Friday, July 22, 2011

Economics and Politics behind demand for Smaller States

Published in Rediff on 22nd July 2011

The Telengana movement in the state of Andhra Pradesh has picked up momentum again and is causing losses to the tune of thousands of crores to the exchequer during Bandhs, not to mention the loss to the students who are actively involved in the movement.

The rationale of Underdevelopment stated by the Pro Telangana activists for the formation of a separate state seems a bit stretched, especially since the socio- economic data presented in the Srikrishna committee report and analysis by various other independent bodies do not point towards a dismal state of affairs.

The Gross District Level Domestic Product, which is The most important indicator of economic growth, has grown the fastest for the Telangana region, whether one includes or excludes Hyd, from 00-01 to 07-08.

Other important parameter, supply of water and electricity to the farmers, has also shown remarkable improvement over the years. For example, the Net agricultural area under Irrigation, land productivity, use of electricity for agriculture and growth of electricity consumption, have all improved much faster for the Telangana region (excluding Hyderabad) than the Coastal Andhra.

The expenditure on Education, which is one of the most important social issue, under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), for the Telengana (excl Hyd) and the Coastal Andhra regions seem to be small and the difference can be easily reduced or taken care of with little bit of effort.

The numbers speak of the growth story of the region of Telangana. If the region was neglected say 20 years back, it should not be the reason for the formation of a separate state now.

If the politicians really want to help the people of Telangana, they should plan a drive to systematically get more resources from the state and central government to these regions. Rather than asking for a new state they should compete for the resources. The MLAs from these areas should put in effort for this. The common man is concerned about development and knows that forming a separate state may not be the wisest of solutions to it.

There are many other aspirants who have not yet filed the applications, but surely are watching the developments on Telangana very closely. Bodoland (Assam), Kosal (Orissa), Ladakh (Jammu and Kashmir), Vindhya Pradesh (Madhya Pradesh), Maru Pradesh (Rajasthan), are just a few examples. As far as the economic development of these smaller aspiring regions are concerned, every state would have some developed and some not-so-developed regions. If all the not-so-developed regions start demanding for a separate state, there will be no end to the number of states that we might end up having.

While a few of these demands may be genuine, many of these cases seem to be driven entirely because of Political motivations and aspirations. The Center needs to take a strong stand and focus on the facts and figures related to the socio-economic growth in the region rather than bowing down to the bullying tactics of the politicians. If smaller states are formed on the principles of ‘self-determination’, it is going to result in unstable states. Today, the Telangana people may get a separate state by showing intolerance towards Andhra people. Tomorrow, there will be clashes with people of other ethnic groups.

As Etzioni (1993) puts it in his research paper in “Foreign Policy”, what is required is “fuller representation, responsiveness, and democratization”. Not “self-determination by fragmentation”.