Posts filed under ‘Do smaller states provide better governance?’
Koshal state demand is valid. Nevertheless, many Koshal activists are ignoring the limitations of Koshal movement. Here are few limitations that are hindering the separate state movement:
Location of future capital city: When Telangana state was created there was no confusion about the location of its capital. People of Telangana unanimously supported Hyderabad as the capital of Telangana. Chandra Babu learned from his past mistakes. He is now building a new capital city that will benefit whole AP. In case of Koshal demand, so far, there is no clarity about its future capital city. People of Sambalpur want their district HQ as the capital city; whereas, Balangir/Kalahandi people want their own district HQs as the capital city. In future, such demands will come up from other districts as well.
Decentralization of resources in western Odisha: So far, we are debating about centralization of resources in BBSR. Many people in western Odisha (especially in KBK region) are asking what about centralization of resources in Sambalpur and Rourkela. Western Odisha (WO) is following a similar developmental approach like coastal Odisha and Bengal; where only big cities like Bhubaneswar and Kolkata are developing. Is centralization of resources in WO benefiting the tribals of Kalahandi, Balangir, Nuapada, Sonepur, Boudh etc,?
Politics vs economics: The activists and politicians who are heading the Koshal state movement lack of clear understanding about politics, politicking and economics. Koshal state demand should be based on economics and distribution of resources. Both the activists and politicians are unable to explain how a separate Koshal state will benefit livelihood of poor and the village economy. Thus, most of them are losing political supports and support from common man.
A separate Koshal state must not follow the example of Odisha and Bengal. These two states are worse when it comes to decentralization of resources. Still, the elite of western Odisha are following similar approaches. I hope the activists and politicians will address the limitations of Koshal state movement.
Dr. Sanjib Kumar Karmee
Update 1: Response to my post from Saket Sahu
The points you have noted are right. But these points are futuristic point. I mean it may not be the cause of slow down of the movement. The reasons in the ground are very different.
It is for sure that it is a political issue. Forget about the economy for the time being. Recently a seminar was organised by Mahamallik babu and his friends at Anchal College Padampur and i attended as a speaker to present on the language. Also listened some of the speakers including Mahamallik babu and it was really great that scholars of our region come out with all graphics and data to explain the backward/poverty of western Odisha/Kosal region.
It is true that the coastal Odisha is developed than western odisha. And the BJD govt was showing all the data from western Odisha and demanding SWATANTRA PAHYAA (SPECIAL PACKAGE) FOR THE STATE. But it was crushed down in parliament.
Now, come to Kosal. Though i support the Kosal movement still i also agree with the view of AC Naik on Kosal leadership. The youth and people are divided by party. BJP, BJD, Cogress. KKD has failed to impress the youth or mass. I’m repeating the leader need to address why we need Kosal to the mass. There we have failed.
Apart from this, there are many complex reasons which stagnate Kosal movement.
If i will write here openly then people may hate me. Thats why i remain silent on this. Now the movement is in cold storage. It can be revive. Not a big issue but interest of leaders are important. The Kosal movement leaders are now looking to join other political parties for their future.
How much nicer it would be if Bihar, UP, Maharashtra, etc, are split into smaller governable provinces.
This won’t hurt to say with the Bihar elections concluded and the key Uttar Pradesh polls not due till 2017. Bihar and Uttar Pradesh need further subdivision to smaller states having 20 or so Lok Sabha seats. The principle needs extension to other large states as Maharashtra and West Bengal. Tamil Nadu with fewer than 40 seats may be border-line but division won’t harm.
Divisions will be solidly resisted by the political class and especially by regional politicians. Bihar politicians did not easily give up Jharkhand. Its mineral assets were stripped and cashed before every election. Nor was Uttarakhand peacefully carved out of Uttar Pradesh. At the time, the leaderless Uttarakhand agitation seemed destined to fail. The formation of Telangana was long overdue. Laloo Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mamata Bannerjee, etc, will defy fractionation of their states. But smaller states are inescapable.
Smaller states are easier to govern and develop. They may seem unstable from having too few legislators but Manohar Parrikar made an example of Goa with his unvaried thrust to economic growth and development which brought political stability to the state. There is every reason to believe that smaller states fashioned from UP, Bihar, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu will follow Goa’s stable pattern. In any case, they will each have two to three times more assembly members than Goa.
