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Small’s not all

While it is true that smaller states are easier to manage and govern, they also crucially need a new chemistry of development and much better quality of governance.

india Updated: Jan 17, 2008 21:38 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement that the cabinet is yet to take any concrete decision on setting up of the Second State Reorganisation Commission (SSRC) puts the hopes of regions aspiring to be independent of their ‘mother states’ on a backburner. The demand for separate entities has come from ‘Telengana’ (Andhra Pradesh), ‘Vidarbha’ (Maharashtra), ‘Gorkhaland’ (West Bengal) and ‘Purvanchal’, ‘Bundelkhand’ and ‘Harit Pradesh’ (Uttar Pradesh), if we go by the recent ‘promise’ of UP Chief Minister Mayawati. While there is no doubt that political considerations have strongly influenced the PM’s — and Mayawati’s — comment, especially with reports indicating that the Telengana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) views the formation of such a panel as delaying tactics by the Centre, there is no denying the fact that the bifurcation of large states makes good sense as far as governance and resource management are concerned.

The first reorganisation of states took place in 1956. However, states like Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand have been carved out since then, without the SSRC coming into the picture. Hence, the objection from TRS, which says that its demand should also be treated as a one-off and cleared without any further delay. The TRS has now set a deadline of March 6 for a formal commitment on Telengana by the PM, failing which it would ask its four party MPs, 16 MLAs and three MLCs to resign. In fact, a reason for demanding a separate Telengana forms the essence of similar such demands: that the region should be treated “on par with other parts of the state”. It is this sense of alienation that certain parts are always the blind spot of the nerve centre of politics of that state which had led to such demands. And that is not far from truth. Even if we leave politics out, it becomes impossible for any government to administer even-handedly considering the resource crunch. In some other cases, resource-rich but poorly-developed areas will always question why their wealth is being used to bankroll other parts of the state.

This is not to say that small is necessarily beautiful. The litmus test will always remain the quality of political will and administrative wherewithal a new region has. This demand should not be used as a tool to further political identity issues. Sound administrative sense should be the only criterion for such divisions. A small state emerges in India only when a big stone is broken into small pieces but the chemistry remains the same. So, while it is true that smaller states are easier to manage and govern, they also crucially need a new chemistry of development and much better quality of governance. Otherwise, it will be the same old story all over again.