Economic Viability Is a Must
Once again, demands for the creation of smaller states by bifurcating bigger states are gaining ground on the pretext of ensuring effective and meaningful governance. But judging the issue only from a governance viewpoint will be a grave mistake as economic viability of the proposed smaller states should also be examined thoroughly before taking any step towards this direction. Otherwise, these newly created smaller states will become a liability for the Centre as it will have to ensure smooth functioning of the states by providing funds, which in the present situation seems to be an uphill task. In the early nineties when the then Odisha Chief Minister Biju Patnaik raised such a demand, former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar rejected it by questioning the economic viability of the proposed states. Earlier also, on many occasions it has been advocated that the country should be divided into administrative blocks (smaller units) so that fruits of development reach every section of society, but that too didn’t get much favour.
The recent debate over the issue has been initiated by Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who was the deputy chairman of the now defunct Planning Commission during Manmohan Singh’s regime. In support of Dr. Ahluwalia’s demand it must be admitted that in India some states are huge in size and ensuring proper governance is a long-standing problem in these states. For example, before its bifurcation into two, Uttar Pradesh was the only state of India which had a civil aviation department because its vastness made it very difficult for the government to reach the people living in the far-flung areas on time. Even after the creation of Uttarakhand, a proposal to divide Uttar Pradesh into four parts for proper governance had been made by former Chief Minister Mayawati which is still pending along with several other similar demands from various states.
A look back at History will reveal that there were 17 provinces and 565 princely states (which later merged with these provinces) when the country got freedom from British Rule in August, 1947. Today, the number of provinces in the country has been increased to 28 along with nine Union Territories, with Telangana being the last state created in the year 2014 by bifurcating erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, which incidentally happened to be the first state of the country created on the basis of language. So, there is nothing wrong in demanding smaller or new states provided the newly formed states can generate enough resources of its own to maintain themselves; otherwise all talks of effective governance will become meaningless. It must be mentioned here that shrinking of boundaries will mean shrinking of revenue too and it will always keep the question of deprivation relevant. This issue should be handled carefully to prevent the sense of alienation from growing. Thus, before conceding the demands of creating smaller states, detailed discussions should be held with all stakeholders to resolve crucial issues amicably. Any emotion-driven decision in this regard will never be able to deliver expected results, rather it will further complicate the problem.