INDIA SPECIAL/REDRAWING THE MAP
A child carries empty containers to collect drinking water near Chilla village in
the Bundelkhand region, which may form a separate state in Uttar Pradesh
‘Time for a second states
has led to increasing regional inequalities and, thus,
contributed to the rising demands for smaller states.
Economic backwardness of sub-regions within large
states has also emerged as an important ground on
which demands for smaller states are being made.
This is evident from the immediate demands for the
formation of Vidharbha, Bodoland and Saurashtra,
among other states.
These developments have been responsible for a shift
away from issues of language and culture — which had
shaped the earlier process of reorganization — to those
of better governance and greater participation, administrative convenience, economic viability and similarity
in the developmental needs of sub-regions.
In this situation, the move towards smaller states
appears to be inevitable and would lead to democratization. The formation of three new states in 2000 —
Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand — has provided a fillip to this process.
It also points to a new confidence in the political elite
in comparison to the early years of independence.
Today, fears of the federal government weakening due
to the creation of a large number of small states are
Many small states were created after 1956 — Punjab,
Haryana and some in the North-East — which
strengthened rather than weakened the Federation.
Reorganization needs to be seen not as a task undertaken at a single point of time, but as an ongoing
process that remains unfinished.
The creation of a federation consisting of smaller
states is a complex task and requires careful attention.
Many critics have correctly argued that the mere creation of smaller states out of the existing bigger ones
does not guarantee good governance and faster and
inclusive economic development but considering the
Citizens celebrate the birth of Jharkhand in 2000.
The mineral-rich state was carved out of Bihar after over a century
of struggle by tribals in the region
plethora of demands being raised, it is time for a second
states reorganization commission to redraw India’s federal map.
Sudha Pai is a professor of political
‘Smaller states not a panacea for India’s myriad problems’
science and rector at the Jawaharlal National
University, New Delhi.
Arguments are set forth that a smaller state with less number
of districts would diminish the span of control of state-level
functionaries. And that reduced distances between the state capital and peripheral areas would improve the quality of governance and administrative responsiveness and accountability.
However, this can easily be achieved with strong regional
administrative units in larger states.
Evidence shows that both large and small states have fared
well and that poor performance is not necessarily linked to size.
Technology can help make governing larger territories easier
and bring even far-flung areas closer.
More than the size of a state, it is the quality of governance and
administration, the diverse talent available within the state’s
population, and the leadership’s drive and vision that determine
whether a particular state performs better than the others.
A small state is likely to face limitations in terms of the natural (physical) and human resources available to it. Moreover, it
will lack the kind of agro-climatic diversity required for economic and developmental activities.
It would also be restricted in its capability to raise resources
internally. All these factors would only make it more dependent
on the federal government for financial transfers and federally-sponsored schemes.
Further, increasing the number of states in the country would
expand the span of control of the federal ministries dealing with
states and of party high commands dealing with state party
A new small state may find itself lacking in infrastructure
(administrative and industrial), which requires time, money and
effort to build.
Some may argue that it is with this purpose of developing
infrastructure that demands for the creation of smaller states are
encouraged. But experience shows that it takes about a decade
for a new state and its government and administrative institutions to become stable due to issues of division of assets, funds
and of the state civil service(s). The cost of this transition is not
low and the state’s performance may suffer during this interim
So, the rationalization of some existing state boundaries and
reorganizing territories may be desirable for reasons of physical
connectivity. And even as this and other socio-political factors
could be considered by a new state’s reorganization commission,
a change merely for the sake of having a small state is not desirable.
We cannot fix a state’s optimum size on a whim. It calls for a
thorough evaluation of physical features like land quality and
topography, agro-climatic conditions, socio-cultural factors, natural and human resource availability, density of population,
means of communication, existing administrative culture and
effectiveness of its district and regional administrative units and
There are numerous demands for smaller states in different
parts of the country. However, smaller states are not a panacea
for India’s myriad problems.
Neither can they resolve issues faced by various regions and
sections of society. Larger states may be, in fact, more economically — and financially — viable and better capable of serving
people and achieving planned development.
If the administration in a large state suffers from inefficiencies,
what is the guarantee that it will become competent by merely
creating a smaller state?
Rakesh Hooja is director, Indian Institute of Public
By arrangement with Business Standard