- Ever since its independence, India as a country has witnessed changes keeping in line with the evolving times vis-à-vis the democratic form of governance with the social welfare of the people as a central focus. The demography has undergone tremendous changes since then. As such, the unique diversity of the Indian landscape was needed to ensure administrative machinery undertakes delimitation exercises for ease of administering huge swathes of land and growing population. No wonder, several integrated regions of the country saw divisions resulting in new states coming up largely based on linguistic majority parameters.
- Of course, political masters were more than happy to play ball as the formation of newer states meant an unmissable opportunity to consolidate vote banks to stay relevant in the public eye. We know extremely ambitious politicians never let go of an opportunity to whip up emotions, polarize, and/or create a wedge between the communities. We have heard enough of the secular versus communal rigmarole over the years. Unfortunately, the caste equation-based political conundrum in India cannot be overlooked ever and it will be a defining factor in every policy matter of consequence.
- As past instances demonstrate, clamour for forming a new state never ceases, and more so when a state assembly election nears. The latest on the matter is TIPRA Motha and its demand for a separate state of Greater Tipraland to be carved out of Tripura. Yes, the Tripura state assembly will be behind us as you read this. The party leader has already indicated that he is willing to ally with any party that agrees to his statehood demand. However, given that Tripura is already small and a border state, carving out a Greater Tipraland isn’t a good idea, both security-wise and administratively. Nonetheless, the idea of smaller states is increasingly becoming valid.
- Note that there are too many big states by area viz. Rajasthan, UP, MP, Bihar, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat, Odisha, and West Bengal are all too big to be administered with efficiency, and these can and should be subdivided into two or three, or even more states. If UP were a separate country, it would be the fourth largest by population. But its per capita GDP is closer to Kenya’s. Further, there is enough evidence to suggest that smaller states mostly tend to do better. Looking at the Eleventh Plan document reveals that the then newly created states of Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh grew economically faster than their parent states – UP and MP respectively – between 2004-05 top 2008-09.
- That was down partly to size, and relatedly, better decentralisation of resources. Another reason a Union of small states is a good idea is that such a political model addresses what’s going to soon be a source of tension in Indian federalism. Smaller or medium size states or small bits of one or two large states like Maharashtra and Gujarat are doing most of the economic heavy lifting – but it’s the larger states with larger populations that wield political power. This imbalance is bound to deepen after delimitation. Remember, India is a continent-size country. There is no reason why it should not have more states to ensure smooth administration.