• Federalism is a system of government in which the power is divided between a central authority and various constituent units of the country.
  • a federation has two OR MORE levels of government.
  • One is the government for the entire country that is usually responsible for a few subjects of common national interest.
  • The others are governments at the level of provinces or states that look after much of the day-to-day administering of their state.
  • Both these levels of government enjoy their power independent of the other.

features of federalism :

  • There are two or more levels (or tiers) of government.
  • Different tiers of government govern the same citizens.
  • each tier has its own JURISDICTION in specific matters of legislation, taxation, and administration.
  • The jurisdictions of the respective levels or tiers of government are specified in the constitution.
  • the existence and authority of each tier of government are constitutionally guaranteed.
  • The fundamental provisions of the constitution cannot be unilaterally changed by ANYone level of government.
  • Such changes require the consent of both levels of government.
  • Courts have the power to interpret the constitution and the powers of different levels of government.
  • The highest court acts as an umpire if disputes arise between different levels of government in the exercise of their respective powers.
  • Sources of revenue for each level of government are clearly specified to ensure its financial autonomy.



  • WHEN independent States come together on their own to form a bigger unit,
  • by pooling sovereignty and retaining identity they can increase their security.
  • This type of ‘coming together’ federation includes the USA, Switzerland, and Australia.
  • In thIS TYPE OF federation, all the constituent States usually have equal power and are strong.


  • When a large country decides to divide its power between the constituent States and the national government.
  • EXAMPLES- India, Spain, and Belgium.
  • IN this TYPE of ‘holding together’ federations. the central government tends to be more powerful THAN the States.
  • different constituent units of the federation have unequal powers.
  • Some units are granted special powers.


Union List-

  • includes subjects of national importance.
  • such as the defense of the country, foreign affairs, banking, communications, and currency.
  • They are included in this list because we need a uniform policy on these matters throughout the country.
  • The Union Government alone can make laws relating to the subjects mentioned in the Union List.

State List-

  • contains subjects of State and local importance
  • such as police, trade, commerce, agriculture, and irrigation.
  • The State Governments alone can make laws relating to the subjects mentioned in the  State List.

Concurrent List-

  • includes subjects of common interest to both the Union Government as well as the State  Governments.
  • such as education, forest, trade unions, marriage, adoption, and succession.
  • Both the Union as well as the State Governments can make laws on the subjects mentioned in this list.
  • If their laws conflict with each other, the law made by the Union Government will prevail.
  • According to our constitution, the Union Government has the power to legislate on these ‘residuary’ subjects.


  • most federations are formed by ‘holding together‘ do not give equal power to its constituent units.
  • Thus, all States in the Indian Union do not have EQUAL powers.
  • Some States enjoy a special status. LIKE-Jammu and Kashmir have their own Constitution.
  • Many provisions of the Indian Constitution are not applicable to this State without the approval of the State Assembly.
  • Indians who are not permanent residents of this State cannot buy land or house here.
  • Similar special provisions exist for some other States of India as well.


  • There are some units of the Indian Union that enjoy very little power.
  • These are areas that are too small to become an independent State but which could not be merged with any of the existing States.
  • These areas, like Chandigarh, Lakshadweep, or the capital city of Delhi, are called Union Territories.
  • These territories do not have the powers of a State.
  • The Central Government has special powers in running these areas.



  • In 1947, the boundaries of several old States of India were changed in order to create new States.
  • This was done to ensure that people who spoke the same language lived in the same State.
  • Some States were created not on the basis of language but to recognise differences based on culture, ethnicity or geography.
  • These include States like Nagaland, Uttarakhand, and Jharkhand.


  • Our Constitution did not give the status of national language to any one language.
  • Hindi was identified as the official language.
  • Hindi is the mother tongue of only about 40 percent of Indians.
  • there arE 21 other languages recognised as Scheduled Languages by theConstitution.
  • States have their own official languages.
  • Much of the government work takes place in the official language of the concerned State.
  • the leaders of our country adopted a very cautious attitude in spreading the use of Hindi.
  • According to the Constitution, the use of English for official purposes was to stop in 1965.
  • many non- Hindi speaking States demanded that the use of English continue.
  • In Tamil Nadu, this movement took a violent form.
  • The Central Government responded by agreeing to continue the use of English along with Hindi for official purposes.
  • The promotion of Hindi continues to be the official policy of the Government of India.
  • Promotion does not mean that the Central Government can impose Hindi on States where people speak a different language.


