The creation of the new state of Telengana has lent a louder voice to demands for new states in several parts of the country. However, after the bitter acrimony and heightened emotional reactions both in favour and against the creation of the new state that divided party loyalties and made or marred political fortunes of many in the last elections – no politician may like to touch the subject of creation of a new state. Yet- ignoring these demands is likely to leave the people more aggrieved with the impression that people of Telengana were favoured with one set of rules but others are now denied by another.
The fact however is that after the reorganisation of States on linguistic basis after independence, there have been no other rules for creation of a new State nor there is any complex constitutional process to create a new State (approval by simple majority in the Parliament is all required) .
In the context of Telengana, many have even questioned the validity of language as a basis for reorganisation of states after independence. If the criterion of language was right- how could the same Telegu speaking people of Telengana want a separation from Andhra? Was the centrality of language in reorganisation of states was a bad idea? Or could there have been another basis for reorganisation of States?
To look into the question, let us start with the demand for new states. A list of States where demands for new states were voiced show that in 17 out of 36 States and Union Territories, there have been demands for new states (list below). It also means that people in the other 19 states and Union Territories (more than 50% of States) are happy with their linguistic identity or at least have no problem with it.
In almost all small States the demands for new States are based on separate linguistic or cultural identity (the cultural differences are mainly due to speaking a different language). Garos in Meghalaya want Garoland, Bodos, Dimasas and Karbis in Assam want Bodoland, Dimaraji and Kabi Anglong respectively. Gorkhas in West Bengal want Gorkhaland and Ladakhis want Ladakh State. Each of these groups is a distinct linguistic group in their respective states. Whether such relatively small groups could qualify for new States is a matter of Economic viability, but they certainly prove the point that mother tongue is a very strong identity, particularly where there is a concentration of people speaking the same tongue and therefore, is the strongest argument for reorganisation of States and that our founding fathers were not wrong.
Both the facts above, perhaps remove any doubt about the validity of language as basis of States. But what about the demand for new States where language is no issue like Telengana?
Look at the list (at http://beyondgdp.blogspot.in/2014/06/the-50-million-rule-urgent-need-after.html) and the answer is clear- in those States where language is not an issue, demand for new States arises in most populous States- UP, Maharashtra, Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Gujarat. Most significantly- the threshold for such demands seems to gain strength at the point when population in a State crosses the 50 million mark.
Therefore, while in small States – new States are demanded to protect linguistic identities- the reason in big States is distant and unreachable Administration although the agitators may find excuses in very minor differences in language, or caste etc. to push their demand. Proof that people suffer because the Administration cannot have an effective control in such big states, is not difficult to find. One look at the most unruly state of the country UP, irrespective of the party governing it and it would tell the story. In the case of West Bengal, however- demand for Gorkhaland is to double count- both of the criteria of language and population.
In the ultimate analysis, however- it is the distance between the people and state administration, whether due to speaking different languages or geographical distance and pressure of far too many people that motivates people to demand new State so that they can have an administration closer to them. Both types of distances are difficult to negotiate, but language and cultural differences are easier to reduce with a sensitive approach and policies of the administration. The other type of distance cannot be bridged by policies. There may not be any other option than breaking them up into smaller states.
The demand for new states are therefore best dealt by a two pronged approach- ensure sensitive policies and administration to marginalised and aggrieved linguistic groups on one hand and firmly follow the population threshold of 50 million to create new states.
By the ‘50 million’ rule , four most populous states are long due for division into smaller states.
UP is an ideal candidate for conversion into 4 or 5 new States, Maharashtra, Bihar and West Bengal into two each. Similarly- making future plans for similar exercise in the next decade for Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Gujarat will save the government a lot of troubles in the future.
By Prabhat Sharma