India – Divided?

~ Eric Flohr, UC Berkeley,  Mithila Rajagopal, BMC ’10

India has seen a sudden surge in demand for the creation of new states, dividing up the country that currently has 29 states and 7 union territories. The most recent creation was the Telangana state from the already existing state of Andhra Pradesh. This state, created for the Telegu speaking portion of the population, was the result of a surprising government action to appease the violent protests and hunger strikes from the supporters of Telangana. The protests reached a climax when a student committed suicide in support of the creation of this new state. In December, the government finally caved and allowed Telangana to come into existence. This new state with a population of 35 million will also have the added bonus of Bangalore’s IT rival and hereto capital of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad. This move to divide Andhra Pradesh comes after the earlier divisions of Chhattisgarh from Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand from Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand from Bihar.

The public feared that the creation of Telangana would cause other separatists movements to gain momentum and these fears were justified. There have been demands for no fewer than 10 new states flooding government offices including the long standing one for a separate state in Punjab. There are many arguments both for and against the creation of smaller states. Some say smaller states will reduce the influence, corruption, and bribery of government officials, leading to more revenue and productivity. Though it is hard to imagine a smoothly functioning system if the states are smaller and each one has a slightly different bureaucratic system to navigate.

There are also fears that the creation of many states dilutes India’s national identity. With the strength of conviction riding behind the creation of separate states for separate parts of the population based on cultural and linguistic differences, it is easy to envisage the slow dissipation of sentiments for national identity. Drawing a political boundary around a population of slightly different ethos emphasizes their separate identity to a much greater extent. It is understandable that minority populations will want this individual identity; however, to a great extent it does mitigate the country’s unified character.

Amid political struggles and a battle for individuality, India continues to attempt to preserve its identity as a nation and as a presence in the global environment.

Sources: BBC, Times of India, Rediff