Federalism: Class 10 Political Science Chapter 2 Notes

Chapter Notes of Class 10 Civics chapter 2 “Federalism”: These short notes would help in revising the chapter “Federalism” in class 10 Civics book. Click here to get more materials for class 10 Pol. Science.

I. Federalism and its Features


It is a political system of power-sharing among central, state and local governments of a country.

  • It possesses two levels of government, which share power and jointly run the country’s administration.
  • This maintains the unity of the country as a whole and, at the same time, preserves its regional diversity.
  • In a federal country, the division of powers is between the central authority and the constituent units known as states.

The two levels of government

  1. The central authority: responsible for the entire country and deals with subjects of national interest.
  2. The constituent state governments: responsible for their respective states and deal with subjects of state interest.

The Constitution

It is what decides and defines the powers and the overall jurisdictions of these governments and their sub-units or tiers.

  • No fundamental provisions of the Constitution can be changed without the consent of both levels of government.
  • The Constitution also lays down the provisions for the distribution of the nation’s revenue between the various levels of government.

There are two types of federal systems:

  • Coming Together’ federations
  • Holding Together’ federations
  1. A ‘coming together’ federation is one in which several independent states come together on their own to form a bigger unit. An example is the USA.
  2. A ‘holding together’ federation is one in which a large country decides to divide its power between the constituent states and the national government. An example is India.

II. Federalism in India

How is India a federal country?

Rise of federalism

  • After independence, India chose to be a Union of States.
  • Although the Indian Constitution did not make use of the word Federation for this Union, the system functions under the principles of federalism.
  • Indian administration initially functioned under a two-tier system of government:
  1. The Union or Central Government represented the Union of India.
  2. State Governments represented their individual regions.
  • Later, a third tier was added in the form of Panchayats and Municipalities that function under State Governments.

Division of powers

The Constitution has provided a three-fold distribution of legislative powers between the Union and the State Governments through three lists.

I. Union List: It includes subjects of national importance such as the defence of the country, foreign affairs, banking, communications and currency.

  • These subjects are included in the Union List because we need a single uniform policy throughout the country on these matters.
  • The Union Government alone can make laws relating to the subjects mentioned in the Union List. States can have no say in it.

II. State List: State List contains subjects of State and local importance such as police, trade, commerce, agriculture and irrigation.

  • State Governments alone can make laws on these subjects, except under rare circumstances when the Union government must intervene.

III. Concurrent List: This includes subjects of common interest to both the Union Government as well as the State Governments.

  • However, in case of a conflict between laws made by two governments, the law made by the Union Government prevails.
  • Topics such as education, forestry, trade unions, marriage, adoption and succession are included in the Union list.

The Union Government also has the power to legislate on ‘residuary’ subjects, which are subjects that came up after the Constitution was made and therefore are not on any list.

How is federalism practised in India?

Formation of States

  • The Indian Constitution has chalked out Indian states on the basis of languages.
  • People speaking the same language live in one State under a regional government.
  • Some States, however, were not created on the basis of language but to recognise their unique regional differences in culture, ethnicity or geography.
  • These are Nagaland, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand.
  • States such as Assam, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram enjoy special powers compared to other states due to their unique socio-cultural and historical circumstances.

Language policy

  • The Constitution has not given the status of national language to any one language.
  • This has been done to ensure equal status for all the languages in the Federation.
  • Hindi, however, is identified as the official language of the Government of India due to it being spoken by the single largest group. English too is an additional official language.
  • This does not make Hindi a national language of India.
  • Besides Hindi, there are 21 languages recognised as Scheduled Languages in the Indian Constitution.
  • States too can have their own official languages to carry out their Governmental work.

Union Territories

  • Some units in the Indian Union have a unique system of administration.
  • These areas are too small to be independent States and cannot be merged with any of the existing States for various reasons.
  • Areas like Chandigarh, Lakshadweep or the capital city of Delhi are called Union Territories.
  • They come under the direct jurisdiction of the Central Government.

Centre-State relations

  • Federalism can be strengthened in practice through some restructuring of the Centre-State relations.
  • After 1990, there was an increase in the number of regional political parties in the Indian States.
  • This was also the beginning of coalition governments, with power-sharing for the Centre and respect for the autonomy of State Governments.

III. Decentralisation in India

How is decentralisation practised in India?


  • Federal structures generally contain two tiers of government, but a vast country like India cannot be run only through two tiers.
  • The Indian States are internally very diverse and thus need a third tier of government below the State.
  • When power is taken away from Central and State governments and given to the local government, it is called decentralisation.
  • In 1992, the Constitution was amended to make the third tier of a decentralised government.
  • The basic principle behind decentralisation is that there are many challenges and concerns that are better resolved at the local level.

Third tier of government

  • Through several provisions in the Constitution, decentralisation is practised in the following ways:
  1. Regular mandatory elections to the local government bodies comprising the third tier
  2. Seats to be reserved for the SCs, STs, and OBCs in these elected bodies
  3. At least one-third of all positions to be reserved for women
  4. An independent State Election Commission to be created in each State to conduct panchayat and municipal elections
  5. State governments required to share some powers and revenue with local government bodies
  • This third tier of government is known as rural local government in rural areas and urban local government in urban areas.

Rural Local Government

  • The rural local government in rural areas is popularly known by the name Panchayati Raj.
  • Each village, or a group of villages, has a Gram Panchayat consisting of several ward members, called panch, and a president or sarpanch.
  • Each panchayat also consists of a Gram Sabha, and all the voters in the village are its members.
  • A few Gram Panchayats are grouped together to form a Panchayat Samiti or block or Mandal.
  • All the Panchayat Samitis or Mandals in a district together constitute the Zilla (district) Parishad.
  • Zilla Parishad chairperson is the political head of the Zilla Parishad.

Urban Local Government

  • Towns have Municipalities while big cities have municipal corporations.
  • Municipal chairperson is the political head of the municipality.
  • In a municipal corporation, such an officer is called the mayor.

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