Friday, November 25, 2011

Splitting Uttar Pradesh - Moving back to pre-independence era of numerous states

Varanasi - On the banks of Ganga
The recent proposal by Mayavati, which was later accepted by Uttar Pradesh(UP) assembly by voice vote, to split the state in to four different parts - Poorvanchal (East UP), Paschim Pradesh (West UP), Bundelkhand and Awadh (central UP), is the latest demand for making the states shorter in the name of increasing administrative efficiency (or to increase the options available for politicians?).

But above the rhetoric, how good the demand is? With a population of 20 crores, UP is bigger than Brazil - which is the 5th largest country in the world by land area. Uttar Pradesh contributes more MPs (80, next is Maharashtra with a distant 48) to the parliament than any other state in India. The number is big enough that there is a saying 'UP will decide who will sit in New Delhi'. What more, 8 of India's 14 Prime Minister's were from UP.

Is population a reason?
Iconic TajMahal on the banks of Yamuna in Agra

Is being big, a reason to raise request for spliting the state? Lets consider the facts. Other than UP, 9 states of India have a population of 6 crores or more. Even though UP has close to twenty crore people I don’t think there will be much problem for a person in western border of UP to understand the language of the one from east. Even if there is a difference in dialect, it is not be as big as the one between Malayalam in Kerala and Kannada in the neighbouring Karnataka.

People of UP, are not in continuous strike for splitting as compared to Telengana or Gurkha areas of Paschim Banga. For the last 6 plus decades of independence, how it did they manage with this much population? In the first five decades it was even bigger, as Uttarkhand was also its part.

Is geography a reason?

If it is about geography, then four states in India are even bigger than UP. In fact being big is beneficial in many situation, for example some parts of the state may be blessed with natural resources or developed as part of British India while some other parts may not be. So if a state includes both the areas, through the effective distribution of wealth it is possible to make sure in bringing over all development. Isn’t it better for both Gangetic plane and Vindya Hill areas be together than as separate entities?

Ramabhar Stupa Kushinagar - Built over Buddha's ashes
Is there any formidable geographic barriers in between the states which restricts the smooth traffic of goods and services in UP, as in the case of Western Ghats in between Kerala and Karnataka or Thar desert in Rajasthan or the jungles of MP? In fact the splitting will only add much more baggages to the shoulders of small and medium scale industries in the form of extra taxes which they have to pay if their goods have to travel from say, NOIDA in western extent of UP to West Bengal, but the taxes are not limited to the entry tax.

Moreover in the days of mobiles and internet no one can blame that the communication is difficult between two ends of the state. If Chandragupta Maurya can rule Afghan from his capital in Pataliputra (currently in Bihar) in second century BC, what problem can happen in communication now-a-days?

Administrative reasons

If administration was the problem, then it is everywhere. In fact there are many areas in India - for example the Maoist corridor of central India - where the states machinery is not able to run its writs. With eight thousand plus kilometer of railway network, 31 national highways, expressways, National Waterways (600km of NW1 is in UP) UP can be governed much easily than many other states of India. If it is not working properly then it is the failure of State bureaucracy. Even if it becomes a new state the condition will remain the same.


UP clocks lower ranks in many criterias. Taking a look at the Human Development Index - 32nd (followed by only 3 States - MP, Orissa and Bihar.), but the fertility rate is one of the highest in the country - 3.8 (only Bihar is above with 4.0), a skewed sex ratio but scored better than Punjab, Haryana, Delhi etc; Literacy rate is 69.7% - lower than the national average 74.04%, only 42.8% of houses have electricity (lower than national average of 67.9%), UP have a media exposure of just 76% for males and 52% for females (Kerala ranks first with 97% and 90% respectively).
Bhool Bhulaiya - Lucknow

All these are due to the size only? Awareness will do better in reducing the fertility rate than making the state smaller. Same reason goes with literacy also; to improve state requires a motivated government with a dedicated mission, not a small state which always requires grants from central government. At the same time UP has the largest transport network in India along with, sixth highest power generation capacity. Despite all these problems UP clocked impressive growth rates during the 11th plan period (2007-11), GSDP grew by 7.28% against the planned target of 6.10%.

What is the point of splitting the state to four regions, creating four big beaurocracies and four new governments?  This will create a four brand new states, without much resources, it will requires more funds from central government to sustain themselves for some time. Will the added expenditure for the new bureaucracy and government justify the partition, which will otherwise go to the development? Surely it may be good for political parties, since in a big state only one party can came to power at a time, but if divided to four there is a chance that four different parties can came to power. So at any point of time they will be in power in any one of the four states.

Why this idea didn't come in 2007 when the current government came in to power? Why now? To make this an election issue? If that is the case then it’s not a good thing to do, election should be fought and won on real issues, not on  building statues and park. People should think about the success and failure of current system viz. economic growth, corruption, law and order, educational system, industrial development etc to come to a conclusion on deciding their representative.

Buland Darvaza - Fatehpur Sikri - Agra India 
These types of requests will only encourage more requests in the future, adding more oil to the fire. The development of the state can be done by concentrating on the problems not on rhetoric.  Give more authority to the administrations working at the low level like Gram (Village) Panchayats, Municipal Corporations etc. Give them more resources and bring in effective performance appraisals and accountability to the system.


PS: One of my friends - working in Bangalore for a reputed company-  from UP was back in his state during a vacation - a town on the banks of Ganges. The story goes like this, One day he accidentally met one of his acquaintance - a local politician, he asked what are you doing in Bangalore. He told - I am working for a technology company. Then he asked about his salary? After hearing the number he started laughing. why don't you settle here and joining politics you can make much more than that?

Another incident goes like this. One guy went to polling station, but he was stopped in the door and people started questioning him. the reason - someone else already done that job for him!!! And he is not alone in suffering the fate!!!

Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

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