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  • Ashwin Mahesh

The Federal Manifesto

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

1. Federalism must be a first principle of organising administration, resources, responsibilities, powers, etc. between different levels of government. Wherever there are choices to be made between alternatives, the most federal choice should receive primacy over others.

2. Each district should have an elected government covering both rural and urban areas. Most services currently provided by the state governments should be devolved to districts, and a guaranteed share of state revenues should devolve to them.

3. The Concurrent List should be made smaller and eventually abolished, so that more powers will be in the jurisdiction of other levels of government. A new District List and Local List should provide rule-making powers to elected district governments, city councils & panchayats.

4. Every level - union, state, district & local - should have full constitutional status as a level of 'government', with mandatory timely polls to fill representative positions. No level should be superseded except as per Constitutional norms (i.e. no administrative take-overs).

5. Every state Budget should include a significant mandatory allocation for regional economic development, with legislative input from regional representatives on the priorities for the development of each region.

6. Half the members of National Finance Commission must be appointed by the states, & half the State Finance Commissions must be elected by local bodies. Both NFC and SFCs must allocate of funds to district & metropolitan governance as well, in addition to their current focus. Money bills in Parliament should be passed by the Rajya Sabha as well.

7. Municipal councils and panchayats should get one-fourth of all 'locally attributable taxes' to ensure sync between economic growth and local revenues. E.g. of such taxes - fuel taxes, stamp duties, profession tax. This will incentivize local bodies to work for growth.

8. The High Courts must be the final arbiters of the majority of cases, beginning with subjects in the (revised) States List and (to be created) District and Local Lists.

9. The 3-language formula should be replaced by three formulae for language, based on: (a) Learning in the mother tongue is easier. (b) Familiarity with local language has social, economic and cultural value. (c) Access to languages of the marketplace increases opportunities.

X. States should have the right to decide on projects within their borders and on inter-state projects by cooperation among themselves, except for Central List matters. Central bodies (e.g. Indian Railways) should continue to set standards based on the best practices of states.

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