State elections are consuming too much national time and energies. Frequent elections and the negativities they generate is something all parties should get together and minimize. The damage caused to the national psyche is enormous. But super-sized states and their overweighted politics are also hurting national growth and cohesion. Bihar A and Bihar B with 20 Lok Sabha seats each would consume far less election time and exhaust the nation in half of a united behemoth with 40 seats. Uttar Pradesh divided into three entities will cease having a disproportionate influence on national politics. It is disconcerting that it controls a seventh of the Lok Sabha.
Wouldn’t smaller states come at a cost of a strengthened Centre? That is not so terrible. All the same, the Congress era of sacking state governments at will is over. The Supreme Court is intervening in cases of contentious assembly confidence votes where the speaker is biased. Information transfer is also so fast and far-reaching that a state deliberately neglected by the Centre has a powerful weapon of public opinion to fight back. Public opinion overwhelmingly supports economic growth and development. So the fears of a wilful Centre may be put to rest. But smaller states will definitely mean that they cannot use size to obstruct the national narrative of growth and development. India on the whole will become more governable and amenable to the rule of law.
If a spirited campaign gets underway now, perhaps the country will see more numbers of smaller states with better futures in the years to come. Politics in the states will also become less about power for power’s sake than good governance.
This piece was originally published at newsinsight.net and has been republished here with permission.
NEW DELHI: The HRD ministry has given its nod for an IIT, an IIM and three central universities among other institutes for the Seemandhra region which has witnessed widespread resentment over the Centre’s decision to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh.
The ministry has conveyed its decision to the home ministry which had forwarded representations made by different stakeholders to it earlier in response to the GoM on Telangana inviting suggestions on bifurcation of the state.
The decision would be placed before the GoM for consideration, sources in the Ministry said.
The ministry has also cleared an IISER and an IIIT for the region.
The move is aimed at striking a balance between the two regions – Telangana and Seemandhra – as far as establishment of premier institutes are concerned, though the end objective is to ensure that students derive maximum benefit, they said.
Rough estimate suggests an investment in the range of Rs 6000 to Rs 7000 crore for establishment of the institutes in the Seemandhra region.
The ministry’s decision assumes significance as the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh will leave the Seemandhra region without any of the elite higher educational institutes which are mostly concentrated in Hyderabad in the Telangana region.
HRD minister M M Pallam Raju represents the Kakinanda constituency in Seemandhra.
In their representation, various stakeholders had suggested that all central institutions in Seemandhra should be backed by a bill and all national parties should sign it.
“Most of the highly developed educational institutions are going to the state of Telangana. The Centre should immediately grant the above said institutions and they should come into operation within a year,” the representations said.
Even as several outfits have launched a full-fledged campaign seeking separate Koshal state following the Telangana development, the intellectuals and academics of Sambalpur remain divided on the touchy issue.
A seminar organised by Press Club of Sambalpur witnessed divergent views with some speakers favouring formation of smaller states, while many others opposing the idea. The seminar was titled ~ Small State and Path of Development.
Well-known economist Prof Dr Dillip Kumar Panda, who was formerly with Gangadhar Meher College, argued that there is no relationship between the size of a state and good governance.
“If it can provide good governance, a bigger state can fulfil the expectations of the people. On the other hand, several smaller states have miserably failed to deliver. The states of the north-eastern region and also those which were carved about a decade ago bear testimony to it,” he said.
“Small size of the state cannot guarantee solution to all problems,” he added.
Dr Panda said that corruption and casteism remain the prime hindrances on the path of development of a state.
“A drastic reform in governance mechanism and change in the mind-set of those at the helm of affairs is the need of the hour as it can bring development to all,” he said.
He pointed out that the primary duty of the government is to maintain law and order, and then to concentrate on development and nation building.
“In a democratic nation, the government needs to be more sensitive towards the problems of its citizens. When it fails to do so, the very purposes gets defeated irrespective of the size of the state,” he noted. Dr Panda maintained that it is not always prudent to blame the government for every ill plaguing the people.
Another speaker Mr Bhagabata Prasad Nanda, however, sought to differ from the views expressed by Dr Panda, while pointing out that smaller states are rather better means for development of the people.
A staunch supporter of the separate statehood movement, Mr Nanda pointed out that several regions continue to languish in negligence and only formation of smaller states can ensure their development. “Have not many localities developed after the bigger districts were divided and smaller districts were formed? The same logic is applied to the case of states,” he said.
