You learnt in Chapter 1 that power-sharing across various levels of government is a significant kind of power-sharing in contemporary democracies. You will get an understanding of the philosophy and practice of federalism in India in this chapter. You will learn about local government at the conclusion of the chapter, which is a new and third layer of Indian federalism.

CBSE Class 10 Social Science notes will assist students in studying the topic thoroughly and clearly.

These CBSE Class 10 Social Science notes were written by subject experts who made the study material very basic, both in terms of language and format.

Concept of Federalism

Federalism is a way of running a country’s government in which power is shared between a central government and different parts of the country.

There are two types of government in a federation

  1. One is the government for the whole country, which is usually in charge of a few things that are important to everyone.
  2. And the second is provincial or state governments, which run a lot of the day-to-day business of their state.

Key Features of Federalism

The government is divided into two or multiple layers. Different  levels of government have their own legislative, fiscal, and administrative jurisdictions. The constitutional guarantee ensures the proper functioning and power of each degree of government.

Amendments to the Constitution’s essential provisions need both levels of government’s concurrence. Courts are critical in interpreting the Constitution and the authority of various government levels. The Supreme Court serves as an umpire in this case.

Different levels of government’s income sources are specified in detail to maintain its financial functioning. Federal system serves a dual purpose of protecting and promoting the country’s unity. It also takes geographical variability into account. A federal form of governance that is ideal must be built on mutual confidence and consent to coexist.

Analyzing Exact Balance of Power Between  Central and State Government

The precise division of authority between the State and Central Governments differs per federation. Federations may be founded in both ways.

  1. At first, states join together spontaneously to form a larger entity, in which they share equal authority and strength with the federal government. They are banding together for strengthening their security by pooling sovereignty while keeping individuality. Federations are forming in the United States of America, Australia and Switzerland.
  2. Secondly, the central government is often stronger than the states. A major nation chooses to split its authority between component states and the National Government in this case. Spain, Belgium and India are all instances of federations that have managed to stay together.

Federal System vs Unitary System

Federal governments at various levels exercise their authority independently. Federations are compared to unitary governments in this context. There is a single level of government or maybe the sub-units are subservient to the Central Government under a unitary system.

The Government has the authority to issue directives to provincial and municipal administrations. Concerning a federal system, the Central Government cannot issue a directive to the State Government.

State administrations have their own authorities and are not accountable to the federal government. However, both governments are accountable to their constituents individually.

What Makes India a Federal Country?

India gained independence after a brutal and terrible split. India was proclaimed a Union of States under the Constitution. Federalism is the foundation of the Indian Union.

Two-Tier System of Government

Originally, the Constitution established a two-tiered form of governance.

(i) The Central or Union Government.

(ii) The State Legislature.

Three-Tier System of Government

Municipalities and Panchayats were eventually introduced as a third layer of federalism. The Constitution explicitly established a three-tiered division of legislative authority between the State and Union and governments. It is composed of three lists.

Union List: It covers critical national issues such as banking, foreign affairs, communications, defence and currency, since we need consistent policies in these areas in the country. The Central Government alone has the authority to enact legislation on the issues included in the Union list.

State List: It covers state and local issues such as law enforcement, commerce, irrigation, commerce and agriculture. The State Government alone has the authority to enact legislation pertaining to the issues included in the State list.

Corresponding List: It covers issues of mutual concern to the State and Union Governments, such as education, forest management, marriage, labour unions, succession and adoption. Both the State and Union governments have the authority to enact legislation on these matters.

  1. If their laws contradict, the Union Government’s legislation will prevail.
  2. The other topics, such as computer software, that arose after the Constitution’s adoption are referred to as residuary subjects.
  3. The Union Government has the authority to enact legislation on certain ancillary matters.

Special Status for Jammu and Kashmir

In India, not all states have the same amount of authority. Jammu and Kashmir, for example, has a unique constitutionalist approach as they have their own constitution. Numerous articles of the Indian Constitution are inapplicable to Jammu and Kashmir without the State Assembly’s permission.

