Covid-19: A test of federalism| HT Editorial
The most heartening element of India’s response to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) has been the close collaboration between the Centre and states. To be sure, there have been differences too. But rarely, if ever, has the federal structure been put to test as it is being done now. And this is because of the constitutional design. The Centre can frame broad policies; it can make national-level assessments; it can provide support, be it in terms of health care facilities or economic packages. But states are in the frontlines of the battle. Health is a state subject; so is law and order; and the entire ambit of daily administration at the local level — be it through local district magistrates or developments officers or district hospitals — happens through the state government.
And that is why the voices of the chief ministers (CMs) must be heard. There have now been three video conferences between the prime minister and the CMs. In the latest one, on Saturday, while expressing their support for an extended lockdown, states asked for help — from requesting that donations to the CM Relief Fund be considered as corporate social expenditure to more availability of testing kits and personal protective equipment for health workers; from relaxations in fiscal deficit norms to the payment of compensation under the Goods and Services Tax regime; from a greater economic package for diverse sectors to fiscal support for states. The Centre must consider all these requests favourably, for it is both a question of the rights of states and the need of the moment.