CHAPTER – 2: FEDERALISM

Table of Contents

1. Name any two subjects that are included in the Concurrent List. How are laws made on these subjects? Explain. (3)

Answer –

  • Concurrent list includes subjects of common interest to both the Union Government as well as the State Government 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.

2. How is sharing of power between the Union and the State Governments basic to the structure of the Constitution of India? Explain. (3)

Answer –

This sharing of power between the Union Government and the State governments is basic to the structure of the Constitution because the power of both the Union and the State government are clearly mentioned in the Constitution and

  • It is not easy to make changes to this power sharing arrangement.
  • The Parliament cannot on its own change this arrangement.
  • Any change to it has to be first passed by both the Houses of Parliament with at least two-thirds majority.
  • Then it has to be ratified by the legislatures of at least half of the total States.

3. Describe any three characteristics of the distribution of power between the Centre and States in India. (3)

Answer –

The Constitution clearly provided a threefold distribution of legislative powers between the Union Government and the State Governments. Thus, it contains three lists:

  • Union list –

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 these matters need a uniform policy for the whole country. The Union Government alone can make laws relating to the subjects mentioned in the Union List.

  • State 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 subject mentioned in the state list.

  • Concurrent List –

The Concurrent List includes subjects of common interest to both the Union Government as well as the State Government 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.

4. What is Federalism?

Answer –

Federalism is a system of government in which the power is divided between a central authority and various constituent units of the country.

5. Explain Federalism.

Answer –

  • Federalism is a system of government in which the power is divided between a central authority and various constituent units of the country.
  • Usually, a federation has two 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 governments enjoy their power independent of the other.

6. How Federation is different from Unitary Government?

Answer –

Under the unitary system, either there is only one level of government or the sub-units are subordinate to the central government. The central government can pass on orders to the provincial or the local government.

But in a federal system, the central government cannot order the state government to do something. The state government has powers of its own for which it is not answerable to the central government. Both these governments are separately answerable to the people.

7. What are the key features of the Federalism?

Answer –

  • There are two or more levels (or tiers) of government.
  • Different tiers of government govern the same citizens, but 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. So the existence and authority of each tier of government are constitutionally guaranteed.
  • The fundamental provisions of the constitution cannot be unilaterally changed by one 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.
  • The federal system thus has dual objectives: to safeguard and promote the unity of the country, while at the same time accommodate regional diversity.

8. What is ‘Coming together’ federation?

Answer –

  • In this federation, independent States coming together on their own to form a bigger unit, so that by pooling sovereignty and retaining identity they can increase their security.
  • The USA, Switzerland, and Australia having ‘coming together’ federations.
  • In these federations, all the constituent States usually have equal power and are strong vis-à-vis the federal government.

9. What is ‘Holding together’ federation?

Answer –

  • In this kind of federation, a large country decides to divide its power between the constituent States and the national government.
  • India, Spain and Belgium are examples of this kind of ‘holding together’ federations.
  • In this federation, the central government tends to be more powerful vis-à-vis the States.
  • Very often different constituent units of the federation have unequal powers.
  • Some units are granted special powers.

10. Explain the federal structure of India.

Answer –

  • The Constitution originally provided for a two-tier system of government, the Union Government or the Central Government, representing the Union of India and the State governments.
  • Later, the third tier of federalism was added in the form of Panchayats and Municipalities.
  • As in any federation, these different tiers enjoy separate jurisdiction.
  • The Constitution clearly provided a threefold distribution of legislative powers between the Union Government and the State Governments.

11. What is Union List?

Answer –

  • Union List includes subjects of national importance such as defence of the country, foreign affairs, banking, communications and currency.
  • They are included in this list as these matters needed uniform policy
    for the whole country.
  • The Union Government alone can make laws relating to the subjects mentioned in
    the Union List.

12. What is State List?

Answer –

  • 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 subject mentioned in the state list.

13. What is Concurrent list?

Answer –

  • Concurrent list includes subjects of common interest to both the Union Government as well as the State Government 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.

14. What are Residuary Subjects?

Answer –

  • Subjects that do not fall in any of the three list of subjects i.e. Union, State and Concurrent are called Residuary Subjects.
  • According to our constitution, the Union Government has the power to legislate on these ‘residuary’ subjects.

15. Name some states which enjoys a special status. Explain those special powers.

Answer –

  • States such as Assam, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram enjoy special powers under certain provisions of the Constitution of India (Article 371) due to their peculiar social and historical circumstances.
  • These special powers are especially enjoyed in relation to the protection of land
    rights of indigenous peoples, their culture and also preferential employment in government service.
  • 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.

16. What are Union Territories?

Answer –

  • There are some units of the Indian Union which enjoy very little power. These are areas which are too small to become an independent State but which could not be merged with any of the existing States. These areas, like Chandigarh, or 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.

17. List some of the ways other than constitution which strengthen the federal structure of India.

Answer –

  • Some of the states were formed on the basis of language in order 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 recognize 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.
  • Restructuring the Centre-State relations is one more way in which federalism has been strengthened in practice.

18. How the Centre-State relations were restructured?

Answer –

  • For a long time, the same party ruled both at the Centre and in most of the States. This meant that the State governments did not exercise their rights as autonomous federal units.
  • As and 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 those days, 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.
  • All this changed significantly after 1990. This period saw the rise of regional political parties in many states of the country.
  • This trend was supported by a major judgement of the Supreme Court that made it
    difficult for the Central Government to dismiss state governments in an arbitrary manner.

19. How many scheduled languages are there in the Constitution of India and why are they called ‘Scheduled’?

Answer –

There are 22 Scheduled languages in the Constitution of India.

As they are included in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, so they are called ‘Scheduled Languages’.

20. What is decentralization?

Answer –

When power is taken away from Central and State governments and given to local government, it is called decentralisation.

21. What is the need of the decentralisation?

Answer –

The basic idea behind decentralization 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. Besides, 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 realize one important principle of democracy, namely local self-government.

22. What were the major steps taken towards the decentralization in 1992?

Answer –

The Constitution was amended to make the third-tier of democracy more powerful
and effective.

  • Now it is constitutionally mandated to hold regular elections to 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 institution called the 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.

23. What is Gram Panchayat?

Answer –

  • 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.

24. What is Gram Sabha?

Answer –

  • 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.

25. What is panchayat samiti or block or mandal?

Answer –

  • A few gram panchayats are grouped together to form what is usually called a panchayat Samiti or block or mandal.
  • The members of this representative body are elected by all the panchayat members in that area.

26. What is zilla (district) Parishad?

Answer –

  • All the panchayat samitis or mandals in a district together constitute the Zilla (district) Parishad.
  • Most members of the Zilla Parishad are elected.
  • Members of the Lok Sabha and MLAs of that district and some other officials of other district-level bodies are also its members.
  • Zilla Parishad chairperson is the political head of the Zilla Parishad.

27. What is municipalities and municipal corporations?

Answer –


Municipalities are the local government bodies set up in towns. Municipalities are controlled by elected bodies consisting of people’s representatives. The municipal chairperson is the political head of the municipality.


Municipal corporations are the local government bodies set up in big cities are constituted into. Municipal corporations are controlled by elected bodies consisting of people’s representatives. The Head of the municipal corporation is called the mayor.

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