Sunday, December 20, 2009

The will of the people- A case for new states

In a matter of 10 days, K Chandrasekhara Rao was catapulted to celebrity status. The head of the Telungana Rashtra Samiti was literally in the woods post the election debacle in May. The untimely death of DR. YSR and the changed political atmosphere in Andhra acted as the catalyst in igniting the demand for a seperate Telungana carved out of Andhra Pradesh. While a weak CM in the form of Roasiah was found wanting in a crisis situation, the charismatic KCR literally walked away with Telungana. When the home minister P. Chidambaram announced that a new state of Telungana would become a reality, he virtually opened up a Pandora's box of new demands. When the main stream media reported that there is demand for atleast 10 new states in the Indian union, the public were shocked. In 10 years time, you may see a Harit Pradesh, Gorkhaland,Coorg or Vidharba, to name a few. It is prudent to mention at this juncture that some of these demands are decades old. Let us analyze the pros and cons of forming new states. Again, let me make myself amply clear- I am not taking any sides in this debate. I believe that the will of the people is important here.

The pros- Let us roughly compare two large democracies, India and the U.S. India has a population of 1.1 billion and growing ,while America has a slow growing population around 300+ million. America is almost three times larger than India. In short, we have around 4 times the population of the States in about one-third of their area. Broadly speaking the population/area dynamics tantamount to a factor of 12. Now let us see some other vital info. United States has 50 states and India has a dynamic number of 29. Dynamic in the sense that India is still a relatively young democracy and there are bound to be changes till a state of equilibrium is reached. If we compare blindly with the American model, we may feel that our number of 29 is not that big. ( taking into account the factor of 12 that I had mentioned earlier).

Apart from this, India also has seven union territories. Of this, both Pondichery and Delhi have elected legislatures headed by a Chief Minister. This means that India has 31 elected legislatures and fully functioning bureaucracies in these places. Administrative efficiency is a big plus that one can get out of smaller states. Can we now imagine that Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka were part of one big state till the sixties and so was the case with Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh?. Definitely smaller states have increased efficiency in all spheres and have resulted in more focus on underdeveloped areas. India's massive population calls for the creation of newer states that would provide opportunities for a greater number of the population. While the post independence era was marked by the division based on linguistic seperations,the globalization era resulted in new constraints based on development thresholds. Jharkand, Uttaranchal and Chattisgarh were created for the massive potential that they held and based on the assumption that smaller states would concenrate their focus on the best pay off activities in the respective areas.For example Jharkandh and Chattisgarh are rich in natural reserves and it would make better sense to relieve them from bigger states like Bihar and M.P respectively. Whether this has worked according to the plan is a big question mark.I am not suprised at the corruption scandals emanating from these smaller states.

Now let us look at the cons. Creation of a smaller state is no small investment. It requires the recreation of a functioning bureaucracy, a full fledged legislature, construction of complexes to house the government- Name any expense, this has to be borne before a new state comes into fruition. An antagonistic creation would lead to bureaucratic clashes, red tapism and many other forms of debauchery. As always, some people gain more in this situation and losers will not be willing to sit back and take notice. A new state is like an orphan, separted from dad and mom and could be a recipe for potential misrule, widespread corruption and all things gone wrong. It may also lack the clout of bigger, older states and may find difficult to extract funds from Delhi. This is a great irony as smaller states are created for better efficiency and fund allocation.Imagine this situation- A big state like AP has about 42 MPs and a smaller state may have just 10 MPs. Calculate the clout exercised by 10 MPs against 42 on a level playing field.

Let us adopt a wait and watch policy and see what transpires in the near future. Will a seperate state of Telungana be created? Will there be a stronger demand for even more states. Is India better off being a federation of smaller states or a tightly knit republic of fewer states. Is the consent of the legislature required to carve out new states or is the decision made solely by the union parliament. Whatever happens, an Indian will hope for a better India for her people- an India where the fruits of globalization and hope are meted out to every nook and corner of our great nation.

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