Are We Heading Towards A ‘United States Of India’ ?

Posted on August 15, 2013 in Politics

By Shubhi Mathur:

India was created by consolidating hundreds of princely states. And yet again there is a pushover for creation of newer states. The 29th state of India was born on August 1, 2013 by bifurcating the state of Andhra Pradesh into Telangana and Seemandhra. This division was a result of decades of agitation by the people of Telangana demanding a separate state.

Telangana

But was this division inevitable? Or is it a consequence of electoral compulsion? Lets us take a closer look at it. Bifurcation leads to smaller states and smaller states ideally imply strong governance due to administrative ease. Also smaller states are found to be more progressive, have higher literacy rates and higher growth rates. States like Kerala, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh are good examples. But on the other hand, states like Jharkhand (carved out of Bihar) haven’t done well on the same parameters. Pro- division people argue that a country as large and diverse as India needs smaller units for governance. Creation of new states is not simply the acknowledgement of the cultural aspirations of the region but also an amalgamation of social and political factors.

The downside of creation of newer states is that instead of making borders irrelevant, it is making them more and relevant. Often, the creation of political and administrative boundaries become social and economic barriers. Issues like resource redistribution, sharing of water bodies and sharing of revenue system between the newly divided states sours the celebratory atmosphere and often becomes a bone of contention.

Recently, India witnessed agitations involving the creation of Telangana and demanding the creation of newer states of Bodoland (by dividing Assam), Gorkhaland (by dividing West Bengal) and Haritpradesh (by dividing Uttar Pradesh). But the question arises that why the clamour for creation of new states is so sudden?

Apart from providing administrative ease, smaller states result in decentralization of power. After the division, the new government has to concentrate on smaller area with lesser population. It makes the government more effective and responsible. This decentralisation of power is purely based on the Panchayati Raj system which is the basis of governance in India. Also, division results in regional similarities like sharing a common cultural history or a common language or belonging to the same caste or religion. These factors enhance the probability of living harmoniously in that region.

The state reorganisation committee listed linguistic barriers as the foremost basis for considering division of a state. This is why the state of Haryana was carved out of Punjab in 1996 owing to cultural and linguistic differences. But social, political and economic factors also hugely determined the creation of new states. Owing to trust deficit in the government of Uttar Pradesh and cultural differences between the hill tribes and backward castes, Uttaranchal was born in 2000. Similarly, Economic disparities, caste distinctiveness and uneven distribution of natural resources led to the creation of Chhattisgarh from Madhya Pradesh.

But in the case of Telangana, none of the above mentioned criterion holds true. It is purely the Telugu chauvinism at its peak. The creation of Telangana is also seen through electoral prism and the political fraternity remains skeptical about it. Many alarmist propagators conclude that this disintegration might lead to the reversal of history and bring to light the divide and rule policy of the British. UPA-II is also accused of putting the unity of the country in jeopardy by a so-thought reckless decision.

But the question arises, are the newer state agitations strengthening federalism? This is because the turbulence concerning the bifurcation may not necessarily be separatist. Whimsical parallelisms are often drawn about the states being like two couples asking about two private rooms.

But is our democratic structure strong enough to withstand this disintegration in the unity of our country? Or are we heading towards United States of America? These questions remain unanswered will stand the test of time. No doubt the creation of Telangana has opened up a Pandora’s Box. It may seem small and innocuous at the beginning but the aftermath may be perilous.

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