Is it time to remap India to create smaller political units? : A report from the Economic Times

November 21, 2011 at 5:58 pm Leave a comment

Following is a report from the

If current demands were to be met, the map of India would look something like this. Telengana would be out of Andhra Pradesh as a separate state. Vidarbha would no longer be a part of Maharashtra. Karnataka would lose Coorg. Bodoland would be carved out of Assam and Gorkhaland out of West Bengal.

Rajasthan would be bifurcated with the creation of Maru Pradesh. Jammu would not be lumped with Kashmir. And Uttar Pradesh would cease to dominate the country’s politics after being sliced into the four states of Paschim Pradesh, Bundelkhand, Poorvanchal and Avadh Pradesh.

In short, instead of 28 states, India would have 38 states plus seven union territories and perhaps several semi-autonomous regions with their own development councils.

Had he been alive, the foremost proponent of small states and author of our Constitution, BR Ambedkar, may have argued that even this is too little a number for a country of India’s size and population. (The United States, with a population of approximately 300 million, has 50 states.)

In his critique of the 1955 recommendations of the first State Reorganisation Commission, which redrew state boundaries on linguistic lines, Ambedkar wrote, “The Commission evidently thinks that the size of a state is a matter of no consequence and that the equality in the size of the status constituting a federation is a matter of no moment. This is the first and the most terrible error cost which the Commission has committed. If not rectified in time, it will indeed be a great deal.”

Ambedkar was to prove prophetic. In the decades that followed, agitations for new states have erupted almost everywhere with varying degrees of violence, sometimes driven by reasons of ethnicity but increasingly by demands for better governance and speedier development.

Over the years, Ambedkar’s vision has been realised in bits and pieces. His call to break the impossibly large states of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh into more manageable units was heeded in the year 2000 with the creation of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. And now, his (self-declared) leading disciple, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati, has put another of his prescriptions on the national agenda for debate with a proposal to split her unwieldy state into four parts.

Federalism Reborn

Predictably, her opponents have slammed the proposal as an election gimmick for the 2012 state assembly polls. But Mayawati, canny as ever, may have set the ball rolling for something that has been in the air ever since Telengana went up in flames over the demand for a separate state. It may be time to remap India once again to create, as Ambedkar wanted, smaller political and administrative units that would better meet the burgeoning aspirations of people.

Political scientist Yogendra Yadav of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies calls it the “second stage of evolution in Indian federalism”. The first was the creation of states with linguistic homogeneity.

The process dominated the 1950s and 1960s and arose from the difficulty of governing regions with populations that spoke different languages and had diverse histories and cultures. But today, the push for new states has less to do with issues of identity and everything to do with the rising expectations of an electorate that wants more from the governments it elects.

It is worthwhile in this context to look more closely at the Telengana agitation. There is little that separates this region from the rest of Andhra Pradesh in terms of language, ethnicity and culture. But in terms of development, it is far more backward and impoverished.

The rapid growth of the other regions of the state has created a sense of neglect and resentment that prosperity has not trickled down, that resources have been cornered by the upwardly mobile and more aggressive populations of coastal Andhra and Rayalseema. Telengana now wants control of its own destiny and more importantly, of the resources the state gets from the centre and those it generates.

Stats of States

Statistics tell us that there is sound economic logic for small states. Growth figures of the three new states created in 2000 show that all of them have recorded a higher growth rate than the national average ever since they were formed. Significantly, with the exception of MP, the mother states, UP and Bihar, too have done better with the exit of Uttaranchal and Jharkhand respectively. They have registered around 3% higher growth.

The political impact, however, has yet to be assessed. There is no doubt that small states are a boon for regional and caste parties. They get a level-playing field to challenge the might of national parties and often end up as dominant forces.

The creation of more states then is likely to accelerate the fragmentation of Indian politics, making coalition governments at the Centre an inescapable reality. This need not be a bad thing considering the increasing inability of national parties and their Delhi-centric high commands to provide credible governance or exercise authority in the states.

The initiative for the creation of new states rests with the central government and Parliament. But the first step must be the immediate establishment of a second states reorganisation commission that will redraw state boundaries using parameters to ensure better governance and administration. If the enthusiastic response to Mayawati’s proposal from Telengana and Vidarbha is any indication, it may be an idea whose time has come.

(The author is Senior Editor, Times of India-Crest)


Entry filed under: Demand of Koshal state, Discussions, Do smaller states provide better governance?.

Migration of labourers from western Odisha Small is manageable

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