Of divisions and development
Do smaller states ensure better development is a question that the people are asking.
Sharique N Siddiquie
India is a country where maximum ideas for development emerge only six months prior to the elections. Uttar Pradesh being India’s biggest and politically very important state is no exception.
As the election battleground readies, new promises were bound to emerge amidst fresh round of allegations and counter allegations.
When Rahul Gandhi sneaked into violence-hit Bhatta Parsaul on motorcycle a few months back, it became clear that the upcoming assembly election of Uttar Pradesh is going to be a fiery affair.
Leaving the Chief Minister Mayawati stumped by his surprise visit, Rahul Gandhi not only put Congress in the reckoning for the polls but also posed a challenge to the ruling BSP.
As his move gained popularity, Maya had no other option but to think of new ideas to counter the Congress’ ‘Yuvraj’.
She soon got a chance when the Supreme Court cleared her dream project of Noida park, which gave her a chance to project herself as the tallest Dalit leader of all times. As tall as her ‘idols’!
The ploy worked but only briefly. Soon, as the election scene began to heat-up, Maya again came in line of fire of the Opposition over the lack of development in the state, poor law & order situation , charges of rampant corruption and high-handedness of dealing with the bureaucrats.
At this juncture, when the going for Mayawati got really tough, she came up with another ace up her sleeves – the idea to divide Uttar Pradesh into four states, namely Poorvanchal, Paschim Pradesh, Awadh Pradesh and Bundelkhand.
Before moving on to discuss the merits and demerits of the smaller states, one thing that needs a brief mention is the way in which the resolution was passed by the Uttar Pradesh government.
Prior to the passing of resolution in Uttar Pradesh Assembly regarding the division, Mayawati didn’t make any efforts to evolve a consensus among the prominent parties of the state. She went on to decide single-handedly about the division in a clear deviation from the original practice of taking all stake-holders aboard, the same practice that was followed when the newest states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand were made.
Mayawti government wrote only three letters to the Central government asking for their stand on the issue but those letters were written at a difference of one year from each other and were not followed up properly also.
In fact, continuing her habit of resorting to cheap political gimmicks, she got the bill passed through a voice vote amidst throwing of paper balls by the opposition members. Immediately afterwards, the Speaker Sukhdeo Rajbhar adjourned the house sine die, making it the last sitting of the house before it goes to elections.
It was one of the most arbitrary decisions ever taken in the democratic history of the country. But nonetheless, the final situation is that the bill suggesting the division of Uttar Pradesh has been passed by the state assembly and sent to the Central government for consideration.
So this brings the pertinent question of which is better — bigger state or smaller states?
The biggest question is that whether smaller states ensure better governance?
The answer could be yes. Smaller states means the government and the state machinery will have a smaller area and a smaller population to deal with. This will ensure better accountability of various districts.
Smaller states will also mean that the people of the state will have better access to the state leadership and bureaucracy.
On the flip side, smaller states will also mean division of resources. The state resources which were earlier meant for the entire state will now be the property of one particular region. This will result in imbalance of the resources for various regions.
For example, after the division of Uttar Pradesh, the Bundelkhand region will face acute water shortage.
Development is one aspect where smaller states score over bigger states. According to the latest Human Development Index data, the states which are ranked at the top are Kerala, Mizoram, Delhi and Goa, all smaller states in terms of area.
So the argument that smaller states ensure better development actually holds ground.
In fact, an interesting point here is that the newly born states of Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh are performing much better than their ‘parent’ states Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh respectively.
Also, it must be noted that the bigger states of the country, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Bihar are ranked at the lowest in the Human Development Index.
This is one factor that goes straight against the idea of smaller states. India is considered to be a perfect example of ‘unity in diversity’, but on the ground it’s merely a farce.
There is a great sense of divide between the people of different states of the country. The treatment meted to the people of north India in Maharashtra or the killing of Bihari labourers in Assam or the differences between the people of various south Indian states are blatant examples of this divide.
So, for a country that is already divided in the name of caste, culture, religion, region and languages, will it be right to give them another reason to differentiate with each other?
This is one question that the promoters of smaller states need to answer.
Overall, the proposal to divide Uttar Pradesh is a very cheap political gimmick by the very shrewd Mayawati and without doubt she has got the edge after this for the upcoming Assembly polls.
The ball is now in Centre’s court which still has to find a way out. For other parties, it has become a choice between the devil and the deep sea, wherein they can neither support nor oppose this proposal.
Whether Uttar Pradesh will be divided or not is yet to be seen, but one thing is for sure that Mayawati’s political masterstroke will definitely benefit her in the upcoming polls. As for whether it will get her the mandate, just wait and watch!