NCERT Notes Class 10 Social Science Civics Chapter 2 Federalism

NCERT Notes Class 10 Social Science Political Science Chapter 2 Federalism

Chapter 2 Federalism NCERT Notes

Chapter Name

Federalism Notes


CBSE Class 10

Textbook Name

Democratic Politics- II Class 10

Related Readings

  • Notes for Class 10
  • Notes for Class 10 Political Science
  • NCERT Solutions for Federalism  


Having read how power is divided among different government levels, we will now learn what this kind of power-sharing is actually called. Commonly referred to as Federalism, we will understand the concept and analyze the Federalism in India’s context. Moreover, we will shed light on a brand new form of govt., i.e. the local government.

What is federalism? The case of Belgium and Sri Lanka

Case of Belgium

As we learnt in the previous chapter, Belgium tackled its problem by transferring power to regional governments, thereby reducing the centre’s powers. Though this system exited earlier before the problem originated, the powers could be withdrawn anytime by the centre. The constitutional change in 1993 gave independent powers to regional governments. In other words, Belgium made a transition from unitary to federal govt.

Case of Sri Lanka

Unlike Belgium, Sri Lanka continued to follow the unitary system where the centre possessed absolute powers.


After analyzing both cases, we conclude that Belgium succeeded in its solution (as evident from the 1st chapter) whereas Sri Lanka didn’t. Then, what exactly is Federalism? It is defined as a system where the power is divided between the Center and various country institutions.

Thus, there are levels of government, i.e. the government at Center and government at state.

Why Federalism?

Looking back to Belgium’s case, when Belgium was under unitary government, government existed at both state and centre. But the major problem was that state governments were dependent on the centre for a day to day administration. In federalism, centre and state are independent of each other. The state has its own powers that can’t be questioned by the centre.

Features of Federalism

Now that we have understood what exactly federalism is let’s have a look at its features-

  1. The power is divided between two more levels of govt.
  2. Each level governs or exercises powers respectively in their jurisdiction specified by the constitution.
  3. The division of powers can’t be changed by any level or any power of government, unless or until there is unanimous consent among all levels of government.
  4. If a dispute arises between any government level, courts have the power to interfere and solve the dispute.

Types of Federalism

In federalism the sharing of power different from one country to another. It depends on the ways through which the foundation of federalism has been laid. Historically, there are two ways:-

1. Coming together

  • Under this kind, independent states merge to form a country. E.g. USA, Switzerland etc. since states come together by their own discretion, they enjoy more power than the centre.

2. Holding together

  • Under this, a country itself divides power among states and centre. E.g. India. Under this kind, the centre tends to more powerful.

What makes India a federal country?

India is a country with a vast diversity of cultures, religions and traditions. We have already seen that small countries like Belgium and Sri Lanka have faced so many riots related to ethnicity. Then, a question arises, how come India manages such a vast diversity of people?

The answer lies in its federal division of powers. To understand how the federal system works in India, we need to look back into history.

The historical context of federalism in India

When India gained independence, several princely states were brought together and were made a part of the country. Since these states had different cultures, religions and traditions, a need for the constitution was felt to hold together these states and grant them powers. Thus, the Indian constitution was formed which declared India a “Union of States”. Based on federal principles, the constitution guaranteed division of powers at two levels, i.e., the Central government and the State government.

Working of Indian federalism

Now that we have understood its history, now we need to understand how power is divided.

The constitution frames a three-fold distribution of power between two levels and established three lists. These lists basically lay down the jurisdiction areas under which both levels of government exercise their powers independently.

These are:

  1. Union List
    Contains subjects that are a matter of national importance. These include defence, foreign affairs, banking, communications and currency.
  2. State List
    Contains subjects of local interest such as police, trade, agriculture and irrigation.
  3. Concurrent List
    These include forest, trade unions, marriage, adoption and succession. Under this, union and state governments both can make laws. In case of conflicting laws passed by both state and centre, the law of central government will prevail.
  4. Residuary Subjects
    These are defined as those subjects that aren’t mentioned in any of the three lists. Usually, these contain subjects that emerged after the constitution was made. These subjects fall under the jurisdiction of the Union government. E.g., Computer Software.

