Federalism Class 10 Notes Social Science Civics Chapter 2


One of the key changes made in the Constitution of Belgium was to devolve the powers of the central government to give these powers to the regional governments. This was different from their original arrangement where these powers were given to regional governments by the central government and could be withdrawn by the latter too.

Regional governments were made independent of the central government constitutionally in 1993. Belgium shifted from a unitary to a federal form of government.

Sri Lanka is still a unitary system where the national government has all the powers. Tamil leaders want
Sri Lanka to become a federal system.

NCERT Class 10 Civics Chapter 2 Notes Federalism

Frequently Asked:
Federalism is a system of government in which the power is divided between a central government and various separately answerable to the people constituent units of the country. A federation has two levels of government.

One is the central/pan-nation government responsible for a few subjects of common national interest Regional/ Provincial governments at the level of provinces or states that look after general administration of their state. These governments enjoy their power independent of the other.

Federations are contrasted with unitary governments because unitary governments have only one level of government. If more levels are present, the sub-units are subordinate to the central government.

The central government delegates powers and orders to the provincial government. In a federal system, the central government does not have the authority to order the state governments to do anything, except in the interests of the territorial integrity of the nation. State government is not answerable or accountable to the central government.
The central and the state governments are both separately answerable to the people.

Features of Federalism

Key Features of Federalism
1. There are two or more levels (or tiers) of government.

2. Each tier has its own jurisdiction in matters of legislation, taxation, economic affairs and administration. Despite this, they govern the same citizens.

3. Their jurisdictions and powers have been lucidly laid down in the Constitution. Their composition, responsibilities and powers are constitutionally guaranteed.

4. The fundamental provisions of the constitution cannot be unilaterally amended by any one level of government. Amendments affecting their jurisdictions have to be passed by both the levels of government.

5. Courts have the power to interpret the constitution and the powers of different levels of government. The courts have been given responsibilities of dispute resolution,
custodianship of Fundamental Rights and that of the Constitution apart from other powers. They have also been made the neutral party to judge and resolve disputes between the centre and state or between states.

NCERT Class 10 Civics Chapter 2 Notes Federalism

6. The Constitution clearly lays down sources of revenue for each level of government. This ensures its independence and financial autonomy.

7. The Federal System thus has dual objectives: to safeguard and promote unity of the country, while at the same time accommodate regional diversity.

8. Governments at different levels should agree to rules of power sharing. They should have mutual trust among them.

9. An ideal Federal System has both aspects: mutual trust and agreement to live together. The composition and power separation varies from federation to federation.

  • This balance depends on the historical context behind the formation of the federation.
  • Federations are formed in two ways.
  • The first route involves independent states coming together by their own will to form a bigger unit.
  • They give up parts of their sovereignty. They retain identity but are able to increase their security in this way.
  • This type of ‘coming together’ federations include the USA, Switzerland and Australia.
  • All the constituent states usually have equal power and are strong vis-a-vis the federal government.
  • The second route is where a large country divides its power between the constituent states and the national government. India, Spain and Belgium are examples of this kind of ‘holding together’ federation.
  • The Central Government tends to be more powerful vis-a-vis the States.
  • Different constituent units of the federation have unequal powers.

Despite only 25 of the world’s 193 countries having federal political systems, their citizens make up 40 percent of the world’s population.

NCERT Class 10 Civics Chapter 2 Notes Federalism


Example 1.
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.
(d) Governmental power is divided between different levels of government.

Features of India As a Federal Country

India is a vast country. It hosts a huge variety of diversity in its territory. India emerged as an independent nation after partition where Muslim-dominated provinces were strung together to form Pakistan. The Constitution declares India as a Union of States. Indian Union is based on the principles of Federalism. The term Federation has not been mentioned or used in the Constitution.

All the features of federalism apply to the provisions of the Indian Constitution.

