Small States, Better Governance

By Prabhakar Timble
03 August 2011 10:55 IST

Starting with 16 states in 1971, India today is a union of 28 states with the creation of Chhatishgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand in the year 2000. With the development experience of the new states vis-à-vis the stagnation these regions faced when they were part of the linguistic-based larger group of states, many neglected regions rightly feel that they need their own governments if the regions and people have to thrive.

Though earlier, the states were re-organised on linguistic basis, the big states have proved to be unwieldy in terms of governance. Politicians in power are also found wanting in working beyond their elected constituencies. The success stories of development, enrichment and empowerment of the limited pockets in the big states, many times at the cost of the resources of the neglected regions in the state is the cause of the ‘demonstration effect’ generating similar aspirations. Hence, economic backwardness due to neglect coupled with cultural homogeneity of such regions is fomenting genuine demands for new states.

Reorganise for balance

Gorkhas in West Bengal are demanding Gorkhaland, the Bodo tribe demand Bodoland separate from Assam, Bundelkhand and Harit Pradesh are being claimed as separate states from Uttar Pradesh.  The long standing cry for Telengana from Andhra Pradesh is today a hot potato tossed from Hyderabad to New Delhi. Despite constitutional guarantees to Vidarbha and Saurashtra, these regions in Maharashtra and Gujarat respectively remain uncared for by successive governments.

Apart from these demands, maybe India should go for a new re-organisation of States. At present, U.P., Maharashtra, West Bengal, A.P. are bigger than France or Great Britain. Census wise, U.P. has overtaken Russia or Pakistan. The percentage of population below the poverty line in Maharashtra is higher than the national average. Probably, if you eject ‘amchi Mumbai’, Maharashtra would be an underdeveloped state. With narrow parochialism of the Shiv Sena, the competition between this Sena and the Raj Thackeray Maharashtra Navnirman Sena for the regional chauvinism crown and violence with Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi speaking immigrants is a stumbling block for talent to land in Mumbai. Added to this is the overcrowded infrastructure and deteriorating quality of life. Working out a policy for optimum sized States rather than a response to burning of buses, agitations and destruction of public property would facilitate the development of all the regions.

The great India bazaar

A summing up of India could be drawn from the words of the American humorist, Mark Twain: “This is India! The land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth and fabulous poverty, of splendour and rags, of palaces and hovels, of famine and pestilence, of genie and giants and Aladdin lamps, of tigers and elephants, the cobra and the jungle, the country of a hundred nations and a hundred tongues, of a thousand religions and two million gods, cradle of the human race, birth place of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great grandmother of tradition, whose yesterdays bear date with the mouldering antiquities of the rest of the nations-----the one sole country under the sun that is endowed with an imperishable interest for alien persons, four-lettered and ignorant, wise and fool, rich and poor, bond and free, the one land all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for all the shows of all the rest of the globe combined.”

This picture of India is not a weakness. It is strength. In economic terms, India is a very big, diverse and great Bazaar.  Regional autonomy is required for development of all regions mainly due to the size and diversity.  It is against this background that we should evaluate the demand for smaller states.

Empirical studies have shown that regions which were parts of big states had high rates of economic growth once they were formed into separate states. This was true of Haryana after delinking from Punjab. The carving of Chhattishgarh and Jharkhand made the desired difference to the economic development of these two otherwise neglected regions. The other benefits are in terms of improvement in quality of administration, accessibility to citizens and grassroots representation in democratic institutions.

I do not wish to suggest that economic development of such regions would not have been possible if they had continued to remain under the umbrella of the earlier parent State. However, looking at the present values and lack of vision of the political leadership, it seems to be a distant dream. We have seen the ministers in the Union government work as ministers for respective States from where they get elected and the ministers in the State government cannot see much beyond the territorial limits of their constituencies. The Konkan railway had to wait for Madhu Dandavate and of late Mamata’s mind could clearly see only West Bengal. The beauty is that the Indian elite have learnt to live with India’s poor and the poor have learnt to live with their abysmal poverty. The media of late is cool to beam programme which only caters to the tastes of the elite. It takes special care to ensure that no minute of 24X7 is contaminated with human interest stories of the 45% of India’s underprivileged. It makes business sense since the poor have no hope of buying the goods advertised on our channels.

Small is politics but……

Small is beautiful but small is also politics. Small states are vulnerable to be taken over by closed groups or lobbies. This can defeat the purpose of establishing small states and the benefits associated with it mainly for the neglected regions and people. A few greedy politicians in collusion with mining and real estate lobbies can derail empowerment of the poor in the otherwise neglected regions. This minority group can have a pervasive hold on all democratic institutions starting with the local governing bodies. The only corrective for this is active civil society and vigilant institutions. Side by side with regional autonomy, people should eschew narrow regional jingoism which may erode the Indian republic.

Small states are not a threat to a strong nation. Let us also understand that a strong nation does not exist, it has to be created. Regional aspirations in a diverse nation should be respected. But, we should not gloat in matters such as the ‘telugu or tamil’ pride. The tone and body language in which we shout “maharashtra mazza ani mi maharashtracha” exhibiting arrogance towards people from other States is like winning the battle for the State and losing the war for the nation. The RSS oft repeated “akhandh bharat” and “Hindu rashtra” keeps an otherwise rich national human resource away from building the republic. In the recent years, the Congress could throw largely pygmies as leaders at the national and state levels. The appeal of the cudgel of secularism that this party claims to hold is brutally washed in the downpour of corruption at all levels.

To conclude, I would say that India should go for a reorganisation of states to ensure development of all regions and the belts which have remained backward even after 64 years of independence. The risk if any does not lie in small states. It lies in the growing feeling that politics is the “note chapne ki machine”.

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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Previous Comments

Smaller States like Goa --with 40 seats in the Assembly--has no justification and this arrangement is a heavy drain on the public exchequer. May be small States could have been made by providing for lesser number of MLAs as the larger number invariably leads to burden on tax payers. Besides the other biggest disadvantages of smaller State--is the formation of smaller Constituencies with each constituency of just a few thousand voters--making it so easy for the corrupt politicians to take care of their own vote banks consisting just of a few thousand voters in each. The winning of elections thus never depends on ideologies and principles but just how well one can feed a few thousand voters....May be this is the reason why one can see the same corrupt faces repeatedly winning the elections and grabbing the seats of power bringing in the dynasty rule....A disgrace for any civilized society......

- vishwas prabhudesai, loliem | 07 th August 2011 17:29

 

Perhaps India could start by giving Goa "special status" and thereafter Goa becoming a Republic.

Goa has all the ingridients to become a successful Republic.

What holds it back, is a batch of Corrupt ,selfish. visionless and uneducated Goan Politicians.Nearly all are school drop-outs and t in power through corrupt money power.

Dynasties long disappeared around India and the world too. However in Goa ,the Politicians wish to bring it back.

They have not learnt their lessons from History.

I doubt the Goans will accept the Churchill , Rane or Monsratte Dynasty or the others that are contemplating it.

- N.Fernandes, London | 07 th August 2011 01:30

 

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