Leaders of different political parties including the Congress, BJP and CPI
put forth their views on the matter.
The president of the Press Club, Mr Prafulla Kumar Dash, chaired the occasion. It was attended by the club secretary Mr Rajaram Padhee and former president of Sambalpur bar association, Dr Pramod Rath and others.
Following is a report from the outlook : (Thanks to Saket Sahu and Brundaban Sahu for the pointer)
Linguistic States: A 20th-Century Timeline
Dec 1903: Linguistic principle for organising India’s provinces figures for first time in Sir Herbert Risley’s letter to the Bengal government. Sir Herbert is home secretary at this point.
1905: Partition of Bengal takes place
1917: Dr Annie Besant strongly opposes linguistic organisation of provinces at the Calcutta session
1920: Congress adopts linguistic redistribution of provinces at the Nagpur session
1927: Congress adopts a resolution supporting creation of linguistic states
1928: Motilal Nehru Committee supports redistribution along linguistic lines
1945-46: Congress election manifesto promises provinces will be constituted on linguistic and cultural lines
Nov 1947: Prime Minister Nehru concedes the linguistic principle, but says security and stability of India important
1948: Linguistic provinces commission set up
Aug-Sept, 1951: G. Sitaramaiah fasts for creation of Andhra state
Dec 15, 1952: Potti Sriramulu dies while fasting for the creation of Andhra. The state is carved out of Madras Presidency only a year later.
Dec 1953: States Reorganisation Commission (SRC) is set up
1955: Nehru sends S.G. Barve to the former USSR for understanding the language policy as a state reconstruction programme
Jul 1955: SRC report submitted—14 states and 9 union territories recommended.
Aug 1956: SRC recommendations implemented
1960: Gujarat and Maharashtra come into being
1960-61: Sant Fateh Singh and Master Tara Singh undertake fast unto death for the creation of a Punjab state
1963-64: Language riots in Tamil Nadu
1963: Nagaland takes shape
1966: Haryana and Punjab created 1970-80: Other Northeastern states carved out
1992: Goa created
2000: Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand emerge as independent entities.
In 2012, 56 years after the very first round of the reorganisation of states, we seem to have a different ‘thali’ of questions before us. We seem to have arrived at the crossroads on one of the basic features of our federal structure. Federal unity is no longer a serious concern like in the ’50s and ’60s, but with a spate of demands for new states coming up from practically every corner of India at different intervals and with varying intensity, and that too from within states once seen as linguistic and cultural wholes, one wonders if we have slowly begun to move away from the idea of the linguistic state. Has the nation begun to transact with far more pragmatic parameters like development, economic growth, demographic size and administrative convenience, instead of mere emotion? Ever since the creation of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand in 2000 and now, in November 2011, with the resolution passed for a four-way split of Uttar Pradesh, haven’t smaller states become the buzzword? Should we become a nation of 50 states and eight union territories (see imaginary map) in the next few decades from the existing 28 states and seven Union territories? Is it time we constituted a second States Reorganisation Commission (src)?
It appears that there is a general recognition of a drift away from linguistic states and a simultaneous investment of faith in smaller states. Two recent incidents offer an insight. A few weeks back, the Kannada media reported that when a delegation of Marathi-speaking people from the ‘disputed’ border district of Belgaum met Raj Thackeray, he reportedly told the delegation to learn to live in Karnataka. Similarly, Rahul Gandhi’s taunt during his UP poll campaign that people from the state should stop ‘begging’ in Maharashtra was largely an invitation to envisage an economically vibrant state, for which the answer may lie in Mayawati’s idea of splitting it up into four.
The growth rates of smaller states in the last five years too have looked encouraging. Haryana and Himachal Pradesh have done well. The growth rate of a reorganised Bihar has been an impressive 11 per cent over the last five years. Uttarakhand has also posted impressive figures compared to its estranged ‘parent state’, UP.
