Discussion on Smaller States
Right from the 1950s, an issue of national debate and concern is the formation of smaller states. Are they better for good governance of the country or will they prove to be a hurdle? With regional aspirations soaring, it is becoming increasingly evident that big states need to be broken up to make them more manageable units. While the typical response to this question is always that India may ultimately break-up, the reality is otherwise. Economic and social imperatives tell us that smaller states may not only be manageable, but also desirable. The following points can be considered in this regard:
1. For the critics of Uttarakhand, Vanachal and Chattisgarh, small is ugly. They say smaller states will not be economically viable because of administrative costs. However, these arguments are misplaced. Most of the bigger states are running with budgetary holes. If economic viability is to be the criterion for smaller states, then the Government of India itself has no reason to exist as it runs on a budgetary deficit. The same argument holds good for UP, MP, Maharashtra, Bihar and many other states.
2. On the whole, smaller states have done much better than bigger states on the development scale. Statistics bear this out. Bihar's per capita income is Rs.4,000, almost a third of Punjab. On the human resources development index too, Bihar's literacy rate of 38.4 fares very poorly against the much smaller Kerala's 98%. So also the infant mortality, which is high in Bihar.
3. When Haryana was created in 1966, critics said the state would not be viable, as its people have no entrepreneurial skills. But the state has progressed rapidly. Within a decade of the creation, it has become one of the most developed states of the country. Today it is not only witnessing a Green Revolution, but is also an industrialised state with Gurgaon and Faridabad being the most advanced and sought after cities. Ballabgarh is also industrially developed.
4. Similarly Himachal Pradesh, which became a full-fledged state in 1971, has done very well in infra structural and hydro development. Today this hilly state is one of the three major power surplus states in the country, the other two being West Bengal and Meghalaya.
5. Created in 1960 after the division of Bombay, Gujarat and Maharashtra top the table in industrial growth and infrastructure development. Because of their infrastructure, the two states attract nearly half the total investment in the country.
6. Political commentators say that India will be much better off economically if it has at least 45 states. In fact, smaller states are the need of the hour as most of the big states are unviable. In the interim, a regional council should be set up to take care of the less developed areas of bigger states.
7. According to an UN study, Bihar has one of the most fertile soils in the world, much better than the soil of Punjab. If this potential is exploited, Bihar alone can feed the whole of lndia and have an export surplus too. Sadly, there is no planning either at the state or the local level.
8. Again, Jharkhand's mineral wealth has benefitted only North Bihar. Uttaranchal gets back just one-third of the revenue it generates for UP. Chattisgarh is one of the most backward regions of MP, despite the most natural resources, rich forests and a huge scope of tourism.
9. The Father of the Indian Constitution too had opposed bigger states, for he felt that this was an impediment to development. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar favoured the formation of Vidharba and Marathwada from Maharashtra, the division of Bihar into two states, UP into three and MP into four.
The above points make it apparent that smaller states would prove to be more beneficial, both from the administrative and business point of view. There is no doubt that creation of new states will cause initial problems, but these will be short term and in the long run the country stands to gain.