Division Of States: Good Or Bad?

The last few years have seen a constant tug of war between the champions of smaller states and larger states. There have been persistent demands for the creation of separate states of Telangana in Andhra Pradesh, Vidharba in eastern Maharashtra, Bodoland and Gorkhaland in the North East, etc. Mayawati even proposed to divide Uttar Pradesh into four smaller states – Purvanchal, Bundelkhand, Awadh Pradesh and Pashchim Pradesh.

But what makes this a Burning Topic this year is that on 3 October 2013, Union Cabinet approved the creation of a new State of Telangana by bifurcating the existing State of Andhra Pradesh. On 6 December Union home ministry sent the Telangana draft bill to President. On December 11, President reviewed the bill and sent it to Andhra Pradesh state assembly to elicit its views; gave until January 23 to respond. Not a very bright thing to do as there have been huge protests ever since in the State Assembly with the assembly dissolving everyday without any progress.

You should know that Telangana comprises of 10 districts, including state capital Hyderabad (proposal is to share it for first 10 years). The region accounts for 119 of the state’s 294 assembly seats and 17 of 42 Lok Sabha seats. To know in details about the Telangana Movement, follow this Wikipedia article.

Whether we get Telangana or not, is secondary and out of scope of this discussion. What is important is this move has started a rage of protests and filled new hopes in the minds of activists voicing for separate states all over India.
But, how does making a separate state make their life any easier or the governance better? Lets debate on this topic – Is Division of States good for India?

POINTS IN FAVOUR :

More targeted governance: Division of states means that every state will have its own leaders. Looking at the bigger picture, this means that a government who had to formulate policies for 5 crore people, will now have to do the same for only 2 crores. By simple maths, there will be more efficiency in the administration and less pressure of performance on the governance. Better administration fuels growth.

Proximity of capital city: It is a known fact that the capital city is where the people of the state go to air their grievances as all major government offices, judicial houses like state high courts and political quarters are housed there. A new state would more often than not, mean a closer capital city and thus provide relief to the people. This cannot be said about larger states. For e.g. : If a citizen in western UP were to be heard in any of the state commissions or courts, he has to travel over 600 km to Lucknow, spending large amounts of money in an attempt to get justice. Thus, reduced distances between the state capital and peripheral areas would improve the quality of governance and administrative responsiveness and accountability.

Proper utilization of central funds: In a larger state, the problem is that the allocation of funds by the centre can never be evenly distributed. So some parts stand to lose and thus remain backwardly developed, while the part which holds maximum political affiliate gains. Dividing states definitely solves this problem.
Increased Growth Rate: According to Planning commission data, Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) for Chhattisgarh rose from 3.1% avg growth over 1994-95 and 2001-02 to 8.6% avg since 2004-05. Even Uttarakhand shows similar trend (4.6 % to 12.3 %). Also, the industrial sector in Chhattisgarh grew at 13% over this 5-year period while the growth rate was only 6.7% for Madhya Pradesh. With an efficient and more targeted administration, growth is inevitable.

Better Living Standards: Per Capita income of people in Uttar Pradesh rose from Rs.9721 in 2000-2001 to Rs.17349 in 2010-11. The same for Uttarakhand rose Rs.14932 to Rs.44723, much better than its mother state. Over 2004-09,Uttarakhand and Jharkhand have done a better job in reduction of poverty than their mother states reducing the poverty rates by 14.7% and 6.2% respectively while Uttar Pradesh and Bihar could manage figures of 0.9% and 3.2% respectively. These figures speak for themselves.

Demand for Telangana valid: Farmers in Telangana have lost irrigation water and witnessed major power cuts. Within the current statehood, Telengana has remained backward and issues have not been sorted out, majorly due to a biased government. Many people think that Naxalites in the Telangana region have a role to play in the region’s backwardness. But the truth is, their movements have gathered momentum due to the lack of progress. As the area has been constantly neglected, systematic theft of natural resources has taken place. Division is a necessity here.

POINTS AGAINST:

Division vs governance: 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. Devolution of powers to the grass root level and an accountable bureaucracy is what you need for governance, not division. If that was the case, Jharkhand should have been a developed state. But that is far from true. Corruption in mining licenses and Naxalites haunt the state. Both Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand account for 68% of insurgent attacks.

Reduced Self-Sustainability: A small state is likely to face limitations in terms of the natural and human resources available to it. Moreover, it will lack the kind of agro-climatic diversity required for economic and developmental activities. All these factors would only make it more dependent on the Centre for financial transfers and centrally-sponsored schemes. Taking example of Telangana, post division, Telangana would become a landlocked state by losing out on major ports, coastline, golden quadrilateral and major railway freight corridors.

Cost of Infrastructure: A new small state may find itself lacking in infrastructure (administrative and industrial), which requires time, money and effort to build. There is massive amount of infrastructure needed for building up new capital and to make new states self-sufficient. Mobilizing capital required for such big infrastructure setup is a herculean task, which will add more pressure on the already dwindling fiscal reserves of India. Rather a systematic and planned approach for development within the current state can handle the issue of growth better than division.

Hurts unity: If states are divided on the basis of religion, caste, creed, language, culture etc, the whole idea of making “One India” as laid down by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel goes down the drain. Such divisions causes more hatred amongst the states, which is not favorable for inter state tourism as well as trade. India is a museum of cults and customs, creeds and cultures, faiths and tongues, racial types and social systems. Dividing India on such fragile factors can only lead to anarchy. We cannot go back to following “Divide and Rule” policy of the British Era.

Telanga, a political move: All the so called “neglect” issues are fuelled on the backdrop political measures. It is the vote bank politics that is misleading people. What is the guarantee that once Telagana is carved out of Andhra Pradesh, people of that region will meet all their ends? There are every chances that later on people from North Telangana would not like to be ruled by leaders from South Telangana or the vice versa. Division is not a solution, but a beginning of a new problem.

CONCLUSION:

The recent decisions on creating new states have been taken under political pressures, but the situation demands that the government needs to handle the issue by better political governance, fiscal management and rule of law. Division of states hurts the motto of Unity in Diversity. All thoughts of regionalism, sectarianism and casteism are a deterrent to united India and they have to be stemmed out as soon as possible. Rather, Division of states 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.
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