In this context of new demands and reasoning, many have felt that it would make eminent sense to constitute a second src. Senior journalist B.G. Verghese says that instead of reorganising the states in an untidy and piecemeal fashion, a new src would take a long-term view. “There is nothing wrong,” he says, “in envisaging India at 2040-50 with a population of around 1,600 million organised in 60 states, with an average population of 25 million each, and some 1,500 districts.” He also suggests that the terms of reference for the second src should not be political, but rather “techno-economic-administrative”. More states will not destabilise us, but agitation and alienation of the sort we see in Telangana will, he argues. To go with smaller states and new administrative boundaries, the setting up of natural resource regions, river basin authorities and zonal coordination committees that hold routine meetings become important. “If zonal panels as suggested by the first src were functional, then problems like the Mullaperiyar dam or Cauvery or Belgaum would have been sorted out very differently,” feels Verghese.Historian Ramachandra Guha is equally enthusiastic about smaller states and the setting up of a second src. India, he says, now faces a second generation of challenges, and these pertain to regional imbalances in social and economic development. A new src would look dispassionately into the demands for Vidarbha, Gorkhaland, Harit Pradesh (western UP), Kongu Nadu (western Tamil Nadu) etc. Smaller states alone would not do, the emphasis should also be on granting real financial and political autonomy to panchayats and municipalities, he adds.
Addressing the question on who should be assigned the responsibility of redrawing the map of India’s states, Guha goes a step ahead and suggests that the new src should draw its members not from political parties, but from the law, academia and the social sector. Pointing out that members of the first src were the jurist Fazl Ali; author and diplomat K.M. Panikkar and social worker H.N. Kunzru, who were all non-partisan and widely respected, he says that the members of the new src should be people like jurist Fali S. Nariman, economist Jean Dreze, sociologist Andre Beteille and social worker Ela Bhatt.
However, Marxist historian K.N. Panikkar, even as he concedes that there is a case for smaller states for effective administration and equitable distribution of natural resources, feels that there is no need for a second src as such. He fears that it would open up a Pandora’s box. Panikkar is more for blurring the boundaries between states. “The border should cease to be of any consequence for the people,” he says. “Internal migration and economic linkages should dissolve the existing boundaries between states, even when they maintain cultural identity and administrative distinction.”
The agitation for Gorkhaland. (Photograph by Reuters, From Outlook, February 06, 2012)
The reorganisation argument becomes further nuanced when bureaucrat and India’s former ambassador to unesco, Chiranjiv Singh, puts forward a cultural rationale in place of the familiar administrative or economic one. “Whatever demands we see for new states may not be on linguistic lines, but there is an underlying cultural reasoning. Be it Telangana, Vidarbha or the four divisions of UP and Mithila, they are all cultural units. Also, don’t underestimate culturally distinct North Karnataka’s resentment over Old Mysore,” he says. Linguistically, too, these regions vary to a large extent. Braj, Avadhi or Maithili may have been reduced to dialects in the popular imagination, but they are anything but that. Surdas wrote in Braj Bhasha and Tulsidas wrote in Avadhi. So, Singh’s argument that the new src should recognise these cultural zones appears to be perfectly in place.
Singh further argues that it can’t be assumed that administratively smaller units will spur economic growth. They are not linked to each other, he asserts, offering a few examples: “Assam may grow tea, but the market is in Calcutta and Amritsar. Similarly, Amritsar is the largest producer of nose rings and, needless to say, people in the region don’t wear them. Haveri in Karnataka does not grow cardamom, but it is the market for the spice. This proves that economic linkages don’t respect administrative boundaries. Therefore, it is better that we reorganise on cultural lines. That will also rest easy on the collective memory of the people,” he concludes.
The question of src and the redrawing of the map aside, what has led to the decline of the linguistic state—at least as an exclusive logic? If one were to extrapolate the historical arguments of anthropologist Lisa Mitchell in her book, Language, Emotion and Politics in South India, language as an object of emotion or its personification in India, more specifically the South, was only a late 19th-century creation. But within half a century of the creation of the language-emotion nexus, Potti Sriramulu gave up his life for Telugu and Andhra in December 1952, and soon after, since 1964, Tamil Nadu witnessed a number of self-immolation incidents for the Tamil cause. Earlier, till the 1890s, there were no specifically demarcated domains for any language; there was only a multilingual milieu. How and why this creation happened is an interesting historical process, says Mitchell. Going by this, we could logically assume that language-based emotion may have run its course in a hundred years.
United on division The Telangana demand is based on cultural/economic reasoning
Writer-translator Kalyan Raman points out other factors that may have come to dominate the emotive linguistic field. He says the economic liberalisation in 1991 initiated three trends: inter-state mobility of unskilled workers, especially from impoverished regions to more prosperous states or cities; competition among the states for domestic and foreign investment; increased territorial claims over resources due to pressures of economic development. He points out the dichotomy of the present-day linguistic state thus: “On the one hand, as economic units, linguistic states are depending less on the community’s cultural identity for economic mobilisation to spur growth. On the other hand, cultural/linguistic identity is pressed into service for confrontational politics, whenever required. But the original raison d’etre for linguistic states—of community integration on social and economic planes—seems to have gone past its expiry date. I would say that linguistic states have morphed into something else, and that something else, because it is based on economic clout and political power, may be hard to dismantle.”
