The year 2010 cannot be said to be a particularly good year for the Indian federal system. AlthoughIndia is generally counted as a reasonably well-functioning federation, this is a long-range view,especially in a comparative perspective where in several federal systems in the world are still in an aspirational or fledgling stage. Federally relevant events relating to Jammu & Kashmir, Telangana,and Operation Green Hunt against the Maoist guerilla attacks on state agents and civilians that hogged the headlines through the year hardly convey the picture of a federal system at peace with itself or in a state of an institutionalized equilibrium. Jammu & Kashmir continued to suffer from federal deficit both in its relations with New Delhi and internally in terms of sub-state federal relations among the Kashmir valley, Jammu, and Ladakh.
The Telangana issue was brought out of the closet by the sudden announcement by the Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram in December 2009 of the intention to bifurcate the state. The Congress Party found itself split along regional lines and the state was plunged into competitive and chaotic political mobilization in both parts for or against statehood for Telangana. The long awaited report of the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Committee appointed by the Government of India after burning its fingers
to study and report on the demand for a separate state maintained an uneasy lull through the year.
The Report submitted in early January 2011 portrayed six alternative policy options or policy scenarios, none in favour of the status quo and the best step forward for unity with a credible regional political and financial autonomy through a Regional Development Council.
The class struggle waged by the various Naxalite or Maoist organizations reached an
unprecedented intensity in 2010 in the central tribal belt across the states between the Indo-Nepalese border and Deccan. In the previous year Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra governments, aided by the centre, successfully, crushed this menacing violence, forcing their remnants to flee into the neighboring states of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, West Bengal, and Bihar. That explains the escalation of their activities in these states in the year under review, and joint operation against them by these four state governments and the centre. By the year-end there was some letup in the situation, formulation of some special development schemes apparently mostly by Union`s inititiative but with states` role in implementation, and proposed amendment in the mines laws to allow some share/benefits to the people displaced or affected by the mining companies/corporations/governments in course of development.
The year saw the conduct of Assembly elections in Bihar, municipal elections in West Bengal, and Panchayat elections in Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand. Since the emergence of multiparty system at the national level at the top of the jigsaw puzzle of party configurations at state and local levels, these subnational polls have become significantly consequential for the forthcoming elections at the next higher levels and post-election governance and development performance.
The year 2010 was also marked by the crystallization of the phenomenon of what may be called "ecological federalism." Over the last two decades and a half, a dense framework of environment and ecology protection laws at the Union and state levels have developed. Under these laws, the Union, state, and local communities partake in the final clearance of developmental projects of industries and governments by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests on the basis of assessment of environmental, social, and strategic impacts. During the year under review Union Minister of State Jairam Ramesh was constantly at the centre of a growing controversy with various Union ministries, state, governments, and industries on account of rejection of their projects for their adverse impacts.
The issue of institutional reforms remained central to the federal discourse during the year, thanks to the submission of the thirteenth Finance Commission Report (2010-2015) in December 2009 and of the M.M. Punchhi Commission Report on Centre-State Relations in 2010. An empowered committee of State Finance Ministers chaired by the West Bengal incumbent Ashim Dasgupta remained involved in a protracted negotiation between the two orders of governments to bring about a taxation reform merging some Union and state taxes into a goods and services tax (GST) aimed at developing a dynamic
common market in the nation, but success eluded its labours.
I conclude by taking note of two incidents during the year regarding Chief Ministers of Maharashtra and Karnataka belonging to the two largest National parties - the INC and the BJP. The Congress high command successfully removed Ashok Chavan in the trail of the Adarsh Housing Society fraud inMumbai, whereas the BJP central leadership wishing to replace B.S. Yeddyurappa (BSY) involved in a land allotment scam had to eat a humble pie, yielding to the trump card of the Lingayat Vote bank, the caste to which BSY belongs. All in all, 2010 will go down in the chronicles of India`s multilevel federalism as a year of mixed records.
Mahendra Prasad Singh