It is rightly said that anything can happen in an election year. In the last couple of months we have seen Direct Cash Transfers scheme, Food Security Bill getting tabled in the parliament and now the move to create the new state of Telangana!
India, today is in an interesting situation. The country has completely lost confidence in its Prime Minister and the central government. It is often said that ‘the country grows despite the government, not because of the government’.
However, when you start looking at states the situation is very different. Many Indian states are led by strong leaders, leaders who are looked up to for their decisiveness, strong decision making history and on their track record of good governance – from Modi in Gujarat, Shivraj Singh Chauhan in Madhya Pradesh to even Nitish Kumar in Bihar who was lauded for his good governance ‘Bihar model’ until very recently.
Given the current scenario, it would be fair to say India today is more federal than ever before in its history. What this has done is that not only has it created disparities between states, but within states too. Take an example of Andhra Pradesh itself – which will now be split into Seemandhra and Telangana.
Traditionally Seemandhra always had a better exposure to commerce, to modernization, to the social reforms and to the enormous mobilizations that happened under the nationalist movement against the British. Contrarily, Telangana was under the Nizam and was thus not a part of the mainstream movement. Thus due to their British education, the Seemandhra region had monopolized state power and therefore better access to public resources and employment. Even after economic reforms of 1991, business class preferred Seemandhra over the regions of Telangana.
In such a situation, creation of a new state will help – the economically disadvantaged regions will get a bigger representation, local needs can be addressed better. Telangana has almost got its statehood after fighting a decade-long battle. The UPA had promised to create it in 2004. A state doesn’t just get created in a day. There are many steps in creating one – a state needs its own capital, its own legislative assembly and an independent administration.
A state can be created on emotive reasons like language, culture and history which are important. However, the resources in the state also need to be considered – job opportunities, access to the natural resources. Creating a state is an irreversible decision with many long run consequences. Smaller states do prosper if made properly. NDA formed 3 states, but in 2000 far away from elections. Thus they had time to plan, to implement, and the smaller states did prosper. During the tenth five-year plan, Chhattisgarh averaged 9.2 percent growth annually compared with 4.3 percent by Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand averaged 11.1 per cent annually compared with 4.7 percent by Bihar, and Uttarakhand achieved 8.8 per cent growth annually compared with 4.6 percent by Uttar Pradesh.
However, Telangana has been created in a hurry; many aspects associated with the creation of a state are not even thought through. There is talk of Hyderabad being part of Telangana while continuing to be the capital of Seemandhra for another 10 years. That is as absurd as it gets!
With the creation of Telangana the Pandora’s Box has been opened. Movements to create Vidarbha and Gorkhaland have already started. It is ironical that the Andhra Pradesh issue was also ignored by the Congress government in the 1950s. It required a 58 day hunger strike by Sriramalu, an advocate for a separate Telugu speaking state that eventually lead to his death following which Andhra Pradesh created.
India today with a population of 1.2 Billion people has 29 states, while The United States of America with a population of 360 million people has 50 states. Case indeed for more states. However, what we need is better planning and a second States Reorganization Commission.