The hegemony of the standard version of state language over dialects and other minority languages also may have caused immense damage and dissipation of interest in linguistic states. For instance, when Karnataka celebrated 50 years of its existence in 2006, it only celebrated Kannada and forgot that Konkani, Tulu, Byary and Kodava were the state’s allied languages. Also, the backwards and Dalits, who were seen as guardians of local tongues, have moved on to experience the economically liberating energies of English.
Finally, it is important to point out that our very worldview as a nation seems to have undergone a sea change. We no longer imagine or define ourselves as living in villages, the so-called repositories of culture, but have made cities the nucleus of our being. In some ways, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (jnnurm) programme of the Union government is a metaphor for this transformation. Reporting some of the findings of the People’s Linguistic Survey of India, linguist G.N. Devy pointed out recently that Maharashtra is Marathi-speaking, but Mumbai linguistically needs to be seen as a ‘national city’ rather than a state capital. Ditto would be the results for Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai.
Professor of Political Science and Rector, JNU
It is time for a second States Reorganisation Commission that can redraw India’s federal map, creating many smaller states and keeping in mind economic viability
The current demand for the break-up of large states like Andhra Pradesh,Maharashtraand Uttar Pradesh needs to be examined seriously and dispassionately in its historical and contemporary context. AfterIndependence, the demand for the reorganisation of states along linguistic lines overshadowed such issues as size and economic capability. The Congress party had supported the idea of linguistic reorganisation since the 1920s. However, following Partition, Jawaharlal Nehru felt that the idea could wait since he feared it would foster local nationalisms, breed parochialism and undermine national unity. So, he argued for large states within a strong politicalUnionand a socialist economy that would enable centralised planning of resources, leading to equitable regional development.
Further, it was thought that the interchange of capital and labour between the richer and poorer sub-regions in large states would create greater equality over time. Thus, Nehru mooted the idea of merging Bihar and Bengal and keeping Maharashtra andGujarattogether. Even as these large blocs could not be formed, big states like UP, Madhya Pradesh and AP were created on the basis of language.
B R Ambedkar, on the other hand, held that the doctrine of “one language, many states” would enshrine the principles of language and size: there could be four states carved out ofMaharashtra, for example, all of which would speak Marathi but be of a viable size.
Today, the situation has undergone a substantial change. There are increasing demands for carving out smaller states out of the large, single-language states created afterIndependence. In the contemporary post-Congress and post-reform era, states have emerged as important players determining national political patterns. In many states, an upsurge from below has brought the hitherto underprivileged groups to power, creating new political elites. And in the era of coalition governments, regional or state parties have become partners in central governance. The establishment of a market economy, too, has opened the floodgates to private capital that has led to increasing regional inequalities and, thus, contributed to the rising demands for smaller states.
Economic backwardness of sub-regions within large states has also emerged as an important ground on which demands for smaller states are being made. This is evident from the immediate demands for the formation of Vidharbha, Bodoland and Saurashtra, among other states. These developments have been responsible for a shift away from issues of language and culture – which had shaped the earlier process of reorganisation – to those of better governance and greater participation, administrative convenience, economic viability and similarity in the developmental needs of sub-regions.
In this situation, the move towards smaller states appears to be inevitable and would lead to more democratisation. The formation of three new states in 2000 – Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand – has provided a fillip to this process. It also points to a new confidence in the political elite in comparison to the early years ofIndependence. Today, fears of the Centre weakening due to the creation of a large number of small states are unfounded. Many small states were created after 1956 – Punjab, Haryana and some in the north-east – which strengthened rather than weakened theUnion. Even as the older federal structure served the polity created atIndependence, there is a need to redraw the map ofIndiain keeping with the new social and political order. Reorganisation needs to be seen not as a task undertaken at a single point of time, but as an ongoing process that remains unfinished.
