Small states are the right answer:Tushar Gandhi

December 20, 2009 at 5:23 pm Leave a comment

Following is an Op-ed published in http://www.mydigitalfc.com: The article is written by Tushar Gandhi.

If Bapu was alive, he would have supported the demand for Telangana. Not only Telanga­na, but Vidarbha, Bundelkhand, Gorkhaland, Coorg and all those regions in large and unwieldy states that have been neglected and have remained backward because ot­her regions had stronger political patronage. When the demand for formation of states on linguistic lines was first raised immediately after independence, Bapu had supported the cause. But he had also warned against language and regional chauvinism.

In more than 60 years of independence and almost the same time that the present large and unmanageable stat­es have been in existence, it is starkly evident that the state administrations have failed to be fair in their treatment of various regions. Take Mahara­shtra, the Vidarbha region in the eastern extreme of the st­ate has been criminally neglected, so much so that today it has become infamous for fa­rmer suicides. Farmer suici­des in the region have become so routine that now there is a season for suicides and the media displays a daily tally as routinely as the Sensex.

All the sugar barons of Maharashtra hail from the western regions of the state, therefore, western Maharashtra has enjoyed more than its fair share of development and ri­ches. The Marathwada region has started getting a bit of attention now because of the new breed of education bar­ons and spillover of sugar ba­rons that hail from the region, but it is still nowhere near the development.

The Vidarbha region houses the winter capital of the st­ate, Nagpur, and that’s ab­out all that it has. Cotton, its trad­i­tional crop, has failed. At one point of time, Vidarbha was the cotton capital of India, and Akola was the cotton trading post for the rest of the country. Not any more. Today, Akola is a town past its glory. Successive state governments have not bothered to inject any tonic to boost its economy. Neither did Vidarbha get any economic package for its development till the prime mi­nister stepped in and provided a relief package aimed at alleviating the misery of de­bt-plagued farmers.

The misfortune of Vidarbha is that it used to be traditionally a Congress bastion, and since Maharashtra also had a strong Congress base, no politician wanted to rock the boat. The last time any serious attempt was made to fo­rce the creation of Vidarbha was when Jambuvantrao Dh­ote sat on a fast. After 21 days, he was persuaded to give it up with a face saving assurance. Since then, only disgruntled leaders have raised feeble demands for statehood, and wh­en their personal agenda was served, they dumped the ca­use of Vidarbha.

The same is the case with Kutch and Saurashtra in Gujarat, two chronically neglected regions the state. If it hadn’t been for the devastating earthquake of 2000 and the subsequent rebuilding of Kut­ch, it would have remained a backward region. The quake proved to be a blessing in disguise for Kutch, which is today showing some signs of development, also due to the ve­ry hard-working and industrious Kutchis who are fiercely loyal to their desh, as they refer to Kutch. Saurashtra still languishes and from time to time one can hear feeble voices for it to be hived off as a separate state.

It was only after Punjab was trifurcated into Himachal Pra­desh and Haryana that all the three states developed un­ifo­rmly. The condition of Bu­ndelkhand in southeastern Ut­tar Pradesh and Gorkhala­nd in the hilly territory of We­st Bengal are tales of similar neglect.

Andhra Pradesh was the first state to raise the demand for reorganisation based on linguistics. There has been a demand for a separate state of Telangana for a long time. Osmania University, the institution established by the Nizam in Hyderabad, has been the hotbed of the separatist Tele­ngana movement. This time, a few suicides, a student’s agitation and 11 days of fasting for Telengana sent the Centre into panic and the Congress high command hastily sancti­oned the creation of Telanga­na. It was seen as a decision driven by Sonia Gandhi. But the decision has triggered a mutiny of sorts. The Congress high command is facing a mu­tiny in Andhra Pradesh.

It is strange, but Andhra Pradesh has always been a bug-bear for the Nehru-Ga­n­d­his. When N T Rama Rao catapulted to power and tro­un­ced the Congress, Indira Ga­ndhi felt insulted and gave Rajiv Gandhi and his men a free hand to topple NTR. Th­ey did manage to topple him and place Bhaskara Rao on the throne. But they had underestimated the charismatic NTR, who bounced back st­ronger than before, drove out Bhaskara Rao and left Rajiv Gandhi with egg on his face. It seems Sonia Gandhi, too, has been caught on the wrong foot in Andhra.

As long as neglected regi­ons remain in large mismanaged states, the demand for division and creation of smaller states will be legitimate. Yes, I am certain Bapu would have been agitating for the dis­mantling of the large mismanaged states and the creation of smaller st­ates purely on the criteria of them being more manageable and being able to deliver more uniform development.

The writer is founder president, Mahatma Gandhi Foundation

Entry filed under: Demand of Koshal state, Discussions, Do smaller states provide better governance?, Why a separate Koshal state in India?.

NREGS fails in Kalahandi The case of smaller states;Growth can be a criterion not language or religion

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