Why KCR wants Concurrent List out: regional issues, national ambitions

K CHANDRASHEKAR RAO, who has won a second stint as Chief Minister of Telangana, has signalled his intent to play a major role in national politics. After his party’s victory, KCR announced that he would form a new non-Congress, a non-BJP national consortium of regional parties, and pitched once again for more autonomy to the states, suggesting that the Concurrent List is done away with.

State vs Centre

Some of the areas in which KCR wants a freer hand for states, specifically Telangana:

Muslim reservation: Last year, Telangana passed a Bill providing for 12% reservation to Muslims but has been unable to implement it because of a 50% reservation ceiling ordered by the Supreme Court. KCR has said Parliament should pass a law to do away with this cap on reservations, and that the Centre should let the states decide the quantum of reservation.

Primary education: KCR says the Centre should let states decide on issues like primary education. He has questioned why the Centre should decide where a primary school should come up in some corner of Telangana just because it gives funds, or how many teachers should be recruited for a school. The Telangana government has been paying salaries to panchayat school teachers and contract workers after the Centre withdrew funding two years ago.

What is the Concurrent List?

The Constitution of India has provided for a division of powers between the Central and state governments. Under the Seventh Schedule, there are three lists – the Union, State and Concurrent.

The Union List has a range of subjects under which the Parliament may make laws. This includes defence, foreign affairs, railways, banking, among others.

The State List lists subjects under which the legislature of a state may make laws. Public order, police, public health and sanitation; hospitals and dispensaries, betting and gambling are some of the subjects that come under the state.

The Concurrent List includes subjects that give powers to both the Centre and state governments. Subjects like Education including technical education, medical education and universities, population control and family planning, criminal law, prevention of cruelty to animals, protection of wildlife and animals, forests etc. However, given that there can be conflict when it comes to laws passed by Parliament and state legislatures on the same subject, the Constitution provides for a central law to override state law.

The debate over Centralisation of power:

Since 1950, the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution has seen a number of amendments. The Union List and Concurrent List have grown while subjects under the State List have gradually reduced.

The 42nd Amendment Act was perhaps one of the most controversial. Affected in 1976 during the Emergency by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the amendment restructured the Seventh Schedule ensuring that State List subjects like education, forest, protection of wild animals and birds, administration of justice, and weights and measurements were transferred to the Concurrent List.

Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister CN Annadurai was one of the first to advocate for state autonomy and federalism at the Centre. “It will be sufficient if the Centre retains only such powers as are necessary for preserving the unity and integrity of the country, leaving adequate powers to the states,” he said in 1967.

Taking his idea forward, the Tamil Nadu government under M Karunanidhi constituted the PV Rajamannar Committee to look into Centre-State relations. While the Committee submitted its reports in 1971, the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly adopted a resolution three years later demanding that the Centre accept the state’s views on state autonomy and the recommendations of the Rajamannar Committee. The Rajamannar Committee spurred other states to voice their opposition to the Centre’s encroachment on subjects that were historically under the state’s purview.

PM Indira Gandhi had constituted the Sarkaria Commission to look into Centre-State relations. However, the recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission were not implemented by successive central governments.

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