  1. The Constitution initially provided for a two-tier system of government- the Union/central government and the state governments.
  2. The third tier of federalism was added in the form of Panchayats and Municipalities. All tiers are tasked with responsibilities and their respective jurisdiction.
  3. The Constitution provides a threefold distribution of legislative powers between the Union Government and the State Governments in form of three lists:

The Union List contains subjects of national importance such as defense of the country, foreign affairs, banking, communications, and currency. This was done to ensure a uniform policy on these matters throughout the country. Only the Union government makes laws on subjects in the Union list.

The State List contains subjects of State and local importance. For example, police, trade, commerce, agriculture and irrigation. Only the state governments can make laws relating to subjects mentioned in this list.

The Concurrent List includes subjects of common interest to both the Union Government as well as the State Governments, such as education, forests, trade unions, marriage, adoption and succession. The Union as well as the State Governments can make laws on these subjects. In case of a deadlock, the law made by the Union Government will prevail.

NCERT Class 10 Civics Chapter 2 Notes Federalism

Frequently Asked:
According to our constitution, the Union Government has the power to legislate on the ‘residuary’ subjects. Any subject introduced after the Constitution was drafted or left by omission. Most federations that are formed by ‘holding together’ do not give equal power to its constituent units.

Example 2.
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.
A. Defence;
B. Police;
C. Agriculture;
D. Education;
E. Banking;
F. Forests;
G. Communications;
H. Trade;
I. Marriages

  • Union list: Defence. Banking and Communications
  • State List: PoLice, Agriculture and Trade
  • Concurrent list: Education, Forests, and Marriages

Different states enjoy different powers. Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed a special status under article 370 and 35A till 2019. Many provisions of the Indian Constitution were not applicable to this State without the approval of the State Assembly. Indians who were not permanent residents of this State could not buy land or reside here permanently. Few other states enjoy some special status too.

Assam, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram enjoy special powers under certain provisions of the Constitution of India (Article 371) due to their peculiar social and historical circumstances.

Few territories or units of India which were too small to become an independent State but which could not be merged with any of the existing states enjoy very little power, for example, Chandigarh, or Lakshadweep or the capital city of Delhi. These are called Union Territories. They do not have the status or the powers of a State. The Central Government runs them through special provisions.

Power-sharing between the Union Government and the State governments is basic to the structure of the Constitution. The Parliament cannot unilaterally change this arrangement. For proposing and implementing a change, resolutions have to be passed by both Houses of Parliament with at least two-thirds majority. It has to be ratified by the legislatures of at least half of the total States.

The judiciary supervises the implementation of constitutional provision. The High Courts and the Supreme Court have the power and responsibility to resolve any dispute between centre and states or among states.
The Union and State governments have been given the power to raise resources by levying taxes in order to function and run their respective states.

Example 3.
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.
Both India and Belgium possess and promote the separation of Powers and Decentralisation. In Belgium, like India, regional governments were given constitutional powers making them independent.

Unlike India, Belgium possesses a community government elected by communities separately that controls its cultural affairs. India does not have any such government.

NCERT Class 10 Civics Chapter 2 Notes Federalism

Example 4.
(A) Pokharan, the place where India conducted its nuclear tests, lies in Rajasthan. Suppose the Government of Rajasthan was opposed to the Central Government’s nuclear policy, could it prevent the Government of India from conducting the nuclear tests?
No it cannot preventthe Central government because the subject of energy and national security is under the Union List. The action was a test to ascertain our potential for using nuclear power for peaceful purposes.

(B) Suppose the Government of Sikkim plans to introduce new textbooks in its schools. But the Union Government does not like the style and content of the new textbooks. In that case, does the state government need to take permission from the Union Government before these textbooks can be launched?
Yes. It is important because education is

  • a subject of the Concurrent list. In case of a
  • deadlock, the law or decision by the Union government is final.

(C) Suppose the Chief Ministers of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha have different policies on how their state police should respond to the naxalites. Can the Prime Minister of India intervene and pass an order that all the Chief Ministers will have to obey?
No, because police is a state subject.

