Manmohan Singh says regional disparities and sharing natural resources pose challenge to Indian federalism

November 14th, 2007 - 8:30 am ICT by admin  
The different forms of government at the Centre and the States - at times a coalition at the Centre and single party system at the States added to the problems.

The nation found the sharing of water resources with neighbours more easy that sharing them among themselves.

Speaking at the inaugural session of the 4th International Conference on Federalism here today, Singh said, “A major challenge for large federations is that of inter-regional disparities. Reducing such disparities is essential for the success of a federal structure. This has been an important challenge in India.”

In India the Planning Commission and the Finance Commission have tried to devise ways to reduce the disparities, but they still persist.

He said that Indian federal polity is also facing difficulties on two fronts- difficulties in eliminating fiscal barriers to inter-State movement of goods and in the utilization of natural resources.

Commenting on the contentious river water-sharing between the Indian States, Singh said, “It is perhaps no exaggeration to say that we have found it easier to manage bilateral agreements with neighbours on river water sharing than settling domestic disputes between various States.”

“Similar issues arise in the management of our mineral and hydrocarbon resources,” he added.

Deliberating on India’s experience with different forms of government at the Centre- single-party rule and coalition, Singh said the multi-party model, with national parties dominating the political scene, which in theory would help in smooth Centre-States relations has not proved completely correct for India.

“The Indian experience suggests that even in this sort of world the management of Centre-State relations can give rise to serious tensions,” he added.

Speaking about the political dimension of the Centre-State relations, Singh said, “Sometimes the resolution of problems acquires an excessively political hue, and narrow political considerations, based on regional or sectional loyalties and ideologies, can distort the national vision and sense of wider collective purposes.”

“We may have a lot to learn from the experience of other countries in this regard,” he added.

The three-day conference is being organised in partnership between the Government of India and the Forum of Federations, a Canada-based international forum of federal countries.

The earlier conferences were held in Canada in 1999, Switzerland in 2002 and Belgium in 2005.

About 1000 delegates are attending the conference, including Comoros President Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Switzerland President Micheline Calmy-Rey and Nigerian Vice President Jonathan Goodluck.

Nearly 40 cabinet level Ministers and Provincial heads are leading the delegations of their countries. International invitees include Cabinet level Ministers, Provincial Heads, State level Ministers, Diplomats, Administrators, members of Judiciary, former Ministers, Civil Servants and representatives of International Organizations among others.

National invitees include Vice President, Speaker of Lok Sabha, Central Cabinet Ministers, Secretaries to the Government of India, Governors, Chief Ministers, Leaders of national political parties, Chief Secretaries and Principal Secretaries of Departments concerned in the States and others. (ANI)

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