Residents of Indian states other than Jammu And Kashmir are not permitted to purchase property or houses in this state. Similar regulations exist in a few other Indian states as well.

Status of Union Territories

  1. Certain entities of the Indian Union have relatively limited authority.
  2. These are places that are too tiny for getting recognised as an independent state but are not large enough to be absorbed by any of the current states.
  3. Union Territories include Chandigarh, Lakshadweep, and Delhi. These regions lack the authority of a state. The Central Government has unique authority over these territories.

Sharing of Power Between Union and State Governments

Our Constitution establishes the amount to which authority is shared between the State and Union Governments, and this is the Constitution’s fundamental framework.

Parliament cannot amend this on its own. Any amendment must first be approved by both Houses of Parliament with a two-thirds majority. It must next be confirmed by at least half of the state’s legislatures.

If there is a disagreement over the distribution of powers, the Supreme Court and the High Court resolve it. Both the State and Union governments have the authority to impose taxes in order to fund their respective governments and the obligations allocated to them.

How Is Federalism Practised?

Constitutional requirements are important but insufficient for the achievement of federalism.

The actual success of federalism in India may be linked to the character of democratic politics in our nation: in order to,

(i) adhere to the true spirit of federalism, tolerance for variety and

(ii) a desire to live in harmony should become a common ideal in our society.

Linguistic States

The establishment of states based on linguistics was the first and most significant test of our country’s democratic politics.

Following Independence (1947), numerous existing states had their borders altered in order to form new states. This was done to keep individuals who spoke the same language together in the same state.

Certain governments were founded not on the basis of language, but on the basis of cultural, ethnic, and geographic distinctions. Among them are Uttarakhand,Nagaland and Jharkhand.

Few national leaders fought the call for separate states based on language on the grounds that it would result in the country’s dissolution.

However, this worry was subsequently disproved, as the development of linguistic states actually strengthened the country’s unity and made administration simpler.

Language Policy

  1. A second litmus test for the Indian federation is its linguistic policy. None of the languages are recognised as national languages under the Indian Constitution.
  2. Though Hindi has been declared as the national language, it is spoken by just 40% of Indians.
  3. The Central Government has not compelled states where the indigenous language is spoken to adopt Hindi.
  4. Apart from Hindi, the Indian Constitution lists a large number of other languages as Scheduled Languages.
  5. Candidates for Central Government positions may take the examination in either of these languages.
  6. State governments, like local governments, have their own official languages.
  7. The bulk of government business is handled in the official language of the state. In 1965, English as an official language was phased away.
  8. However, numerous states that do not speak Hindi believe this was an attempt to compel them to learn the language.
  9. As a consequence, the Central Government abandons the concept, and English is retained alongside Hindi for official purposes.

Centre-State Relation

Another manner in which federalism has been strengthened in practise is through restructuring the relationship between the Centre and the States.

Though the Indian Constitution explicitly defines the Union and State Governments’ respective functions, the Union Government maintains a range of tools for exerting influence over the state.

Throughout history, the Central Government often exploited the Constitution to remove State governments led by opposing political parties. This was in direct conflict with the spirit of federalism. After 1990, India’s terrain transformed dramatically.

This ushered in an era of coalition government formation at the national level.

Due to the lack of a clear majority in the Lok Sabha, the major national parties were compelled to create an alliance with a variety of other parties, including various regional parties, in order to form the government at the centre.

It established a new attitude of power sharing and appreciation for the autonomy of state governments.

The Supreme Court increased the difficulty for the Central Government to remove State governments arbitrarily.

Decentralisation in India

India is a large nation that cannot operate on a two-tier structure alone. India’s states are enormous in size and quite diversified within.

India’s states are the size of independent European nations. Federal power sharing in India necessitates the establishment of a second layer of government underneath the State Governments.

As a result, each state needs power sharing. Decentralisation is the process through which authority is transferred from the federal and state governments to local governments.

The fundamental premise of decentralisation are several challenges and problems that should be better resolved at the local level.

Local Government

Local government is the third layer of government. Panchayats in rural regions and Municipalities in urban areas comprise this Local Government.

