THE MOVING FINGER WRITES
By M.V. Kamath
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayavati is nothing if not clever. Charged with corruption she sacks senior after senior Minister in her cabinet on the same grounds. Blamed for poor government she has asked for the further division of Uttar Pradesh, the biggest in the country, with 75 districts, 80 Lok Sabha seats, 403 Assembly seats, a population of 200 million, which puts several of the 192 member states of the United Nations General Assembly to shade. That such a state can exist and function at all must seem to be a wonder to them.
Again, when Rahul attacks her – all is fair in love, war and elections – she reciprocates in ample measure by taking a potshot at dynasticism. She told a Lucknow audience that if any of her family members, whether father, mother, brother, sister or relative even dreamt of becoming an MP or an MLA, she will and her relationship with them. It may be theatrics but then what does one expect from a politician? In the matter of division of Uttar Pradesh, Mayavati has said nothing new. It will be remembered that as long ago as 1953, one of the three members of the States Reorganisation Commission, KM Panikkar had sought the bifurcation of then United Provinces to avoid imbalance in the Indian federal system on account of the dominant role UP could seek on the strength of the numbers in Parliament, only to get his comeuppance from-one-time Chief Minister of United Provinces and later to be Home Minister in Delhi Govind Vallabh Pant, whose emotional reaction was that “this land of Ganga and Yamuna, Rama and Krishna would never be divided”.
What Pant would have said about the creation of Uttarakhand is anybody’s guess. Now Mayavati has forgotten about Rama and Krishna and wants Uttar Pradesh to be freshly divided into four states: Paschim Pradesh (17 districts), Awadh Pradesh (21 districts), Bundelkhand (11 districts) and purvanchal (26 districts) knowing fully well that she will still command support in each state because of the even distribution of the dalit population which is 18.7 per cent in Paschim Pradesh, 21.15 per cent in Purvanchal, 25.14 per cent in Bundelkhand and 26.1 per cent in Awadh Pradesh. It will be the Samajwadi Party with the uneven distribution of the Yadav community that will suffer most. With the four-fold division it would be Mayavati who would gain most, which is understandably one good reason why Mulayam Singh Yadav is opposed to her idea. One can endlessly argue over the need to break up Uttar Pradesh, considering it is the heart of Hindi-speaking India and there are millions, perhaps, who have an unspoken attachment to it, remembering that it has provided the maximum number of Prime Ministers.
One charge made against Mayavati is that she is politicising an emotive issue. There is something to be said for it. but we are increasingly coming to realise that feudal concepts that were once held sacrosanct are now falling by the wayside. Religion did not keep Eastern and Western Pakistan together. The State was broken up on the issue of language and culture. Now we are beginning to realise that language does not unite people either. Telangana wants separation from Andhra Pradesh and Vidharbha from Maharashtra and weeks-long agitation in both regions have only done crores of rupees worth of damage to their respective economies. Was it all worth it? But many honestly believe that there is a sound case for small states. Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhands are the newest to be formed and if latest statistics are to be believed, they have proved to be beneficial to the people in terms of per capita income.
Thus while in 2008-2009 the income of an average Madhya Pradeshi was Rs 21,648, that of Chhattisgarh turned out to be Rs 34,483. Again, if the income of an average Bihari was Rs 13,700, that of Jharkhand was Rs 21,500 and in the case of Uttarakhandi it was Rs 36,175 whereas that of an Uttar Pradeshi from whom it separated was a bare Rs 18,710. The point is that the smaller the state, the more easily it is administrable and the quicker it would be to meet local grievances. The unspoken fear is that creation of a smaller state may lead to empowerment of local leaders and the strengthening of new satraps who may turn out to be more susceptible to corruption and nepotism, and harder to control.
Every suggestion for the creation of small states can be questioned on rational grounds. Besides, if Mayavati’s suggestion is met that will only strengthen the demands for the creation of Vidharbha and Telangana – demands which have been kept in abeyance for long. What is also likely is that if the creation of Vidharbha is sanctioned what can stop a demand for a separate west coast state or even the demand for a separate city state, of Mumbai? There might even be a demand for the bifurcation of Karnataka into North Karnataka and Mysore. Would that mean that a new Commission has to be appointed for a fresh re-organisation of states, once and for all? Can’t we get along as matters now are? As things stand today, existing states provide a sense of oneness. Division into smaller states tend to give too many identities to people, which is not at all a desirable thing. One argument is that if the United States can be divided into fifty states, what is wrong with a similar multiple division of India?
The fact is that the United States is larger than India in size besides which the state is united by one language, English, which is a major uniting factor. What all this suggests is that no hasty decision should be taken in the creation of new states in India. If we can live under the existing system for over six decades with only some minor changes, certainly we can live together for another sixty decades in peace and comfort. What needs to be done is to end the crippling regional disparities that presently exist in our big states. Actually, time was when even Ajit Singh of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) was asking for the creation of a Harit Pradesh when his party shared power with the Samajwadi Party (SP) between 2003 and 2007. And it is well known, too, that in Bundelkhand, Raja Bundela, president of the Bundelkhand Mukti Morcha has similarly been asking for a separate Bundelkhand for years now. The entire issue of creation of new states demands new – and serious – studies. The time is now. Hold back agitations. Logic, not emotion, should be our guide. The ultimate aim should be the welfare of all people and fair distribution of opportunities to grow.