The Practice of Federalism

Only clearly laid out Constitutional provisions cannot guarantee the success of Federalism. The real success of federalism in India can be attributed to the nature of democratic politics in our country. The nature and practice of democratic politics in our country ensured that the spirit of federalism, respect for diversity and desire for living together become a shared ideal in our country.

Linguistic States:
The creation of Linguistic States was one of the most fundamental tests of democratic politics in our country.

Most old states have been divided to form new states. Areas, boundaries and names of the states have been changed. In 1947, the boundaries of several old states of India were delimited in order to create new states. This was done to ensure that people who spoke the same language lived in the same State.

Some states were created not on the basis of language but to recognise differences based on culture, ethnicity or geography. National leaders feared that if new states were created, it would lead to the disintegration of the country. The Central Government resisted the formation of linguistic states for some time.

The formation of linguistic states has actually made the country more united. It has also made administration easier.

NCERT Class 10 Civics Chapter 2 Notes Federalism

Example 5.
Read the source given below and answer the questions that follow:
If you look at the political map of India when it began its journey as a democracy in 1947 and that of 2019, you will be surprised by the extent of the changes. Many old States have vanished and many new States have been created. Areas, boundaries and names of the States have been changed. In 1947, the boundaries of several old States of India were changed in order to create new States. This was done to ensure that people who spoke the same language lived in the same State. Some States were created not on the basis of language but to recognise differences based on culture, ethnicity or geography.

When the demand for the formation of States on the basis of language was raised, some national leaders feared that it would lead to the disintegration of the country. The Central Government resisted linguistic States for some time. But the experience has shown that the formation of linguistic States has actually made the country more united. It has also made administration easier.
(A) Which of the following states were made to recognise differences based on language or ethnicity?
(a) Bihar
(b) Goa
(c) Nagaland
(d) Rajasthan
(a) Nagaland

(B) When was the boundary of the states delimited for the first time after Independence?
(a) 1967
(b) 1947
(c) 1950
(d) 1953
(b) 1947
Explanation: For the first time, 600 provincia and British ruled units were combined to form a nation.

Related Theory:
The second linguistic reorganisation of states took place in 1956.

(C) What features of democracy could be realised with linguistic reorganisation of the states?
Recognition and accommodation of diversities and social divisions help maintain peace in the nation. This is one of the features of democracy, equal respect to all diversities.

(D) Assertion (A): When the demand for the formation of states on the basis of language was raised, some national leaders feared that it would lead to the disintegration of the country.
Reason(R): When people with similar identities stay together, isolationist tendencies might increase.
(a) Both (A) and (R) are true and (R) is the correct explanation of A.
(b) Both (A) and (R) are true but (R) is not the correct explanation of (A).
(c) (A) is correct but (R) is wrong.
(d) (A) is wrong but (R) is correct.
(a) Both (A) and (R) are true and (R) is the correct explanation of (A).

Explanation: Since people with similar identities are able to relate better, they are unable to associate themselves with other groups. This leads to inception of isolationist tendencies. It was a legitimate fear that these groups might try to isolate themselves.

NCERT Class 10 Civics Chapter 2 Notes Federalism

Language Policy:
Our Constitution does not give the status of national language to any one language. Hindi was identified as the official language. It is the mother tongue of only about 40 per cent of Indians especially those residing in northern India. Therefore, there were many safeguards put in place to conserve the rest of the language. 21 other languages besides Hindi were recognised as Scheduled Languages by the Constitution.

Any Central Government level examination can be taken in any of these languages. States too have their own official languages. All the government work takes place in the official language of the concerned State.

Indian leaders unlike Sri Lankans made it a point to represent and recognise each linguistic diversity.
The Constitution mentioned that the use of English Language for official purposes was to stop in 1965. Most non-Hindi speaking states demanded that this use continue. In Tamil Nadu, this movement took a violent form. The Central Government responded by agreeing to continue the use of English along with Hindi for official purposes.