However, elections were not conducted on a regular basis, and the State Government denied Local Governments any authority.

In 1992, a significant step toward decentralisation was accomplished. The Constitution was revised to strengthen and improve the third layer of democracy.

The Constitution contains measures for efficient local government, including the following:

  1. It is legally required to conduct periodical elections for forming the Local Government.
  2. Along with women, seats in elected bodies and executive leadership positions in these institutions are reserved for members of Scheduled Tribes (STs), Scheduled Castes (SCs), and Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
  3. Women hold at least one-third of all posts.
  4. Each state has established a State Election Commission (SEC) to oversee the conduct of Municipal and Panchayat elections.

Panchayati Raj System

  1. Panchayati Raj is the prevalent name for rural local administration in India. In certain states, each village or collection of villages has its own Gram Panchayat.
  2. This is a council made up of numerous members from each ward (Panch) and a President (Sarpanch). They are directly chosen by the ward or village’s adult population.
  3. It operates under the supervision of Gram Sabha, which meets at least twice or three times a year to approve the yearly budget and to assess the Gram Panchayat’s performance.
  4. A set of Gram Panchayats is called a Panchayat Samiti, block, or mandal. Members of these representative bodies are chosen by the members of the Panchayat in that region.

Zilla Parishad

  1. The Zilla (district) Parishad comprises all Panchayat Samitis within a district.
  2. The majority of Zilla Parishad members are elected.
  3. Additionally, members of the Lok Sabha, MLAs from that district, and certain other district-level authorities are members.
  4. The Chairman of the Zilla Parishad serves as its political leader.


Municipal Corporations exist in major cities. Both of these municipal governments are governed by elected bodies composed of citizens’ representatives.

The Municipal Chairperson is the Corporation’s political leader.

There are around 36 lakh elected members in Panchayats and Municipalities, and one-third of them are women, enhancing women’s representation in our democracy.

Constitutional Status of Local Government

Local governments gaining constitutional standing has aided in the consolidation of democracy in our nation

The majority of state governments have not devolved substantial authorities and resources to local governments.

We are still a long way from achieving the self-government goal.

NCERT Question Answer Notes Class 10 Political Science (Civics) Chapter 2 – Federalism

Question 2. Point out one feature in the practice of federalism in India that is similar to and one feature that is different from that of Belgium.


(1) Similar features: Distribution of powers –

In both countries, the national government, the state (or provincial) government, and the local government all have some power (community govt, in Belgium).

  • In Belgium,
    1. The regional governments are in charge of things like transportation, public works, water policy, education, public health, housing, and so on.
    2. The community government has control over issues related to culture, education, and language.
  • In India, for example
    1. The Union Government and the State Governments each have some power to make laws.
    2. There are three lists in it: the Union list, the State list, and the Concurrent list.
    3. The Act of 1992 gave more power to the third tier, or local governments.

(2) Various things: There are three types of government in Belgium: the Central government, the State government, and the community government. People who speak the same language, like Dutch, French, or German, no matter where they live, will choose this option. This government is in charge of cultural, educational, and language issues. India doesn’t have a government like this.

In India, there are three levels of government. Local governments, like Panchayats in villages and Municipalities in towns, are the third type of government. In 1992, a change to the Constitution gave these bodies power.

Some of the provisions of the Act are as mentioned below :

  • Local government bodies are required to hold regular elections.
  • There will be seats for SC, ST, and OBC people.
  • 1/3 of the seats should be put aside for women.
  • The elections will be run by the State Election Commission.
  • To share some power with state governments.

Question 3. What is the main difference between a federal form of government and a unitary one? Explain with an example.

Answer: Usually, there are two levels of government in a federal system: the national and the state. Power is shared between the two of them. For instance, in India, there are three lists: the Union list, the State list, and the Concurrent list. About the things on the Union List, the central or national government makes laws. These are things like defence, foreign policy, and money that affect the whole country.

The things on the state list are regulated by the laws of the state. These topics are important to both the state and the local community, just like police, trade, agriculture, and irrigation. Things on the “concurrent list,” which includes things that are important to both governments, can be regulated by both. These are education, trees, trade unions, marriage, and other things.