At the same time, the creation of a federation consisting of smaller states is a complex task and requires careful attention. Many critics have correctly argued that the mere creation of smaller states out of the existing bigger ones does not guarantee good governance and faster and inclusive economic development. Considering the plethora of demands being raised, it is time for a second States Reorganisation Commission (SRC) that can redrawIndia’s federal map, creating many smaller states and keeping in mind the twin criteria of economic viability and people’s aspirations.
Director, Indian Institute of Public Administration
If the administration in a large state suffers from inefficiencies, what is the guarantee that it will become competent by
merely creating a smaller state?
Why do political demands for smaller states and bifurcation arise? There are, of course, emotional considerations like culture, language, religion and a sense of economic and regional deprivation. But more importantly, politicians envision additional posts of power as chief ministers or ministers, leaders of the opposition, Assembly speakers and so on. Similarly, government servants think of becoming chief secretaries or secretaries, DGs of police, chief-engineers, directors and so on.
A common notion is that a larger share of central funds would flow into a new state compared to when it is a region in a larger state. Most also believe that a new capital city would provide better living conditions. Arguments are set forth that a smaller state with less number of districts would diminish the span of control of state-level functionaries. And that reduced distances between the state capital and peripheral areas would improve the quality of governance and administrative responsiveness and accountability. However, this can easily be achieved with strong regional administrative units in larger states.
Evidence shows that both large and small states have fared well and that poor performance is not necessarily linked to size. In fact, today, technology can help make governing larger territories easier and bring even far-flung areas closer.
Much more than the size of a state, it is the quality of governance and administration, the diverse talent available within the state’s population, and the leadership’s drive and vision that determine whether a particular state performs better than the others.
A small state is likely to face limitations in terms of the natural (physical) and human resources available to it. Moreover, it will lack the kind of agro-climatic diversity required for economic and developmental activities. It would also be restricted in its capability to raise resources internally. All these factors would only make it more dependent on the Centre for financial transfers and centrally-sponsored schemes. Further, increasing the number of states in the country would expand the span of control of the central ministries dealing with states and of party high commands dealing with state party units.
A new small state may find itself lacking in infrastructure (administrative and industrial), which requires time, money and effort to build. Some may argue that it is with this very purpose of developing infrastructure that demands for the creation of smaller states are encouraged. But experience shows that it takes about a decade for a new state and its government and administrative institutions to become stable; for various issues of division of assets, funds and of the state civil service(s) to get fully resolved; and for links to the new state capital to stabilise. The cost of this transition is not low and the state’s performance may suffer during this interim period.
So, the rationalisation of some existing state boundaries and reorganising territories may be desirable for reasons of physical connectivity. And even as this and other socio-political factors could be considered by a new State’s Reorganisation Commission, a change merely for the sake of having a small state is not desirable.
Moreover, we cannot fix a state’s optimum size on a whim. It calls for a thorough evaluation of physical features like land quality and topography, agro-climatic conditions, socio-cultural factors, natural and human resource availability, density of population, means of communication, existing administrative culture and effectiveness of its district and regional administrative units and so on.
There are numerous demands for smaller states in different parts of the country. However, smaller states are not a panacea forIndia’s myriad problems. Neither can they resolve issues faced by various regions and sections of society. Larger states may be, in fact, more economically- and financially-viable and better capable of serving people and achieving planned development. If the administration in a large state suffers from inefficiencies, what is the guarantee that it will become competent by merely creating a smaller state?
These views are personal
Following report is from http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/ajit-ranade-small-is-manageable/456194/:
Uttar Pradesh accounts for one sixth of India’s population. If it were a country, it would be among the eight most populous nations in the world. This fact alone justifies at least an exploration of the question of reorganising the state into smaller, more manageable units. But it is not administrative or managerial convenience alone that calls for such a split. As Niranjan Rajadhyaksha (Mint, November 17) and others have pointed out, it was B R Ambedkar who had laid out the case for smaller states in a book published in 1955. The book was a response to the increasing, and strident, demand to carve out states along linguistic lines across the country. It was written before Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu were even born. Dr Ambedkar was the original proponent of the idea of breaking up the various Hindi-speaking provinces or states in the north. Linguistic reorganisation, he argued, would lead to the creation of disproportionately large behemoths in the north and Balkanisation of the south. His proposal aimed to prevent such a situation.
