Is it time to divide India into 50 states?
Feb 21 2014
The birth of Telangana is devoid of logic or compulsion
Long before the Bahamani sultans carved out the Hyderabad state, proclaiming independence from Delhi durbar, this prosperous region in the Deccan plateau flourished under the Kakatiya kings for a thousand years. More recently, Andhra Pradesh evolved into a modern, dynamic and fun-loving state that was home to bright techies contributing handsomely to the country’s services GDP and exports.
What is left of Andhra Pradesh in the post-Telangana moment, now unofficially referred to as Seemandhra, has been historically ruled by the Mauryas, Kakatiyas and the Reddys, except for a brief interlude under the British, when it became part of Madras Presidency. After independence, when the Telugu people gave up their claim to Madras, till then known as ‘Chenna Keshava Puram’, the states reorganisation committee created Andhra Pradesh, with Kurnool as its capital. Today, it is one of the country’s most vibrant regions, ranking third among states in contributions to GDP, fourth largest in size and the fifth largest by population.
Twice in its recent history Andhra Pradesh has been witness to protracted agitation for bifurcating Telangana as a separate state, in the process, sacrificing 360 lives. Next came the phase of ‘Vishaal Andhra’, the movement for a broader Andhra state that also claimed several lives in bloody agitations lasting over two decades.
Parliament’s latest decision gives an uncanny feeling that history is set to repeat itself soon. The forced bifurcation does not stand socioeconomic and administrative scrutiny. It’s only that more red light bearing cars will proliferate on either side of the divided state and several politicians will find new life and relevance as power-crazed ministers.
Votaries of the divide have mainly cited three reasons for the decision: One, entire development work was skewed in favour of coastal areas at the cost of Telangana that form ten districts, including the greater Hyderabad region, that will now serve as capital for both states for the next 10 years. Two, people across Telangana would move up the human development index.
And three, they new state will protect, nourish and develop the distinct culture, language and way of Telangana life that’s allegedly threatened by the huge influx of Telugu people from coastal areas in search of work opportunities and for setting up enterprises.
There may be some merit in such arguments. Vast tracts of Telangana became the breeding ground for armed Maoists, especially the Peoples’ War Group due to lack of development work, decrepit rural infrastructure and lack of connectivity with the larger cities. The massive exploitation of tribal people by minority kulaks brought misery to the indigenous people. But such misery is not restricted to Telangana. It is also true of the Rayalaseema region with four large districts figures very low in human development rankings year after year, with the quality of life in these arid districts reportedly far worse than many sub-Saharan countries. In fact, abject poverty has now turned Rayalaseema and its adjoining Nallamala forests as the new sanctuary for left wing militia. This is precisely why the government has declared special status for the new state.
Given this backdrop, there’s every likelihood of the new Telangana state, with the IT hub of Hyderabad, turning into a hunting ground for Maoists, who use this belt as a peace zone, at present. Naxalite gangs mobilise revenue and administer justice through people’s courts in several parts of northern Telangana. One estimate puts their annual earnings from extortions and revenue collections at over Rs 100 crore. Maoists’ influence with money and gun power would only rise in the face of weak political leadership and the state’s transition through the next 19 years. A smaller Telangana state will not necessarily lead to better governance and delivery of basic services or create a complete economic map to lift multitudes up the human development ladder.
Some 14 years after Jharkhand was carved out of southern Bihar on March 15, 2000, the state with a majority tribal population is yet to find firm footing. Rich mineral, metal and coal assets have not helped the state’s majority citizens to prosper. Even now, significant areas outside the capital city of Ranchi are under control of armed Maoists.
Both the Congress and the BJP that have engineered almost half-a-dozen splits in the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha to ensure that the state remains under unstable political and administrative leadership. Telangana, it is feared, will experience similar turbulence. Having lost ground to breakaway Jaganmohan Reddy’s Congress in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions, the Congress party hopes to win a few seats in Telangana by tying up with Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), which is why it has hastened to push its creation as the 29th state of the Republic.
What Congress has not delivered to the people of Telangana for over 55 years, cannot be achieved with its newfound ally TRS. Telengana’s surgical delivery rejects the linguistic foundation of states, and will trigger vociferous demands for creation of at least 20 new states, including Gorkhaland, Vidarbha, Bundelkhand, Saurashtra, Mithilanchal, Dimasa, Kukiland, Kongu Nadu, Kamatapur, Tulu Nadu, Awadh Pradesh, Poorvanchal, Paschimanchal and Harit Pradesh, among others.
Is the time ripe to reorganise India into a federation of over 50 states?