controls resources in India; but very few states have shown a zeal to increase their own financial headroom by utilising whatever powers they might have on taxation.


  • So flexible federalism will be bent in all kinds of ways. But it is important to remember that this mess is not a product of Centre versus states. It has been co-produced by a political culture in both Centre and the states.

2) Editorial

Title:The smart anganwadi

Written by: BinuAnand, AnumehaVerma (Anand is National Team Leader and Verma, Research, Content and Documentation Officer, We Collaborate for Nutrition — a nutrition coalition)

Topic in syllabus: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation. (GS-2)

Analysis about: This editorial talks about Issues related Anganwadis&how we can improve its condition.


  • The economic fallout of COVID-19 makes the necessity of quality public welfare services more pressing than ever. The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) programme that caters to the nutrition, health and pre-education needs of children till six years of age as well as the health and nutrition of women and adolescent girls is one such scheme.

What we need to recast Anganwadicentres? (Issues)

  • ICDS requires work on multiple fronts to be effective, given that recent reports have shown gaps in the utilisation of services.
  • Anganwadi centres (AWCs) could become agents of improved delivery of ICDS’s services. But for that, they need to be recast in a new avatar.
  • According to government data, the country has 13.77 lakh AWCs.
  • Nearly a fourth of the operational AWCs lack drinking water facilities and 36 per cent do not have toilets.
  • In 2015, the NITI Aayog recommended better sanitation and drinking water facilities, improved power supply and basic medicines for the AWCs.
  • It also suggested that these centres be provided with the required number of workers, whose skills should be upgraded through regular training.
  • ICDS beneficiaries do register for services but because the anganwadis lack adequate facilities, they turn to paid options.
  • Privately-run centres come at a price, hitting low-income families the hardest.
  • A study on utilisation of ICDS services in coastal Karnataka reported enrolment in private nursery schools as a major reason for non-adherence to ICDS services.
  • It also reported the need for improvement in the quality of meals provided by the programme.
  • AWCs clearly do not seem to provide the environment that encourages parents to leave children at these centres.
  • Only a limited number of AWCs have facilities like creche, and good quality recreational and learning facilities for pre-school education.

What kind of a system we need in Anganwadi centres?

  • Research has shown the significance of the playing-based learning approach in the cognitive development of children.
  • An approach that combines an effective supplementary nutrition programme with pedagogic processes that make learning interesting is the need of the hour.

What are the solutions?

  • Effective implementation of the ICDS programme rests heavily on the combined efforts of the anganwadi workers (AWWs), ASHAs and ANMs.
  • It is important that a more robust mechanism is now created to regularly assess and plug knowledge gaps.
  • Technology can also be used for augmenting the programme’s quality. AWWs have been provided with smartphones and their supervisors with tablets, under the government schemes.
  • Apps on these devices track the distribution of take-home rations and supplementary nutrition services.
  • The data generated should inform decisions to improve the programme.
  • Examples –  In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, anganwadi centres have been geotagged to improve service delivery. Gujarat has digitised the supply chain of take-home rations and real-time data is being used to minimise stockouts at the anganwadi centres.
  • The Centre has acknowledged the need to improve anganwadi centres. Its SakshamAnganwadi Scheme aims to upgrade 2.5 lakh such centres across the country. It is up to the state governments to take up the baton.

The way forward:

  • Infrastructure development and capacity building of the anganwadi remains the key to improving the programme, hence the standards of all its services need to be upscaled.
  • States have much to learn from each other’s experiences.
  • Anganwadi centres must cater to the needs of the community and the programme’s workers.

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