ONE HUNDRED AND SEVEN YEARS later India is caught in the same puzzle—state creation. In December, when a 40-year-old movement succeeded to make the central government allow for a new Telangana state dividing Andhra Pradesh, a dozen similar demands awoke: Gorkhaland (north of West Bengal), Bundelkhand (split between Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh), Harit Pradesh (western Uttar Pradesh), Bodoland (north of the Brahmaputra river in Assam), Kamtapur (split between West Bengal and Assam), Saurashtra (the southern peninsula of Gujarat), Vidarbha (eastern Maharashtra), Kodagu (southern Karnataka), Bagelkhand (northeastern Madhya Pradesh), and a few more.
These demands elicited familiar questions: Should the Centre redraw internal maps when a sizeable population demands to carve out a new federal unit? Isn’t 28 states and seven union-controlled territories enough? And if the government yields to one demand, wouldn’t several such demands arise in the multi-lingual, multi-cultural India? Where does it end?
But this line of thought is flawed. It fails to address the fundamental questions of economic and social justice that underpin these demands. For example, the Backward Regions Grant Fund (www.brgf.gov.in) shows that most of the poorest districts in the country fall in disputed regions. Our policy makers have myriad studies showing the smaller the administrative units, the better the resource distribution becomes. And if the homogenous USA, with only a quarter of the Indian population can have 50 states, India, with 1.1 billion people of multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-lingual origins has a case for at least 35 to 40.
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