Numerous critics believed that this step favoured the English speaking elite. However, the promotion of Hindi continues to be the official policy of the Government of India. The promotion does not force the language upon the citizens. The flexibility shown by Indian political leaders helped our country avoid the kind of situation that Sri Lanka finds itself in.

The census of 1991 recorded more than 1500 distinct languages which people mentioned as their mother tongues. They have been grouped together under major Language groups. Post grouping, the aggregate is 114 major languages. Of these, 22 languages are now included in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution and are therefore called ‘Scheduled Languages’.

Others are called ‘non- Scheduled Languages’. In terms of languages, India is perhaps the most diverse country in the world.

NCERT Class 10 Civics Chapter 2 Notes Federalism

Center-state Relations:
Restructuring and strengthening the Centre-State relations has also helped in concretisation of federal practices. The constitutional arrangements for sharing power depends on how the ruling parties and leaders follow these arrangements majorly. During early years post-Independence, one political party dominated both the Centre and the States. This left state governments with minimum powers to exercise as autonomous federal units.

When the ruling party at the state Level was different, the parties at the centre attempted to undermine them. The Constitution was used as a tool to dismiss the state governments that were controlled by rival parties which belittled the spirit of federalism.

Post 1990s, with the rise of regional political parties in many states of the country, the era of Coalition governments was born. In situations, when no single party got a clear majority in the Lok Sabha, the major national parties wouLd enter into an alliance with other like minded parties including several regional parties to form a government at the Centre.

A new culture of power sharing began. The respect for the autonomy of State Governments grew.
The Supreme Courts gave various decisions to make it difficult for the Central Government to dismiss state governments in an arbitrary manner. Federal power sharing has become more effective than it was before.

Decentralization In India

In a vast country like India, it is necessary to have multiple tiers of government to allow better and effective administration. States in India are as large as independent countries of Europe. They are internally diverse.
Power-sharing within these States was essential. Federal power sharing in India which required a tier below that of the State governments became the rationale for decentralisation of power. Thus, resulted in a third-tier of government, called the local government.

In terms of population, Uttar Pradesh is bigger than Russia, Maharashtra is about as big as Germany.

When power is taken away from Central and State governments and given to the local government, it is called Decentralisation. A large number of problems and issues are better settled at the local level and hence decentralization is important to empower people who are the smallest unit of a democracy. People have better knowledge of problems in their localities and better ideas on where to spend money and how to manage things more efficiently. Direct public participation is only possible at the lower level of governments.

Local Self Governments

Local Government helps us realise the important principle of democracy- local self-government.
The need for decentralisation has been recognised in our Constitution. To realise this, multiple efforts have been undertaken. Panchayats in villages and municipalities in urban areas were set up in all the states, directly under the control of state governments.

Elections to these local governments have not been held regularly. Local governments depend on state governments for all resources and powers. There was not much decentralisation. In an effort to truly realise the concept of decentralization, a major step was taken in 1992.

The Constitution was amended to make the third-tier of democracy more powerful and effective.

  1. It has been made mandatory to hold regular elections to local government bodies by the Constitution.
  2. Seats are reserved in the elected bodies and the executive heads of these institutions for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes.
  3. One-third of alL positions are reserved for women.
  4. Independent State Election Commissions have been created in each State to conduct panchayat and municipal elections.
  5. The State governments are required to devolve some powers and revenue with local government bodies. The nature of sharing varies from State to State.

NCERT Class 10 Civics Chapter 2 Notes Federalism

Example 6.
State any two differences between the local government before and after the Constitutional Amendment in 1992.
Constitutional Amendments gave constitutional status to decentralization making it compulsory for the states to devolve powers. This was not mandatory before.

