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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 10, February 27, 2010

Need for the Second States Reorganisation Commission

Monday 1 March 2010, by Ranbir Singh

The acceptance in principle of the demand for the formation of Telangana by the Union Home Minister on December 9, 2009 for defusing the situation created by the deteriorating health of K. Chandrashekhar Rao, the leader of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) not only led to a powerful reaction in the coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions of the Andhra State but also resulted in revival of the demand for Harit Pradesh and Bundelkhand in UP, Maru Pradesh in Rajasthan, Coorg in Karnataka, Vidharbha in Maharastra, Bodoland in Assam and Gorkhaland in West Bengal.

The subsequent decision to put it into the back-burner on the plea that wider consultation and consensus is needed, led to the counter-reaction in Telangana. The eight party meeting on January 5, 2010 has, however, been able to provide a temporary respite to some extent but not succeeded in solving the tangle which has to be seen in the larger perspective of such demands in other parts of India. Hence a full-fledged exercise is needed for a federal reorganisation of the country by appointing of a Second States Reorganisation Commission which should take into account various pros and cons of the above mentioned demands for small States by various regions of different States.

It is being argued that federal reorganisation of India into smaller States would not only fulfil the political aspirations of the people of the backward regions but would also ensure their rapid economic development. It would accelerate the pace of modernisation (in those States) by increasing administrative efficiency and bringing the administration closer to the people there. Perhaps, they were fascinated by the rapid progress made by Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh in a short span of time after their creation on November 1, 1966. It has been further argued that the accordance of Statehood to various regions would also resolve the problem of identity-crisis in them. This would enable them to develop their language and culture. It would help them in getting rid of the feelings of internal colonialism. As a result of attainment of Statehood, the people of the backward regions would be able to free themselves from the dominance of the political elite of the developed regions. The reorganisation of the country into small States would also make the federation more balanced by making the representation of the present large-sized States, like UP, MP and Maharastra, and the small States, like Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, more proportionate.

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But those who favour a reorganisation of India in small States seem to overlook the negative repercussions of such an exercise. The grant of Statehood cannot guarantee rapid economic development of those backward regions which do not have the required material and human resources for accelerating the pace of economic growth. Moreover, some of the small States may not be having the potential for economic viability. A few of them may further be lacking in dynamic political leadership, development-oriented bureaucracy and competent technocrats. The people of some of the small States could also be deficient in the spirit of enterprise, zeal for hard work and other qualities needed for ensuring adequate development.

The small States could also lead to the hegemony of the dominant community/caste/tribe over their power structures. There can develop, in such States, an aggressive regionalism too leading to the growth of the sons-of-the-soil phenomenon and consequent intimidation of the migrants. The attainment of Statehood could also lead to emergence of intra-regional rivalries among the sub-regions as has happened in Himachal Pradesh, religious communities as in Punjab and castes/tribes as in Haryana and Manipur, if the regional identity of the new States remains weak due to demographic factors or historical reasons or their cultural backwardness.

The creation of small States may also lead to certain negative political consequences. Since the strength of the State legislature would be rather small in such States, the majority of the ruling party or ruling coalition would remain fragile. In such a situation, a small group of legislators could make or break a government at will. The political opportunists, power-brokers and power-hungry politicians could hold the Chief Minister of a small State to ransom; They might extract too heavy a price for extending support to his government and cause political uncertainly by frequent threats of withdrawal of support. In this way, they could keep on blackmailing the Chief Minister. Almost every former Chief Minister and every present and former chief of a party organisation of the major political parties in the State as also most of the Ministers would nurse the ambition of becoming the Chief Minister in such a State. Attempts to topple the government would be quite frequent, often necessitating midterm elections. The case of Jharkhand, where even an independent MLA manipulated to become the Chief Minister, may be cited as an illustration.

Alternatively, in such States, the risk of centralisation of powers in the hands of the Chief Minister, the members of his family and the chief Minister’s Secretariat would be rather greater. And, so would be the possibility of a Chief Minister turning the State into a political machine and himself becoming its boss merely by purchasing the support of MLAs in one way or the other. He could do so by inducting most of them in his Ministry and accommodating the others as chairmen of various boards and corporations. The support could also be obtained, and retained by using money-power or exercising coercion. The administration of such States would tend to be highly personalised and politicised. Such a State would become a fiefdom of the Chief Minister. This type of regime has really been in existence in Haryana since its very formation on November 1, 1966—except for a few brief interludes—owing to its small size both in terms of area and population.

And last but not the least, the creation of small States would lead to an appreciable increase in the inter-State water, power and boundary disputes; and apart from the strain on their limited financial resources, these would require huge funds for building new capitals and maintaining a large number of Governors, Chief Ministers, Ministers and administrators—if the existing states are reorganised into smaller states.

Be that as it may, despite the above stated objections, further demands for Statehood cannot be denied after the acceptance of the demand for Telangana. History is going to repeat itself. The creation of Andhra for the Telegus in 1953, in the wake of the death of Potti Sriramalu, could not prevent the creation of the linguistic States in the rest of India; except Bombay and Punjab in 1956. Even Bombay was bifurcated to create Gujarat and Maharashtra in 1960; Punjab too had to be divided into Punjab and Haryana and its hilly areas had to be transferred to Himachal Pradesh in 1966.

In the given circumstance, the need of the hour is to constitute another States Reorganisation Commission to consider the possibility of reorganising federal India into States on a fairly rational basis. This cannot be ignored. Simultaneously, it has also to be borne in mind that the formation of smaller States has in itself serious repercussions.

Formerly a Professor of Political Science, Kurukshetra University, the author is currently a Consultant, Haryana Institute of Rural Development, Nilokheri.

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