Saturday, October 18, 2008

Dividing the Union


The Issue
Over the past five years, demands for separate states have intensified across India. From the North to the South, East to West, the UPA Government has constantly been either criticised for inaction or praised for keeping the Union united. The following is an assessment on some specific issues.

The issue of granting statehood to the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh, which was discussed in Part 1, has gained a lot of political backing of late. However, the UPA quietly said that the ultimate decision was up to AICC Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, who seems o prefer a status quo. Meanwhile, YSR Reddy, the CM of Andhra Pradesh, has done quite a lot to show that he is against any division.

While many people in Telangana feel that a separate state would uplift them, they are certainly quite wrong. New states carved out in the North East prove that small states need not be successful. YSR Reddy's policy of bringing some, albeit too little, development to the region seems to have worked in the last by-elections, and one hopes his strategy is long-term.

Trifurcation of Uttar Pradesh
UP CM Mayawati is perhaps the only CM in India who openly advocates division of her state in three parts. I wonder whether the reason for this is legitimate concern for the people of one of India's most backward states, or simply to control three, rather than one, state. After all, Mayawati's political greed is legendary. 

In my opinion, trifurcation of UP will by no means end the plight of its people. The problem in the state is not lack of resources, but corruption and bureaucracy. Hardly any of the money meant for development ever reaches the people it's meant for. Until someone does something about that, dividing the state into a hundred pieces will do nothing.

Saurashtra is small region in Gujarat that took some time to integrate with the Union of India after Independence from the British Empire. Separatists in the state claim that they have been denied a 'fair share' in Gujarat's prosperity for decades. The issue comes up now and again but has largely been ignored by the UPA. In my opinion, there is no need for a separate state. Reconciliation will do.

The drought-ravaged region of Vidarbha in Maharashtra is perhaps the only region that deserves statehood. Over the years, neglect by political circles and the harsh climate have forced many debt-ridden farmers here to commit suicide. Vidarbha is perhaps the only region whose demand for a separate state are legitimate. The disastrous Monopoly Procurement Scheme destroyed the livelihoods of thousands of farmers and the state boards constituted hence have proved much worse than the scheme.

The solution to Vidarbha farmers' plight lies in a separate state. However, the UPA did not take this this for whatever reason (Maharashtra is also ruled by the Congress in a coalition). The PM's package for relieving the farmers here has also failed, as did the Farm Loan Waiver of 2008.

Finally, the issue of Gorkhaland is one that caused a law and order crisis in West Bengal, even prompting the Government of Sikkim to approach the Supreme Court. The GJM, the main political outfit fighting for the cause, has wreaked havoc upon the region. Through indefinite bandhs and economic blockades, they brought the region to a running halt. However, WB CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and his party have been outright in their stand that West Bengal will not be divided.

The Gorkhaland movement is dangerous as it is a separatist battle for a prosperous region, which houses the Eastern Tourism hotspot of Darjeeling. TheUPA Governmnet's refusal to create a separate state and the Left Parties' stand against it are commendable. Gorkhaland will have to remain a part of West Bengal, a separate state would mean nothing.

Other Movements
Smaller movements have arisen from time-to-time over the last five years, the demand for a separate state for Nepalese in India being prominent. However, these got nothing more than a newspaper headline. Such demands are made by greedy politicians who will do anything to gain power. The UPA's refusal to all such demands is a mark of its achievement in keeping the Union United. The demand for a seprate nation of Kashmir is another story altogether.

Factor: Granting Statehood
UPA Government's Performance: Very Good

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