Reorganisation of states in India

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Reorganisation of states in India

Background

• With the passage of the Indian Independence Act, 1947, Britain’s paramountcy lapsed, and Indian states regained the position they had prior to the assumption of suzerainty by the Crown.

• Of the more than 550 states situated within the geographical boundaries of the Dominion of India, all but a handful had acceeded to India before the “appointed day”, and the efforts of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel ensured the rest, too, acceeded subsequently.

• These states were merged into provinces that were geographically contiguous to them, or converted into centrally administered areas, or consolidated into one of five Unions.

Reorganisation of states

• The First Schedule in the 1949 Constitution recognised States in Parts A, B, and C, and Territories in Part D. Part A States were the former Governors’ Provinces of British India — nine of them were listed, including Bombay. The Bombay State included large parts of today’s Maharashtra, plus parts of modern Gujarat and Karnataka.

o The grouping of states at the time was done on the basis of political and historical considerations rather than on linguistic or cultural divisions, but this was a temporary arrangement.

o On account of the multilingual nature and differences that existed between various states, there was a need for the states to be reorganized on a permanent basis.

• The recognition of the fact that a grouping of states on political and historical grounds did not satisfy linguistic and cultural aspirations led to the appointment of the S K Dhar Commission in 1948, followed by the so-called “JVP Committee”, both of which felt that a reorganisation of states on the basis of language was not desirable.

• In 1948, SK Dhar – a judge of the Allahabad High Court – was appointed by the government to head a commission that would look into the need for the reorganization of states on a linguistic basis.

o However, the Commission preferred reorganisation of states on the basis of administrative convenience including historical and geographical considerations instead of on linguistic lines.

• In December 1948, the JVP Committee comprising Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabh bhai Patel and Pattabhi Sitaramayya was formed to study the issue.

o The Committee, in its report submitted in April 1949, rejected the idea of reorgansation of states on a linguistic basis but said that the issue could be looked at afresh in the light of public demand.

On linguistic basis

• A powerful agitation in the Telugu-speaking parts of Madras State, and the subsequent creation of the Andhra State in 1953 had a ripple effect across the country, and the States Reorganisation Commission was appointed. In 1956, Parliament passed The States Reorganisation Act, which re-drew the boundaries of Indian states.

• In 1953, the first linguistic state of Andhra for Telugu-speaking people was born. The government was forced to separate the Telugu speaking areas from the state of Madras, in the face of a prolonged agitation and the death of Potti Sriramulu after a 56-day hunger strike. Consequently, there were similar demands for creation of states on linguistic basis from other parts of the country.

• On December 22, 1953, Jawaharlal Nehru appointed a commission under Fazl Ali to consider these new demands. The commission submitted its report in 1955 and it suggested that the whole country be divided into 16 states and three centrally administered areas.

• The government, while not agreeing with the recommendations entirely, divided the country into 14 states and 6 union territories under the States Reorganisation Act that was passed in November 1956.

o The states were Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Bombay, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Madras, Mysore, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The six union territories were Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Laccadive, Minicoy and Amindivi Islands, Manipur and Tripura.

Chronology

• In 1960, the state of Bombay was bifurcated to create the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra following violence and agitation. In 1963, the state of Nagaland was created for the sake of the Nagas and total number of states stood at 16.

• The areas of Chandernagore, Mahe, Yaman and Karekal from France, and the territories of Goa, Daman and Diu from the Portuguese, were either made union territories or were joined with the neighbouring states, after their acquisition.

• Based on the Shah Commission report in April 1966, the Punjab Reorganisation Act was passed by the Parliament. Following this, the state of Haryana got the Punjabi-speaking areas while the hilly areas went to the Union Territory of Himachal Pradesh. Chandigarh, which was made a Union Territory, would serve as the common capital of Punjab and Haryana.

• In 1969 and in 1971, the states of Meghalaya and Himachal Pradesh came into being respectively. With the Union Territories of Tripura and Manipur being converted into states, the total number of Indian states rose to 21.

• Thereafter, Sikkim in 1975 and Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh in February 1987 also acquired the status of states. In May 1987, Goa became the 25th state of the Indian Union, while three new states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttaranchal were formed in November 2000. On June 2, 2014, Telangana officially became India’s 29th state.

• Presently, India has 29 states and 7 union territories. The states are: Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal, West Bengal and Telangana. The union territories are: Delhi, Chandigarh, Puducherry, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar haveli.

Why language was used as the criteria for the division of states?

• It would lead to the local people participating in the administration in larger numbers because of being able to communicate in a common language.

• Governance would be made easier in areas, which shared linguistic and geographical features.

• This would lead to the development of vernacular languages, which had long been ignored by the British.

Why new states?

• One main reason was the cultural or social affiliations. For instance, the state of Nagaland in the Northeast was created taking tribal affiliations into account.

• Another reason was economic development. For instance, Chhattisgarh felt that the region could grow economically only through separate statehood because the region’s development needs were not being met by the state government. For an aggrieved region, there is a strong sense that overall development will not come to them in the bigger state because of inequitable distribution of resources and lack of adequate opportunities for growth.

• There is also a shift in power from the Centre to the states and with the growth of diverse communities, the existing federal structure is probably not sufficient to meet the aspirations of the rising numbers.

• Also, parties tend to associate themselves with identity politics to get attention on the national stage and for gaining a vote bank. Hence, there is an increasing demand for formation of new states based on social and cultural identities.

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