Federal system of government is the one that divides the powers of the government between the national government and state and local governments and COVID-19 brings about a major trial and test for the federal structure of our constitution.
Centre-state collaboration plays a very crucial role in tackling natural threats and pandemics but at present we see them conflicting over various issues related to control the pandemic. According to our constitution , the subject of health and security lies under the state list.Thereby, making the state the first one to respond to the situation.Therefore,what needs to be done here by the centre is to strenghten the states first instead of itself.
The lockdown that was imposed by the central government was under Disaster Management Act,2005. Now the major question that arises here is that, why did the government use the Disaster Management Act,2005 when it has options of other acts as well?Does this act give special powers to the government. Centre might have used this act to bypass the states and assure major share of power and control.
Before lockdown 1.0, a lot states had already enforced the Epimedic Act,1897 to tackle the situation but when lockdown 1.0 was announced under the Disaster Management Act,it served a lot of hindrance and problems in the way of states.Chief Ministers of many states have complained that they were not consulted before this step was taken. This clearly shows the authoritarian intentions of the centre.We know that alchohol and petroleum contribute majorly towards the states' treasure but the centre has been particularly strict about banning alchohol.Also less movement of vehicles created less demand for petroleum and diesel.Eventually a shrink in the revenue created financial challenges for the states. For instance,Tamil Nadu and Punjab lost 30000 crore and 60000 crore respectively because of the centre's step of banning alchohol.Adding to this,the state has also been ordered by the centre to bear the cost of food and shelter of the migrant labourers who have migrated to their home states.This has overburdened the states.
Therefore, proper communication must be done between the centre and the states before major decisions.Also,instead of using the Disaster Management Act,we can use other acts like the Epidemic Act,1897 which creates less tension and also preserves the basic feature of our constitution.
Where lives of the vulnerable sections of the society are at stake , the States and Centre must cooperate,coordinate and complement each other . Not score political points against each other.