One emerging area which needs special attention is the changing nature of federalism. The last decade has witnessed significant maturing of our federalism. The states are increasingly empowered to determine their own policies and programmes, and the union is even more sensitive to local needs.
However, the role of the Union is expanding in a substantial measure in recent years in new ways. Education, healthcare, rural and urban development and social security are either state subjects, or largely under state jurisdiction. And yet, the services are increasingly driven by Union policies and funds.
Paucity of resources at state level, need for standardization of services, compulsions of reducing regional disparities, and the imperatives of meeting the challenges of a growing economy in the modern world have necessarily enlarged the Union’s role in these sectors.
Such a shift in the Union’s role in a federal democracy is quite in keeping with the evolution of other large federal states like the US. But large Union funding with state control could easily erode accountability.
We need to carefully design mechanisms to monitor these programmes and enforce accountability, even as the desired outcomes are achieved, and the constitutional scheme of division of powers is fully respected. Poor implementation will only lead to waste, corruption, lack of accountability, and growing regional disparities.
At the same time, if non-performing states are punished by withdrawal of the programmes, the poor and disadvantaged, who need preferential support, suffer even more, and regional inequalities are further accentuated. Therefore, innovative, viable and effective mechanisms need to be put in place to protect public money, guarantee intended outcomes, and enforce accountability.