The demand for smaller states has become a popular topic for a public debate in today’s day and age. Why? Well, primarily because of the media attention that these demands are able to attract under the banner of popular political leaders and mass protests. Who is to say about the credibility and genuineness of such demands? For all we know, they can merely be politically motivated for the interests of a few elite leaders. Examples of such protests where a few influential leaders have come together to gain the trust of the people and mobilize them only to misuse the support to gain political power are plenty.
But on the flip side, there are some demands which hold credibility and genuineness and have been a matter of concern for the citizens of the country as a whole since a long time. Telangana is such an example of a mass agitation. The demand for a separate state of Telangana is based on the issue of underdevelopment in the region. Its initial footprints can be traced back to the year 1969 when after 12 years of formation of Andhra Pradesh the people agitated for the first time for a separate state of Telangana.
The First States Reorganization Commission was appointed in 1953 to reorganize the states on linguistic lines. It is interesting to note that even at that time SRC’s recommendation was against the formation of a unified Andhra Pradesh. This is reflected in the following lines (an excerpt from the original document of the States Reorganization Commission Report)
"One of the principal causes of opposition of Vishalandhra also seems to be the apprehension felt by the educationally backward people of Telangana that they may be swamped and exploited by the more advanced people of the coastal areas. In the Telangana districts outside the city of Hyderabad, education is woefully backward. The result is that one must make do with lower qualification than in Andhra even for public services. The real fear of the people of Telangana is that if they join Andhra they will be unequally placed in relation to the people of Andhra and in this partnership the major partner will derive all the advantages immediately, while Telangana itself may be converted into a colony by the enterprising coastal Andhra.
After taking all these factors into consideration we have come to the conclusions that it will be in the interests of Andhra as well as Telangana, if for the present, the Telangana area is to constitute into a separate State, which may be known as the Hyderabad State with provision for its unification with Andhra after the general elections likely to be held in or about 1961 if by a two thirds majority the legislature of the residency Hyderabad State expresses itself in favor of such unification."
But unfortunately the recommendation of SRC with regard to Telangana was not honored and Andhra Pradesh was created. Consequentially, after 12 years people of Telangana felt exploited by the advanced region and polity of Andhra and retaliated for a separate statehood for Telangana.
Ours is a secular and sovereign country and we cannot have people dividing themselves on the basis of race, religion, culture and even language for that matter any further. But when a demand such as for Telangana is made on the issues of underdevelopment and exploitation by the more advanced section or region of a state on the predominantly backward populace then it calls for a serious deliberation.
It is a fact that Telangana has not received its due share and has been neglected by the advanced & developed region of Andhra ever since its formation. The agreements which were signed as a prerequisite for the merger between the leaders of Telangana and Andhra were not honored, development in the state was marked by clear prejudice and was done on the stake of the underdeveloped Telangana region which further deepened the gaps of the already existing disproportionate development. The available fiscal statistics of the state bear witness to this fact.
The stand of all major political parties prior to 9th December 2009 was in favor of the formation of a separate state of Telangana but ironically when on 9th December 2009 the central government guided by the consensus among all the major political parties announced its decision to initiate the process for the formation of Telangana state, a counter agitation in the Andhra region for a unified Andhra Pradesh triggered off. This left the earlier aligned parties only to find them taking sides along horizontal regional lines. We can in a large way interpret this as a problem arising from a weak political will and the overbearing power of a few elite individuals whose interests weren’t being served by the creation of a new state.
But a larger question here is, whether the division of states will prove to be a viable step or not? Who’s to say that the newly created state won’t be totally dependent on the central government for its successful transformation? Here are points for both sides of the debate.
For Smaller States
A larger state will have a bigger volume of investible resources at its command which increases the chances for its misappropriation. It becomes comparatively easier for larger states to select a few already adequately developed regions for investment of public and private funds while ignoring the underdeveloped regions. A large state is able to exercise undue influence at the Centre for acquisition of resources and also plays a dominant role in shaping the power structure at the Centre which proves to be unhealthy for a democracy in the long run. While smaller states are not as such able to uphold an undue influence. From the administrative point of view, smaller states have an advantage as it is easier to efficiently govern smaller regions. Recent examples in this regard are Uttarakhand, Chattisgarh and Jharkhand which have performed better than their parent states Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar respectively. The table below depicts how the growth rates in GSDP (Gross State Domestic Product) achieved by the newly formed states was much higher than what was targeted by the government while those of the parent states declined.
Uttarakhand Growth Rate Targeted 6.8 Achieved 8.8
Chhattisgarh Growth Rate Targeted 6.1 Achieved 9.2
Madhya Pradesh GrowthRate Targeted 7.0 Achieved 4.3
Jharkhand Growth Rate Targeted 6.9 Achieved 11.1
Bihar Growth rate Targeted 6.2 Achieved 4.7
But as such, size doesn’t always prove better governance as we can see in the case of Karnataka which with its large size is one of the front-runners in ensuring transparency and accountability at grass root levels.
Against Smaller States
On the other hand, large states ensure financial viability that is if a small region within a state does not perform well then it can be easily compensated by the surplus from another region within that state. Also, large states can handle the big infrastructural investments requiring large amount of resources in a more efficient way than a smaller state. Smaller states will also increase the role of the Centre as an intermediate between state issues as there will be more and more matters which would involve more than one state as beneficiaries thereby making it an imperative for the central government to intervene which in the long run may incur more and more conflicts. The creation of new and smaller states should not be easily permitted as it may create a negative precedent for other states which in the future may demand for further disintegration. If demands for division of U.P, creation of Vidarbha, Bodoland and Gorakhland are all considered, it does not necessarily mean that they will be better governed as Mani Shankar argues that only devolution of power can promise better governance which in turn is not determined by size.
As far as Telangana is concerned, on one hand we have the demands of people, which is concurrent with Nehru’s vision who said that there should be provisions for a divorce between Telangana and Andhra if Telangana demands for one in the future and States Reorganization Commissions’ recommendation which also supported the need for a separate state of Telangana. While on the other hand we have the weak political will and proponents for a unified Andhra Pradesh that goes against the separation of Andhra from Telangana. The government at the Centre cannot really do much until unless the leaders from both the regions of Telangana and Andhra come together for a constructive dialogue for resolving of the issues at hand. Further, until an amicable solution is prepared, people should refrain from encouraging farce politicians who come in the limelight with promising strategies and disappear as soon as their personal ends are met. A solution is urgently required but meanwhile we should not forget the basic moral values and a message of mutual love and respect between the people of Telangana and Andhra should be promoted.
@nitish9bhardwaj on Twitter
The Writer is a Civil Services Aspirant and a student of Political Science