  • The structure of the local government was decided by this step.
  • State Election Commissions were given the responsibility to conduct elections. States had the power before.
  • Rural local government is popularly known by the name Panchayati Raj.
  • Each village or group of villages has a Gram Panchayat. This is a council consisting of several ward members called Panch, and headed by a president or Sarpanch. They are directly elected by all the adult population (above 18 years of age) living in that ward or village.
  • It is the decision-making body for the entire village.

The panchayat works under the overall supervision of the Gram Sabha. All the voters in the village are its members. It has to meet at least twice or thrice in a year to approve the annual budget of the Gram Panchayat and to review the performance of the Gram Panchayat

The local government structure goes right up to the district level. A few gram panchayats are grouped together to form what is usually called a Panchayat Samiti or block or Mandat The members of this representative body are elected by all the panchayat members in that area. All the Panchayat Samitis or Mandals in a district together constitute the Zilla (district) Parishad.

Most members of the Zilla Parishad are elected. Members of the Lok Sabha and MLAs of that district. Its members include some senior level officials from other districts as well. Zilla Parishad is headed by a chairperson.
Local bodies for urban areas are called Municipalities. Municipalities are set up in towns. Big cities have municipal corporations. Municipalities and Municipal Corporations are controlled by elected bodies consisting of people’s representatives. Municipal chairperson is the political head of the Municipality. Mayor heads the Municipal Corporation. This new system of local government is the largest experiment in democracy in the world.

Constitutional status for local governments has helped to deepen democracy in our country. It has also increased women’s representation and voice in our democracy.

NCERT Class 10 Civics Chapter 2 Notes Federalism


  • Brazil’s tryst with Democracy
  • Porto Alegre in Brazil has carried out an experiment by combining decentralization with participative democracy. It set up a parallel organization operating alongside the municipal council, enabling local inhabitants to take real decisions for their city.
  • The city has been divided into many sectors or what we call wards. Each sector has a meeting, like that of the Gram Sabha, in which anyone living in that area can participate. There are some meetings to discuss issues that affect the entire city. Any citizen of the city can participate in those meetings. Municipality takes the final decisions.
  • In our own country, a similar experiment has taken place in some areas in Kerala. Ordinary people have participated in making a plan for the development of their locality.

Issues with Local Self Governments:
Gram Sabha sessions are often very irregular. Most state governments have not transferred significant powers to the local governments. They are in lack of funds, functionaries and functions which have to be devolved by the State government.

Some states do not have proper maintained structures of these bodies. Numerous representatives are unable to use their powers due to discrimination based on caste, creed or gender.
It will take India a long time in realising the ideal of self-government.

Example 7.
Match List I with List II and select the correct answer using the codes given below the lists:

List 1

List II

1. Union of India A. Prime Minister
2. State B. Sarpanch
3. Municipal Corporation C. Governor
4. Gram Panchayat D. Mayor

NCERT Class 10 Civics Chapter 2 Notes Federalism 1
(c) ACDB

→ Constitutional: Authorised by the Constitution.

→ Unitary: A system of administration where all the power is vested in one central government.

→ Jurisdiction: Area over which some institution/person has Legal authority.

→ Unilaterally: Of doing something involving only one side, without involving the other.

→ Autonomy: Independence or freedom.

→ Federation: A political entity which has a union of partially self-governing provinces, states, or other regions under a central federal government which devolved powers to them through the Constitution.

NCERT Class 10 Civics Chapter 2 Notes Federalism

→ Linguistic states: States divided and created on basis of language.

→ Disintegration: The process of something becoming weaker or being destroyed by breaking into smaller parts or pieces.

→ Decentralisation: It is referred to as an organisational structure where the delegation of authority is by the top management to the middle and lower levels of management in an organisation.

→ 1956: Linguistic reorganization of States in India.

→ 1992: Regional Governments in India were given constitutional powers and status.

→ 1993: Regional Governments in Belgium were given constitutional status and powers.

Class 10 Social Science Notes