7 Major Demerits of Federation – Explained!

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Some of the major demerits of federation are as follows:

Demerits of Federation:

(1) Division of Powers can be a Source of Weakness:

In the first instance, the division of powers between the centre and states can be a source of big weakness for both. The central government, without the full support of the state governments, often finds it difficult to implement its policies, programmes and decisions, and the state governments very often find themselves burdened with the central interferences and the lack of the helping hand of the central government. The division of power, in particular, proves to be a big hindrance in the way of meeting external and internal emergencies. Federal government is often found to be a weak government during emergencies.

(2) Source of Centre-State Tensions & Conflict:

Moreover, the division of powers between centre and states keeps their relations strained due to the rise of conflicts, disputes and dead-locks regarding their respective spheres of activity. Often there are bitter contests regarding the jurisdiction of the two governments. The issue of centre-state relations always consumes their attentions. The task of maintaining the equilibrium or the balance as specified by the constitution is always difficult and problematic.

(3) Division destroys Responsibility:

Division of powers also leads to division of responsibility which really leads to destruction of responsibility. For their lapses, each government tries to blame the other. Mutual mud-slinging is a common feature of the operation of a federation.

(4) Rigid System:

The federal system is usually a rigid system because the process of amendment of the constitution is a difficult one. It is not possible for the federation to easily solve many such problems as the need of constitutional amendment for their resolutions cannot be easily met. The rigid method of amendment hinders the evolution of the constitution and its ability to meet challenges that come into its way.

(5) Expensive System:

Further, even the supporters of federalism admit that it is a very expensive system. Within the federation several sets of legislatures, executives and judiciaries are at work, which, besides making the system highly complex, are a source of big strain on the finances of the state. Duplication in law and administration makes the system highly expensive.

(6) Leads to the birth of Regionalism:

The principle of 'unity in diversity' or 'union with autonomy' in actual practice is always a source of regionalism and parochialism in the political life of the federation. The particular interests pursued by the federal units are often in conflict with the general and national interests being pursued by the central government. Divergence of interests among the federal units and between these and the national interests many a times produces sharp conflict or at least unhealthy competition among the units, and between them and the centre.

(7) Encourages Localism:

Further, regional loyalties, racial, linguistic and religious differences almost always remain uppermost in the minds of the people and the forces of secessions and disintegration are almost always and continuously at work in a federation, particularly during the early years of its emergence as a federal state.

Despite the above possible demerits of a federation, it cannot be denied that federation is suitable most for the big states and states with diversities in respect of race, religion, language and culture factors. It is indeed a useful device for reconciling national unity with the maintenance of rights of small states. It constitutes an ideal means for securing unity in diversity and nationalistic-regionalism.


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