In a unitary system, on the other hand, there is just one level of government at the national level. There are no provinces or states, like we have in India. So, there isn’t any separation of powers. As in England, the central or national government is in charge and the unit or provincial governments are under it. All power is in the hands of the central or national government.

Question 4. State any two differences between the local government before and after the Constitutional amendment in 1992.

Answer: A big step toward decentralisation was taken in 1992. Changes were made to the Constitution to make the third level of democracy stronger and more effective. Now, the Constitution says that local government bodies must be elected often. Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes have their own seats in the elected bodies and executive heads of these institutions.

At least a third of all jobs can only be done by women. The State Election Commission is an independent group that runs panchayat and municipal elections in each State. The state government has to give some of its money and power to the local government. There are different ways for each state to share.

Question 5. Fill in the blanks :

Since the United States is a (1)_________________________ type of federation, all the Constituent States have equal powers and States are (2)________________________ vis-a-vis the federal government. But India is a (3)_____________________ type of federation and some States have more power than others. In India, the (4)_______________________ govern­ment has more powers.


(1) coming together (2) strong (3) holding together (4) central

Question 7. Here are three reactions to the language policy followed in India. Give an argument and an example to support any of these positions.

Sangeeta: The policy of accommodation has strengthened national unity.

Arman: The language-based States have divided us by making everyone con­scious of their language.

Harish: This policy has only helped to consolidate the dominance of English over all other languages.

Answer: Sangeeta is right when she says that the policy of accommodation has made it easier for the country to work together. The Central Government agreed to keep doing business in both English and Hindi. This was done to keep things from going wrong like they did in Sri Lanka. If not, the movement against Hindi would have gone in a worse direction. The official policy of the Indian government is still to promote Hindi. Promotion does not mean that the Central Government can force Hindi on states where people speak a different language. Because our leaders were so flexible, our country did not end up in the same situation as Sri Lanka. So, the country is now more united because of the policy of accommodation. In official situations, both English and Hindi are used.

Question 8. The distinguishing feature of a federal government is :

(a) National government gives some powers to the provincial government.

(b) Power is distributed among the legislature, executive, and judiciary.

(c) Elected officials exercise supreme power in the government.

(d) Governmental power is divided between different levels of government.

Question 9. A few subjects in various Lists of the Indian Constitution are given here. Group them under the Union, State, and Concurrent Lists as provided in the table below :

Defence; B. Police; C. Agriculture; D. Education; E. Banking; F. Forests;  G. Communications; H. Trade; I. Marriages.

Union List
State List
Concurrent List


  1. Union List: Defence, Banking and Communications.
  2. State List: Police, Agriculture and Trade.
  3. Concurrent List; Education, Forests and Marriages.

Question 10. Examine the following pairs that give the level of government in India and the powers of the government at that level to make laws on the subjects mentioned against each. Which of the following pairs is not correctly matched ?

(a) State governmentState List
(b) Central governmentUnion List
(c) Central and State governmentsConcurrent List
(d) Local governmentsResiduary powers

Answer: (d) Local governments — Residuary powers. It is not correctly matched because the residuary powers have been given to the Central Government.

Question 11. Match List I with List-II and select the correct answer using the codes given below the lists :

List IList II
1. Union of IndiaA. Prime Minister
2. StateB. Sarpanch
3. Municipal CorporationC. Governor
4. Gram PanchayatD. Mayor



Answer: (c) A, C, D, B.

Question 12. Consider the following statements:

(a) In a federation, the powers of the federal and provincial governments are clearly demarcated.

(b) India is a federation because the powers of the Union and State Govern­ments are specified in the Constitution and they have exclusive jurisdiction on their respective subjects.

(c) Sri Lanka is a federation because the country is divided into provinces.

(d) India is no longer a federation because some powers of the States have been devolved to the local government bodies.

Which of the statements given above are correct?

(a) A, B, and C

(b) A, C, and D

(c) A and B only

(d) B and C only
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