Special Provisions

AS we have learnt before, India is a “Holding together” federation in which division of power among states is unequal. To preserve the ethnicity, culture and traditions of some states due to historical reasons, article 371 of constitution grants “Special powers” to some states. These states mainly include the seven sisters.

These states have been granted special powers due to the following reasons:

  1. For protecting their lands
  2. For protecting indigenous people.

Some special powers granted to these states are:

  1. Special quotas for employment in government services.
  2. Indians who aren’t permanent residents of these states are barred from purchasing any kinds of property.

Union Territories

During the country’s formation, several areas had so less area to be called a state. Nor the areas could merge them in any other of existing states. Such areas are called Union Territories. These areas fall under the jurisdiction of the union government. E.g. Delhi, Chandigarh. There is a total of seven UTs in India.

India, a Strong Federation

India’s constitution guarantees the division of powers, and it can’t be changed or broken down by any government level.

For a chance to be made, it has to support at least two-thirds of the houses of the parliament and half of the state legislatures. This makes India, a strong federal country wherein the power structure can’t be broken down overnight.

Role of Judiciary

  • In federal division of powers, there are more chances of a likely dispute between two government levels. For solving their disputes and overseeing that justice delivered is fair and equal, the constitution grants power to the judiciary to intervene and solve the disputes between the two levels of government or among the states.

How is Federalism practised?

The success of Federalism in India

In previous sections, we talked a lot about the constitutional provisions that guarantee the division of powers. But The constitution can’t contribute to the success of federalism. The major success of India’s federalism lies in the ways politics is practised in our country. India is indeed a true democracy as it knows how to respect our country’s vast diversity, ethnicity, and culture.

Now, we will understand how the practice of democratic politics has made India, a successful federal state.

Language policy

Hindi was identified as the official language even though it was the mother tongue of only 40 per cent Indians. 21 other languages were also identified, called scheduled languages. States to have their official languages. According to the constitution, the use of English was to stop as of 1965. However, on the demand of many non-Hindi speaking states demanded the use of English to continue. Thus, in the government heeded to the demands of continuation of English. Till now, there is no official language of India. This decision by the country’s leaders proves the extent to which democracy runs in the blood of political leaders.

Linguistic states

In 1947, the boundaries of many states were changes to create new states. This was done to see to it that same language speaking groups stay in the same states. Some states were also created to protect their cultural, ethnic and geographical interests. However, on increased demands, states were created on their linguistic differences. This has led to improvisation in administration.

Center-State relations

Restructuring centre-state relations is another way of strengthening federalism in India. For a long time, the ruling party of the centre and states were the same. This did not allow the star to exercise its right as an autonomous federal unit. In case the parties were different, the central government misused the constitution to dismiss the powers of the state. A change was brought about in the ’90s, where we saw state parties rise to prominence. After the formation of the coalition government, a new culture of power-sharing was sharing was seen between state and centre.

Decentralization in India

It is defined as shifting power from state and central governments to the third level of government called the local government.

Need for a third-tier

  • India, as we know, is a very vast country with a diversity of people. Since central and state governments have to think about the interest of the whole country or state governments, their respective states, some problems exist at ground level and don’t catch the eye of either level of the government. Therefore, a need for another level of government was felt where people at ground level would solve their issues. Thus, the local government was formed.

Decentralization in India

  • There were many attempts made to decentralize India. It wasn’t until 1992 that amendments were made in the constitution that laid the foundation of local government.

Following amendments were made in the constitution:

  1. Mandatory local elections with special reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and OBCs. Not only this, one- third positions in administration are reserved for women.
  2. For managing and conducting elections at the local level, the State Election Commission, an independent body, has been set up.
  3. State governments are entitled to share powers and revenues with local bodies.

The framework of local government

Now that we have understood what local government really is let’s understand its framework.

1. Panchayats

  • Also known as “Panchayati Raj”, it is a body existing in rural areas. Its members are called “Panch” and its president is called “Sarpanch”. Directly elected by the people of the village, it is managed by Gram Sabah. The budget for panchayat is approved by gram Sabah.

2. Mandal

  • Group of gram panchayats in an area is called Mandal.

3. Zilla Parishad

  • Panchayat members grouped are called Zilla Parishad.

4. Municipalities

  • In urban areas, local government bodies are called municipalities. President of the municipality is called a “Mayor”.
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