Of course Dr Ambedkar did not anticipate the additional demographic skew that the country is witnessing now, with southern states having reached replacement fertility equilibrium and northern states providing higher growth in population. This situation is further distorted because northern states have lower per capita human capital. It is not clear which is the cause and which is the consequence: higher female literacy or lower fertility? Given the higher numbers in the north, sooner or later electoral constituencies will have to be redrawn. Untying that political Gordian knot, which was postponed in 1971, remains a problem. The proposed break-up of Uttar Pradesh is not about the demographic question of north versus south; it is about reduction to manageable size.
Dr Ambedkar had proposed that a state should have a population of 20 million. By that standard, 17 of India’s 28 states would need to be broken up. An international comparison may be useful. The United States has 50 states for its 300 million people — about six million in every state. Germany has 16 federal states for its 86 million, thus averaging to less than the US. South Africa has nine provinces for 49 million people, Argentina has 23 provinces for 40 million, Vietnam has 58 provinces for 87 million people, and so on. We don’t need to mention the more intense federal set-ups such as the cantons of Switzerland. The pattern is clear. India is an extreme outlier when it comes to the number of people in each sub-national entity in the democratic world. Just like states, our Parliament is also severely understaffed. It sounds crazy that one member of Parliament (MP) represents two million people. Even the council of states, the Rajya Sabha, has at least two deficiencies. One, it has too few members. Two, the members do not represent each state equally. Uttar Pradesh has far more Rajya Sabha MPs than Manipur; this violates the principle of the council of “states”.
In the case of Uttar Pradesh, its size and economic record have also led to another anomaly: each successive Finance Commission has recorded an imbalance between what the state gets and what it contributes to the national exchequer. The Commission’s distribution formula is weighted by population and poverty rate, and is, therefore, biased towards larger and backward states. There is increasingly a difference between what a state contributes to total tax collection and what it receives. The states’ own tax effort, through sales tax collection, is also one of the factors. But the difference is acute in the case of Uttar Pradesh, which alone receives almost 20 per cent of all fiscal transfers. Of course the Commission is responsible for addressing both vertical and horizontal imbalances. In this it is aided by transfers through the Planning Commission mechanism (the Gadgil formula). But over the years, a perverse outcome emerged in the Commission grants: the transfers were increasingly skewed towards backward states, implying as if they were rewards for backwardness. Recent Commissions have sought to correct this by introducing incentives for fiscal rectitude and economic performance in the transfers. The 13th Finance Commission has even found an innovative way to bypass the state government and give money directly to lower tiers of government. But unless a full-fledged amendment is made to the Constitution, such direct transfers to the lowest tiers are impossible. If such measures existed, then the problem of size and the imperative to break up big states like Uttar Pradesh would be diluted.
The evolution of a modern democracy like India will inevitably lead to greater centralisation. The rollout of the nationwide Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime illustrates this gravitational pull towards the Centre. A smaller but equally significant example of increasing centralisation is the Universal Identity initiative. Centrally sponsored schemes, which often bypass states’ authority, are also examples of the Centre’s hegemony. But such anti-federalist phenomena are common in most federal societies. In India, the GST involves a voluntary abdication of federal rights by respective states. The grand bargain involves sacrificing autonomy in exchange for a nationwide common economic market. In this context a smaller state can be an effective federal entity, wherein the GST transfers back to the state are more tightly linked to the ultimate beneficiaries. If part of consumption taxes goes back to the locals, it will provide an effective centrifugal antidote to GST. Also, it will become easier to transfer resources directly from GST to lower tiers like a municipality or a panchayat (village government). Smaller-sized states make this more feasible. In the absence of the GST-tied-to-lower tiers mechanism, and with zero constitutional backing, most (big) states of India have been lethargic when it comes to implementing the 73rd and 74th Amendments. Even though every state has a state finance commission, the recommendations regarding devolution of funds, functions and functionaries are mostly observed in the breach. A smaller state makes all this much less likely. Governance is inversely proportional to distance from voters. Therefore, a smaller state increases the likelihood of better governance.
Smaller states, therefore, make more sense on the following grounds: (a) administrative ease and manageability; (b) correcting historic skews in federal finances of India through downsizing the problem; (c) greater possibility of inserting appropriate centrifugal mechanisms to thwart the GST juggernaut; and (d) reduced distance between the governed and government. Many naysayers will cite reasons of history, culture and dislocation. People will also cite how the creation of smaller states leads to loss of economies of scale in governance, law and order and “expertise” capital. All this talk is just a proxy for the centralising force. The Uttar Pradesh Cabinet’s decision is bold, whatever its timing and motivation. It should be welcomed and other states should draw inspiration.