  • WHEN the same party ruled both at the Centre and in most of the States. the State governments did not exercise their rights as autonomous federal units.
  • when the ruling party at the State level was different, the parties that ruled at the Centre tried to undermine the power of the States.
  • In THIS CONDITION the Central Government would often misuse the Constitution to dismiss the State governments that were controlled by rival parties. This undermined the spirit of federalism.
  • after 1990 MANY regional political parties EMERGED in many States of the country.
  • This was also the beginning of the era of COALITION GOVERNMENTS at the Centre.
  • Since no single party got a clear majority in the Lok Sabha, the major national parties had to enter into an alliance with many parties including several regional parties to form a government at the Centre.
  • This led to a new culture of power-sharing and respect for the autonomy of State Governments.
  • This trend was supported by a major judgment of the Supreme Court that made it difficult for the Central Government to dismiss state governments in an arbitrary manner.
  • federal power-sharing is more effective today than it was in the early years after the Constitution came into force.


  • When power is taken away from Central and State governments and given to the local governments, it is called decentralisation.
  • The basic idea behind decentralisation is that there are a large number of problems and issues which are best settled at the local level.
  • People have better knowledge of problems in their localities. They also have better ideas on where to spend money and how to manage things more efficiently.
  • at the local level, it is possible for the people to directly participate in decision-making. This helps to inculcate a habit of democratic participation.
  • Local government is the best way to realise one important principle of democracy, namely local self-government.


  • The need for decentralisation was recognised in our Constitution.
  • there have been several attempts to decentralise power to the level of villages and towns.
  • Panchayats in villages and municipalities in urban areas were set up in all the States.
  • these were directly under the control of state governments.
  • Elections to these local governments were not held regularly.
  • Local governments did not have any powers or resources of their own.
  • there was very little decentralisation in effective terms.
  • A major step towards decentralisation was taken in 1992.
  • The Constitution was amended to make the third-tier of democracy more powerful and effective.


  • Now it is constitutionally mandated to hold regular elections for local government bodies.
  • Seats are reserved in the elected bodies and the executive heads of these institutions for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes.
  • At least one-third of all positions are reserved for women.
  • An independent  State Election Commission has been created in each State to conduct panchayat and municipal elections.
  • The State governments are required to share some powers and revenue with local government bodies.
  • The nature of sharing varies from State to State.


  • Rural local government is popularly known by the name Panchayati raj.
  • Each village, or a group of villages in some States, has a gram panchayat.
  • This is a council consisting of several ward members, often called panch, and a president or sarpanch.
  • They are directly elected by all the adult population living in that ward or village.
  • It is the decision-making body for the entire village.
  • The panchayat works under the overall supervision of the gram sabha.
  • All the voters in the village are its members.
  • It has to meet at least twice or thrice a year to approve the annual budget of the gram panchayat and to review the performance of the gram panchayat.


  • The local government structure goes right up to the district level.
  • A few gram panchayats are grouped together to form panchayat Samiti or block or Mandal.
  • The members of this representative body are elected by all the panchayat members in that area.
  • All the panchayat samiti’s or mandal’s in a district together constitute the zila (district) Parishad.
  • Most members of the zila Parishad are elected.
  • Members of the Lok Sabha and MLA’s of that district and some other officials of other district-level bodies are also its members.
  • Zila Parishad chairperson is the political head of the zila Parishad.


  • local government bodies exist for urban areas as well.
  • Municipalities are set up in towns.
  • Big cities are constituted into municipal corporations.
  • Both municipalities and municipal corporations are controlled by elected bodies consisting of people’s representatives.
  • The municipal chairperson is the political head of the municipality.
  • In a municipal corporation, such an officer is called the mayor.


  • This new system of local government is the largest experiment in democracy conducted anywhere in the world.
  • There are now about 36 lakh elected representatives in the panchayats and municipalities etc. all over the country.
  • This number is bigger than the population of many countries in the world.
  • Constitutional status for local government has helped to deepen democracy in our country.
  • It has also increased women’s representation and voice in our democracy.


  • gram sabha’s MEETINGS are not held regularly.
  • Most state governments have not transferred significant powers to the local governments.
  • Nor have they been given adequate resources.