New Delhi: The Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh inaugurated the International Conference on “Cooperative Federalism: National Perspectives and International Experience” on Wednesday. He said that this International Conference aims to enrich our national pursuits for Cooperative federalism with successful case studies practiced in other parts of the world.
Speaking on the occasion, Shri Rajnath Singh said that India has unity in diversity which is duly substantiated by successful running of its cohesive federal structure. He said that Federalism is not new to India. Though in its primitive form, ancient kingdoms and empires had established this system in order to rule vast tracts under their jurisdiction. He said that the framers of Indian Constitution, blending the best features of all the important types of federation, gave India a “union model of federalism”. Indian Constitution elaborately defines the power distribution between the federal Government and the States providing enough space for both. Functionally, it is an inter-dependent arrangement, where the Centre and the States collectively aspire and work towards the welfare of the people.
Shri Rajnath Singh said that Centre-State or Inter-State issues, if any, are resolved by various mechanisms put in place including Inter-Governmental agencies and fora like Inter State Council, Zonal Councils, National Development Council, NITI Aayog, Governors’ Conference and Chief Ministers’ Conference etc. All of them, as integral part of the machinery of government, are playing a vital role in the harmonious working of a federal structure, he added. He said that both Sarkaria Commission and National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC) laid considerable emphasis on the issue of Union-State Relations.
The Union Home Minister said that Central Government has taken some important policy initiatives to strengthen the spirit of cooperative federalism. Foremost is the increase in the share of divisible tax-pool from 32% to 42%, as per recommendation of 14th Finance Commission. He said that the Union Government has also raised the non-statutory share from 21% to 26% and about 57.6% of the gross tax receipts are to be transferred to the states. These imply that more than half of the total receipts (including non-tax receipts) of the Union Government will be transferred to the states. The larger transfers to the states are accompanied by the significant reduction in the Central schemes, and rationalization of remaining schemes to give greater flexibility and control to the States, he added. He said that another policy initiative is the establishment of the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog. By inclusion of the Chief Ministers of the States, and their regular interactions with the Union government for policy formulation would help better facilitate Union-State Policy coordination and coherence in formulation and design of schemes, he said.
Shri Rajnath Singh also said that another policy initiative is the urgency placed by the current government for implementing GST (Goods and Services Tax). It will have far reaching implications and will help unify the whole country as a market, and lead to uniformity in taxes on goods and services. Besides, the successful completion of all Zonal Council meetings including meeting of Chief Ministers of the North Eastern Region in 2015 and reconstitution of the Inter-State Council in December, 2015 are instances which buttress my claim about this Government’s abiding faith in cooperative federalism, Shri Singh said.
The Minister said that for a stronger and greater India, the Centre and States have to work together. The realization of the goal of faster economic growth coupled with distributive justice is not possible unless we work together in a spirit of co-operation. He said that for this the road map has to be laid out and we need to strengthen the institutions and mechanisms that will enable better Centre-State relations.
Shri Rajnath Singh hoped that far reaching conclusions and recommendations will be finalized by the end of the Conference. He said that he looks forward to see those recommendations for further strengthening the spirit of cooperative federalism in India.
Ms Naini Jayaseelan, Secretary, Inter State Council said that this is the first time that such conference is being held. She said that both Centre and the states are not independent, but interdependent and both work for maximisation of common good. She also said that this conference will be benefitted by international experiences to be shared by the international experts. This conference is a precursor to the international conference which will be held in March this year, where the recommendations of this conference will be presented, she added.
She also informed that the international experts from Australia, Ethiopia, Germany, Switzerland, South Africa and Canada will share their views in the Conference. She also told that the Conference will have sessions on the themes of Institutions, mechanisms and processes to facilitate Cooperative Federalism, Fiscal Federalism with a focus on Institutional and Legal Mechanisms and on key social sectors namely Health and Education and Horizontal and Vertical cooperation on Internal Security and Crime and Green Federalism.
Shri Rupak Chattopadhyay, President and CEO, Forum of Federations said that the horizontal cooperation may have the potential to enhance delivery across borders. He said that new actors including Local Government authorities are getting involved in the inter-governmental relations. Shri Arvind Panagariya, Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog will address during the valedictory session of the conference tomorrow.
Mr. Roger Wilkins (Australia), former Director-General of the Cabinet Office in New South Wales and former Permanent Secretary, Attorney General’s Department, Commonwealth of Australia, Mr. Rupak Chattopadhyay (Canada), President and CEO, Forum of Federations, Ottawa, Canada, Mr. Yalew Abate (Ethiopia), Speaker, House of Federation, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Mr. Mohammed Bhabha (South Africa), Advisor to the Minister of Constitutional Affairs, Mr. Georg Milbradt (Germany), Vice-President, Independent Advisory Committee of the German Stability Council and former Minister-President of the State of Saxony, Mr. Thomas Pfisterer (Switzerland), former Member of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, Government of the Canton of Aargau, and the Swiss Council of States (Senate) are the international experts participating in the panel discussions.
Shri Arun Maira, former Member, Planning Commission, Shri S. Narayan, former Union Finance Secretary, Shri G K Pillai, former Union Home Secretary, Shri Navneet Wasan, former DG, Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) and National Investigation Agency, Shri Nitin Desai, Chairman, Institute of Economic Growth, Shri Sudipto Mundle, Emeritus Professor, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy and Shri Probhito Ghosh, Distinguished Fellow and Director, The Energy Research Institute and Ms. Rekha Saxena, Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Delhi will also address the conference.