Why is there a demand for smaller states in India ?


Federalism in India has some remarkable differences from the classical models of federalism established in the countries like United States of America, Canada and Australia. One notable difference between India and other federations has been the power of the Union Parliament to recognise the internal map of the country by forming new states and to change the title jurisdiction or names of the existing states. However, despite having constitutional authority, immediate action towards ensuring national integration and national unity did not allow the ruling political class to concede to the demands for creation of smaller states. Only after the mass popular unrest, process of the reorganisation of states in India was started on linguistic basis in the late 50s and 60s. During the next three decades, some of the union territories were given a full fledge status of a state but the long pending demands for creation of smaller states like with Vidarbha in Maharashtra and Saurashtra in Gujarat by and large remained largely unattended. The demand for Telangana in Andhra Pradesh has been headed to and the new state has been established from June 2, 2014.

Factors influencing the demand

  1. Electoral politics after the end of one-party dominant system, the Indian Federation is marked by politicisation and mobilisation of masses along territorial-based caste, religion and regional identities and its representation by the regional political parties.
  2. Centralised Development Planning Process in India has failed to achieve its aim of bringing about equitable development across and within the states. Advent of market economy, forces of privatisation and globalisation have made matters worse by accentuating regional inequalities in a big way. Relatively developed regions within large states have invariably benefited more than from the sources of private and foreign investments as compare to the regions on the periphery with neglected social and economic infrastructure.
  3. India has also been witness to what may be called the ‘secession of rich’ as regions benefited by attracting huge private investment and showing impressive growth, have started resenting the dependency of relatively underdeveloped regions on the financial allocation made to them. Local political elite complain of this reverse discrimination as other political dominant regions manage to corner financial and political benefits. In response, they ask for statehood or social economic and political benefits attached to it.

Today, smaller states are being proposed on the grounds of good governance and development rather than merely on the basis of linguistic or cultural principle. At the same time, regional identity and geographical differences are being projected as better valid basis for administrative division and effective political representation.


Arguments in favour of Smaller States

  1. Factual analysis of the development report of three newly states in 2000 (Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh) and Telangana in 2014 created shows that all of them have shown remarkable annual growth in the development and efficiency in the administration. Getting a state of its own releases the untapped or neglected growth potential of the people with the creation of new small state by getting a control over resources and political power helps people to realise their long neglected dream of development.
  2. Creation of smaller states with compact geographies and populations size and shows better and effective democratic governance. With its compact size, it is easier to maintain great awareness among the government about the local needs of the region. Linguistic and cultural similarity also facilitates better and equitable allocation of resources and services throughout the state. Homogeneity of language also allows easy communication, thereby assuring an opportunity to all marginal groups to air their demands and grievances.
  3. Smaller states also benefit in terms of better representation in the democratic process. Electorate gets a better preference in the election of the representative of their choice. In a bigger state, people from smaller region tend to elect a representative either from the ruling party or one who is closely aligned to the politics of a bigger region. Hence, problems of small region in a big state either remains neglected or unrepresented. This weakness of political process in a big state can easily be avoided by creating smaller states.


Arguments against Smaller States

  1. Forces like regional and linguistic fanaticism that demands creation of smaller states poses direct threat to the national unity and integrity.
  2. Violent movements for creation of smaller states or no doubt or expression of demands of religion for recognition, justice and autonomy the violence practice for it seriously undermines the unity of the country and makes political process of the region highly unstable and volatile.
  3. It is said that the smaller states are often considered as vulnerable to the pressure of the multinational corporations due to the small-scale economies and greedy nature of newly emergent regional political class.
  4. It is always observed that behind the creation of new small state, political expediency and opportunism of political elite is more responsible than the impartial evaluation of the development potential of the small state.


Demand for State Autonomy

At the time of Independence, the framers of the Indian Constitution were deeply concerned about ensuring the unity and integrity of the new born country. The priority was to ensure that the land of great diversity should not get disintegrated to the forces of disruption and disunity working within the country.  The framers of the Constitution assigned a pre-dominant and powerful role to the Centre in the federal set up and made provisions for the establishment of a co-operative federalism.

Commission strongly recommended that establishment of permanent Inter-state council and also desired that both States and the Centre should have the concern for the development of backward territory or areas. If the economic development of these backward regions this undertaken in a planned manner the separatist tendencies will be automatically control differences between the union and the states should be resolved by mutual consultation.

The trend of centralisation of power is resisted and challenged by states which gives rise to counter movement by the state to regain their lost powers and finally to a demand for more autonomy to the state. Such movements are arisen due to fight the financial resources of state, for political dimension and despite creating several new states and territorially defined autonomous councils, different tribes in the country especially in the north-east India continue to demand the creation of new states and autonomous councils.  Community conflicts over land and territoriality continue to turn North East India into an area of unending unrest and crisis.


Looking at the number of demands and autonomy made for creation of new small states, it is said that demands can neither be avoided nor completely overlooked all together in the Indian polity. Before accepting the demand for creation of new small estate demand must be properly assessed to ensure that it is not communal or sessions in nature, should have popular support with broad consensus, should be excepted to the parent state and should aim at the creation of socially and economically viable state. It is advisable to have second state reorganisation commission with some other judicial powers to examine and lay down objective and uniform criteria for sanctioning to the demand of news small state.

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You may also like to read:

Constitution of India – 1 – Aishwarya Sandeep

Offences against Property – Part 1 – Aishwarya Sandeep

Facts about Makar Sankranti – Aishwarya Sandeep

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