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Formation Of Telangana:SMALL STATES IN THE OFFING?, by Dhurjati Mukherjee,29 December 2009 Print E-mail

Events & Issues

New Delhi, 29 December 2009

Formation Of Telangana


By Dhurjati Mukherjee

The big question about the need and justification of forming small States has oft been debated but the announcement of a new Sate of Telangana has set off an avalanche of competing demands from across the country. While some of the demands cannot be ignored, many are just intended to seek political mileage. Already UP Chief Minister Mayawati has suggested the bifurcation of the State into three parts, while the agitation for a separate Gorkhaland has been stepped up. This apart, RJD leader Lalu Prased, has lately revived the demand for a new Poorvanchal, comprising Bhojpuri-speaking districts of UP and Bihar.

However, the demand for Telangana and Vidarbha was recognized by the Congress Working Committee way back in 2001 when it accepted a report of one of its study teams. Over the past 60 years successive governments have tinkered with State boundaries and carved out new States from the old. The last three – Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand – were created in November 2000. Thus, today India has 28 States compared to 14 shortly after it became a Republic. Some experts believe that nine years after the creation of these States, there is reason to believe in the justification of creating small States to ensure better governance.

Indeed, all these three States have grown quite fast. Uttarakhand averaged 9.31 per cent growth annually Jharkhand 8.45 per cent and Chhattisgarh 7.35 per cent. Today, the three have become dynamic States and poised to grow fast. Special mention may be made of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh where, according to a report, “the share of manufacturing in their GDP has risen dramatically as they have attracted industrial projects …. Raipur in Chhattisgarh has now entered the top 10 districts of the country in manufacturing with two industrial estates at Urla and Siltara”.

The National Family Health Survey-3(NFHS-3) found that both these States improved access to electricity with Jharkhand recording a spectacular increase of 70 per cent from 23.6 per cent to 40.2 per cent between NFHS-2 and NFHS-3. In fact, the per capita income of Chhattisgarh in 2008-09 was Rs 29,621 much higher than that of Madhya Pradesh, which stood at Rs 18,051.

However, an argument against splitting the existing States in that the new ones are slow to mobilize their own funds from taxes or cess and depend heavily on Central grants. It is a fact that Uttarakhand, after its formation, joined the list of special category States which get 70 per cent of Central funds. But it is well-known that even the established States such as West Bengal and Bihar are still slow to collect local revenues that match funds from the Centre which sadly often go unused.  

The case with Telangana is that most of the districts which are to be part of the new State are underdeveloped. Only Hyderabad is the prize. However, it is surrounded by districts such as Nalgonda, Madak and Warangal, which are backward and need to be developed. It may be pointed out that the most productive areas like investment-rich Visakhapatnam and K.G. Basin will stay in Andhra. It is also a fact that the per capita income of the proposed State of Telangana (even including Hyderabad) in less than that of Andhra Pradesh.

It is necessary to understand the geography and geology of the propped new State. Telangana is an arid, resource-poor and landlocked area perched in the highlands. It has no minerals and its coal is of inferior quality. The Godavari cuts through the area but it may be difficult to funnel water from the river into the fields. Many suicides by farmers have been reported from this region. Though there are two power projects in the region, most of the power and water goes to the non-Telangana part of Andhra. Thus, the case of neglect and deprivation is very well manifest.

If development is the basic criteria and the experience of the three new States is considered, there is reason enough for the formation of Telangana. Andhra has a population of 90 million people which is larger than countries like France or Britain and its bifurcation is expected to ensure better and faster development. Moreover, the districts that are proposed in this new State are infested by Maoist activities because of poverty and squalor over the years and it is time to understand the grassroot problems, lay stress on social and physical infrastructure development and mitigate the sufferings of the common man.          

However, there can be no doubt that the new State would require huge funds for development. The region has virtually no native entrepreneurs but carpet-baggers from the coastal parts have moved in. The possibility of raising enough resources for its massive developmental needs appears quite remote which the Centre would have to provide, at least in the coming few years. If governance is sincere and honest, the new state of Telangana, when if actually comes into being, would also go a long way in curbing Maoism and other extremist activities.

Recall, Mahatma Gandhi had emphasized the need for political and economic decentralization. The Panchayati Raj institutions were visualized by him that have in recent times become quite active. But even these institutions do not have much financial powers as also decision-making powers regarding projects in their region. It is thus necessary that where development has been at a low ebb and where problems are galore, a new State could fulfill the objective of better results. Even corruption is expected to be lower and one need not harp on the recent example of Jharkhand former Chief Minister Madhu Koda. 

Clearly, there is strong case for a separate state of Telangana and the ruling Congress has taken a right decision. However, more deliberations are needed at this juncture and it is time it stops vacillating. Most experts, both political analysts and economists, agree on this point. The backlash effect obviously has to be tackled with skill and the demands such as the one for Gorkhaland or the splitting of UP. Political sentiments should not be allowed to take centre stage for demands for creation of new States where there is no economic or other worthwhile justification.

Undoubtedly, population of States is growing very rapidly and in the future some of these may have to be bifurcated for devolution of power and better governance. It is generally agreed that the ideal population for a State should be around 30-50 million. However, demands for new States need to be examined by an expert committee like the Second States Reorganization Commission and only then can a reasoned and judicious decision be taken. India’s federal structure may also become stronger with more States as no one State can wield excessive clout over the political system by virtue of its size. One cannot also dismiss the fact that the United States, with one-third of our population, has as many as 50 States and a strong federal structure. ---INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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