The ruckus about the creation of a new Telangana state in India brought to the forefront the issue of “small” vs. “big” states in India. Federal polity in India has one marked difference that that in the United States. The United States of America was created by a compact among its constituent states which preceded the national entity. As a result, even though the constitution permits the splitting or merging of states (Article 4, Section 3, Clause 1) with two exceptions (Maine which was carved out from Massachusetts to create a free state to balance Missouri under the Missouri compromise and West Virginia which seceded from Virginia at the start of the civil war) the American states (territories are a different matter) have been relatively sacrosanct.
This was not the case in India. The mish mash of the provinces of British India and the princely states that acceded to the India at independence made the reorganization of states essential. Even though the trauma of partition ensured that the power of states would be curbed (more on that later), in the 1950s the fateful decision was made to reorganize the states on linguistic grounds rather than administrative efficiency. Larger states have always brought with them a concern that the political influential areas would reap state largess while the less fortunate areas would be ignored. As a result, demands for breaking up some of the larger states have simmered in the background since the reorganization of the states.
A decade ago the agitators for smaller states found some hope. Uttarkhand and Jharkhand were carved out of the two most populous states in India. Chattisgarh was carved out of the geographically largest state in India. This brought the demand for Telangana to the forefront. A Telugu speaking region merged into Andhra Pradesh, Telangana previously was part of the former princely state of Hyderabad. While some of the princely states like Mysore, Baroda and Gwalior were relatively well administered, Hyderabad was not. The region remained a resource poor economic and educational backwater. Apart from the capital Hyderabad, a large portion of the province has felt ignored in favor of the more prosperous coastal regions of the state. The argument was that a Telangana state would create with a more responsive local government which will boost regional development.
Unfortunately the backing for the position is mixed. Read the rest of this entry »