What should be the distribution of responsibilities between state and central governments? We have critical cases where neither state nor central government takes ultimate responsibility resulting in blame-game, lack of efficiency, conflict between states over jurisdiction and so on. It is also important to clearly define vision, mission and strategic objectives of both state and central governments. On top of this, technology has bridged the distance, enabled easy networking and so on. To take the example of stock exchanges, regional stock exchanges have given way to national stock exchange, . Technology has enabled a platform that can cover the whole nation.
While team work between states and central government is necessary and ideal, role clarity can help. In general using technology much larger regions can be controlled centrally In general, by defining a distributed architecture and interoperability we can break out of silos of information, jurisdiction and governance.
A simple division of responsibilities will be for states to be responsible for development of state with a tilt towards micro-economics. We should make states accountable for development, people issues with encouragement to grow their own revenue. All development schemes should be defined, managed, funded and owned by states and further delegating them to lower level bodies. Microeconomics should be completely decided by states with its own resources. Especially human and social sector should be closely monitored by states.
Center should focus primarily on Macroeconomics, Strategic things like Higher Education, Science and Technology, Communication, Internal Security, External Affairs, Energy, Defence and natural resources like railways, river water sharing, transportation and anything that needs connectivity and scale. Major focus is on facilitating growth, security. Anything that has national implication and cross-community implication should only be with centre. All laws and justice should be centrally anchored with limited tailoring by states. Slowly we should move to 15-20 consolidated ministry model of USA. In general items in concurrent list should be reduced or reviewed/refined.
Today technology enables handling scale and distribution much more easily than few decades earlier. We should look at setting up a national police force who are allocated to different states even up-to constable level. This will reduce prejudices, standardization of training(NDA like training can be done), focus on quality and reduce political influences. Regarding protecting lives of citizens, both for internal and external security central government should have major role, with states only playing minor role. It should be easy and simple for center to intervene as per guidelines and not stand as a helpless observer. Internal and external security should go hand-in-hand. Both should get trained in the same manner. Retired people from defence should be absorbed in police force. In US even customs department is under homeland security, Instead of whole-sale dismissals of state governments, limited need based interventions should be possible.
As in corporate structutes, certain functions can have a dotted line reporting to states and solid line reporting to center and vice versa.
Tackling issues like Power centrally can be beneficial. In general all infrastructures should be handled by center and states should look at value-added services. A technology infrastructure should be set up centrally.
Having said the above states should have responsibility for their own growth and center for human growth. But this can be done in a manner where there is unique value add rather than maintaining an ambiguous power sharing. It is important to clearly define what outcomes will center provide and what outcomes state will provide.
It may be simpler for states to manage all education up-to 10th standard and center to manage all of higher education starting from college, by providing greater standardization and autonomy.
Ideally center should define its own schemes, fund them and deliver. Say in education, there should not be hesitation to open lot more central schools.
State should define its own schemes, fund and deliver. Center may assist.
We have had cases central schemes like Mid-day meals, urban health renewal scheme, animal husbandry assistance (fodder scam), where some states have seen center as a milk-cow. There should be greater encouragement to devolve power and state and lower level bodies to choose their own templates of governance, center providing largely model templates.
Railways is an example of sub-optimal execution of center government. Law and order is an example of repeated failure of different states. We need a mechanism where center can delegate power to states and states operate autonomously for a particular function which they are doing well as well as for center to take over specific functions of states and consolidate and more efficiently deliver services. Also groups of states should be encouraged to form co-operative bodies and agreements to support development of adjoining regions.
In agriculture states instead of just complaining should take steps about improving supply situation and supply chain. Especially fruits and vegetables can be taken care by states. Health, human development and local industries should be promoted by states.
In many cases center allocates funds to states and relies entirely on states to implement schemes. Center should feel free to implement its schemes with its own personnel, instead of blaming states. Center should protect its railways with good quality police instead of blaming states.
In general, states should be encouraged to generate revenue by charging appropriate property taxes and market pricing of resources like land. Today states in several cases give largesse to favour selected individuals who in turn end up getting wind-fall gains. Why should states give rebate on entertainment tax to movies that earn in millions? Also usage based charges should be explored for residents than property tax where there is no traceability to benefits/services. There should be greater transparency in sharing how much revenue is collected, not collected, utilized and the manner of utilization. Certain kind of taxes should be for capital expenses, and certain others for managing operating expenses. Fees and tariffs charged by Government should be revised and rationalized so that a fair accrual happens to government without putting poor people in distress.
There should also be role clarity between state and central agencies. For certain kinds of crimes, NIA or CBI should be the natural choice. It should not be up-to state government. At the same time, state government investigation agencies should do a competent job and their job should be subject to review and penalty than they just passing the buck to CBI. State investigating agencies should be strengthened and only a very small portion of cases should get referred to Central agencies.
Along with development of clear strategic logic of governance architecture, it may be worthwhile re-looking at the role of Governors. How can they be engaged and given powers of oversight so that they step in when elected government overly fails in execution. takes a highly partisan stand, acts unconstitutionally or acts in malafide manner? Here first we should ensure that Governors themselves are not partisan and look at their role as public service. They should link with constitutional bodies in the state, provide linkages across states and nation, add value to governance and kept engaged. It is probably better that educationists handle the role of chancellor of universities. Role of governors should be made more functional and less ceremonial. It may be worthwhile having a common governor for multiple states to develop synergies and cross-pollinate best practices.Governor should stand for the unity and integrity of nation. He should be a role model and source of inspiration to citizens.