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Corona Helps Centre to Grab Powers, States Reduced to Beggars

May 11, 2020 | By

Delhi Durbar acquired sweeping powers by enforcing Disaster Management Act (DMA) and British Time Epidemic Diseases Act (1897). National Disaster Authority headed by PM became the ultimate authority over all the states. Following lockdown, middle class people terrified of corona readily went indoors. Largely supporters of BJP, they stood behind the Executive Head. Delhi Durbar became fountainhead of all powers- a New Normal–was celebrated by clapping and banging of thaalis. As usual, middle-class showed little sympathy for the starving poor/migrant labour on the roads. Poor left with no option but to walk hundreds miles down to their native places to die among near-dears.

Soon, Delhi Durbar turned out to be a Unitary Power with no space for states. A sample of helplessness of the states: (a) requests of Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Orissa et al for buses/ railway trains for migrant labour to reach homes were rejected (b) Capt Amrinder Singh was allowed to bring Sikh pilgrims back to Punjab after one month persuasion (c) Even after refusing special package to states, Centre did not allow Kerala to raise loans for fighting out corona (d) States found difficult to clear salary/ pension bill as Centre withheld their GST share (e) States are asked to bear expenses of sending labour to their homes. Punjab stands to pay fare for 13 lakh workers. (f) Despite huge stocks, Centre refused universal PDS with enhanced food grains and cash support to poor. (g) Declaring of affected areas as – Red, Orange and Green- is done by Centre without consulting states. Example: Patiala declared Red, its part Nabha and milk plant with no corona case got jammed (h) Fund-starved states rubbed noses to secure Centre’s permission for opening liquor shops. States revenues have fallen by 80-90 per cent.

During 40-day lockdown Home Ministry issued 80 different orders asking states to comply, which, Capt Amrinder Singh described as “Centre breathing down CMs’ necks”. “We are not getting anything from the Centre and not even payment of rail fare,” he added. Punjab expected Re 3000 crores revenue last month but got only 400 crores. Jharkhand CM described treatment to labour as “cruel and inhuman.”

Those nationalist thinkers who always swore for a ‘strong centre’ to build a ‘strong nation’ now get their wish fulfilled. It is for political pandits to think over whether post-corona India will be a unitary one-man state or a federal democracy?

– Jaspal Singh Sidhu & Khushhal Singh

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