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DEMAND FOR SMALLER STATES

The advent of new millennium saw the creation of three new states -- Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand (originally named Uttarakhand) and Jharkhand, carved out from the parent states of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and the recent statehood of Telangana. More recently, India has witnessed a renewed assertion from historically constituted regions for the creation of smaller states. The regions include Gorkhaland and Kamtapur in West Bengal; Coorg in Karnataka; Mithilanchal in Bihar; Saurashtra in Gujarat; Vidarbha in Maharashtra; Harit Pradesh, Purvanchal, Braj Pradesh and Awadh Pradesh in Uttar Pradesh and Bundelkhand comprising areas of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

 The demand for smaller states has arisen due to the unequal development of the nation.

At the time of independence, only a few enclaves or areas around Calcutta. Bombay and Madras had undergone modern industrial development rest were backward.  The central government adopted a whole range of policies to influence the rates of growth in poorer states and regions so as to reduce their economic distance from the richer states and regions. The government adopted the trickle-down effect but it failed to bring result.

Due to low rate of economic growth regional inequality did not dissipiated even after steps taken by the government.

This unequal access to resources and competition for that raises the concept of the sons of the soil' movements.

The friction has been more intense in states and cities where 'outsiders' had greater access to higher education and occupied more middle-class positions in government service, professions and industry and were engaged in small businesses, such as small-scale industry and shop keeping.

The economy's failure to create enough employment opportunities for the recently educated created an acute scarcity of jobs, and led to intense competition for the available jobs during the sixties and seventies. The major middle-class job opportunities that opened up after 1952 were in government service and the public sector enterprises. Popular mobilization and the democratic political process could therefore be used by the majority linguistic group to put pressure on the government to appropriate employment and educational avenues and opportunities. Some groups could then take advantage of 'the sons of the soil' sentiment for gaining political power.

The problem was aggravated in a number of cities or regions because the speakers of the state language were in a minority or had a bare majority. For example, in Bombay, in 1961, the Marathi-speakers constituted 42.8 per cent of the population. In Bangalore, the Kannada speakers were less than 25 per cent. In Calcutta, the Bengalis formed a bare majority. In the urban areas of Assam, barely 33 per cent were Assamese. After 1951 the rate of migration into the cities accelerated.

Analyzing success of smaller states (critical view)

  • The small States could also lead to the hegemony of the dominant community/caste/tribe over their power structures. There can develop, in such States, an aggressive regionalism too leading to the growth of the sons-of-the-soil phenomenon and consequent intimidation of the migrants.
  • The attainment of Statehood could also lead to emergence of intra-regional rivalries among the sub-regions as has happened in Himachal Pradesh, religious communities as in Punjab and castes/tribes as in Haryana and Manipur, if the regional identity of the new States remains weak due to demographic factors or historical reasons or their cultural backwardness.
  • The creation of small States may also lead to certain negative political consequences. Since the strength of the State legislature would be rather small in such States, the majority of the ruling party or ruling coalition would remain fragile as the present situation in Uttarakhand. In such a situation, a small group of legislators could make or break a government at will.
  • There can be the risk of centralisation of powers in the hands of the Chief Minister, the members of his family and the chief Minister’s Secretariat would be rather greater. And, so would be the possibility of a Chief Minister turning the State into a political machine and himself becoming its boss merely by purchasing the support of MLAs in one way or the other. The administration of such States would tend to be highly personalised and politicised.
  • The creation of small States would lead to an appreciable increase in the inter-State water, power and boundary disputes.
  • The division of states would require huge funds for building new capitals and maintaining a large number of Governors, Chief Ministers, Ministers and administrators as the case in division of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana (establishment of new capital at Amravati).
  • It has often been pointed out that smaller states are better placed to administer and respond to the needs of the state’s citizens more nimbly. e.g In the pre-birth years, Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh clocked an average growth rate of approximately 3% during the pre-birth periods. In the post- birth period, these states improved their growth rates dramatically too approximately: Uttarakhand 11%, Chhattisgarh: 9% – a good 200% increase in the growth rates. Contrast this with the mother states – UP accelerated 20% from 4.7% to 6%, MP from 6% to 7%.
  • In human development indicators also there is a mixed result where smaller states like Haryana, Punjab, Kerala and bigger states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, etc. top the list, indicating that Good Governance and not size , what determines development.
  • The votaries of ‘small ‘states argue that small state administrations are quicker to respond. However, truth again lies somewhere in between. That small states may not be very prompt in responding was amply clear in the recent unfortunate floods of Uttaranchal. However, some of the worst terrorist attacks have taken place in ‘large’ Naxalism – affected ‘small’, ‘large’, ‘old’, ‘new’ states equally. Hence, this argument is perhaps is not convincing.
  • Creation of smaller states only transfers power from the old state capital to new state capital without empowering already existing institutions like Gram Panchayat, District Collector, etc. development cannot be diffused to the backward areas of the states.

Conclusion

Though Indian constitution (and democratic polity) welcomes genuine regional aspirations, the plethora of demands for smaller states as a panacea for all developmental issues has created many administrative and political problems in recent times. Hence a rational assessment of the factors behind the demand, the success of earlier such division must become the basis of scientifically arriving at a formula (based on Population size, geographical homogeneity, strategic nature of the location etc), which will decide the future demands for smaller states.

Apart from this, the fundamental problems of development deficit such as concentration of power, corruption, administrative inefficiency etc must be approached with a new vigor of cooperative federalism based on "principle of subsidiary". Smart transport system, ICT must be heavily relied upon for better public service delivery, where people have a direct say in their development. This will address the problems of displacement and discontent among people and lead to balanced regional development.

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