Monday, December 26, 2011

The decision to divide Uttar Pradesh into four states by Chief Minister Mayawati has set a new agenda in the state's politics. This will have far reaching consequences for the coming assembly polls as well.

The demand to divide Uttar Pradesh into four states is nothing new. It had been a long standing demand from former Prime Minister Charan Singh that western Uttar Pradesh is carved out into a separate state.

Similarly the advocates, youth and peasants of western Uttar Pradesh had been demanding a separate bench of the high court in Meerut, an important city of western Uttar Pradesh and close to Delhi, on the grounds that the existing high court in Allahabad was too far to travel to and took many days

Another region known as Bundelkhand too has been asking for a separate state. There have been dharnas, street protests and hunger strikes by the intelligentsia of Bundelkhand which drew wide support from all sections of the society cutting across party lines in the region.

This area is also one of the most backward and underdeveloped regions not only in the state but in the country as well. Agriculture here suffers due to lack of irrigation facilities and other modernisation initiatives.

Similarly, Poorvanchal or eastern Uttar Pradesh suffers from backwardness in all spheres of developmental and social indexes. The region attributes this to the policy of neglect by the ruling powers. In spite of being the most fertile region of Uttar Pradesh, the agriculture yield is low due to non availability of inputs required by the farmers.

They are not provided with any assistance whatsoever due to unwillingness of the state and a policy of indifference adopted by officials and the bureaucracy.

The Awadh region or the fourth segment is a very important political region. Kanpur, which was once a hub of textiles, is now a decrepit town with a huge sick industry.

Other industries are no better as progress has completely choked due to lack of electricity and other modernisation inputs. There has been a flight of skilled labour into other regions of the country because of low income and economic depression in central Uttar Pradesh.

Faizabad, popularly known as Ayodhya, saw the demolition of the Babri Masjid, and surrounding areas like Tanda which had a huge handloom industry came to a halt at that time.

At one time it was one of the well known areas of weavers and handicraft workers. This area also has the largest orchards of mango and guava and other cash crops. But due to complete apathy towards modernizing these institutions there is a feeling of neglect.

Uttar Pradesh also needs to be viewed historically to understand the different facets of the problem it is facing today. The Britishers carved the province and called it United Provinces in the early 20th century. This was also the region that revolted in 1857 against British rule.

Division games
·         From an administrative point of view, Uttar Pradesh is truly an unmanageable State. Cutting it up into four smaller States as Chief Minister Mayawati has proposed, roughly along regional cultural divides — Bundelkhand, Avadh Pradesh, Purvanchal, and Paschim Pradesh — has its merits as an idea.
·         It could lead to more equitable development of these regions, and relieve the pressure on Lucknow. The idea itself is not new. But politically, it is counter- intuitive — the Chief Minister of a State that elects 80 Lok Sabha members wields much more influence than one that sends one-fourth that numbers.
·         Even with Ms Mayawati's confidence that her party would rule all four proposed States; the instability of governments in small States makes it an unattractive political proposition. And administrative manageability could be achieved by a more effective decentralization. So it seems more plausible that the Chief Minister rolled out her promise of a 1x4 division of U.P. in the knowledge that it will not become reality, at least in the near future.  
·         It is certainly a clever political gambit by Ms Mayawati ahead of the elections, and it has already succeeded in confusing the opposition parties. There are no popular agitations for the division of Uttar Pradesh, yet the idea is not without some resonance in the four regions. The Congress has always opposed the creation of smaller States; its dilemma is all the greater now as its reaction to Ms Mayawati's move would hold immediate significance for the Telangana agitation.
·         Mulayam Singh's Samajwadi Party is set against any division of U.P. as his party's backward caste vote base is not as evenly spread as Dalits are across the four regions.
·         Only the Bharatiya Janata Party favours smaller States, but it too has been taken by surprise. As hot air builds under the proposal, it is bound to deflect attention from other issues, such as the BSP government's track record and allegations of corruption against the Chief Minister.
·         While there is no doubt that Ms Mayawati has stolen a march over her rivals, it is surprising that for a politician with national ambitions, she seems to have not fully thought through the ripple effect of the move on statehood demands in other parts of the country. There is no denying that the disappearance of single party rule at the centre and the growth of regional politics have brought about a more federal polity, and a more equitable sharing of power. But fragmentation of the country on the basis of ever-narrowing identities hardly represents a progressive idea of India.

‘Division of U.P. – Future Implications for Western U.P’
  •       A panel discussion on ‘Division of U.P. – Future Implications for Western U.P’ was organized by Birla Institute of Management Technology (BIMTECH) with the partnership of   in its Greater Noida campus. The India Centre for Public Policy (ICPP), a think tank and research centre of BIMTECH, convened this enlightening discussion in the backdrop of U.P. government proposal to divide the state in four parts – West U.P., Poorvanchal or East UP, Bundelkhand and Awadh Pradesh.
  •         The honored panelists were Mr. M. Ramachandran - retired IAS of U.P. cadre and former adviser of U.P. government on infrastructure, Mr. Shravan Kumar Sharma - a former bureaucrat in U.P. government, Mr Sanjeev Rampal – VP of JP Greens and veteran journalist Mr. Pratap Somvanshi. The discussion was moderated by Dr. H. Chaturvedi, Director of BIMTECH. This was attended by senior bureaucrats, defense personnel, media personalities, civil society, academicians and politics in addition to academics.
  •         Dr Chaturvedi started discussion with the glorious history of U.P. and its contribution in the national movement of independence. He set a background by comparing the size of the state and big population of 19.95 crore. The point of discussion were are small states are more efficient and governable? What does history suggests in this regard especially the cases of Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh? Would the proposed states like Bundelkhand and Poorvanchal be economically viable and sustainable? He also asked the panel to make comment about the law and order situation in Gautam Budha Nagar and its impact on future investment.
  •         The panelists seemed unanimous for division but they expressed forcefully that it should be a well thought out plan and not a political opportunism. They said about lack of clear blueprint or roadmap for such division. The view was the focus should have been improving law and order situation first with reducing corruption and then think on these issues.  
  •        Small states are more administratively viable and fulfill people aspirations and need so the division must not be opposed on emotional issue but it should be well thought out.  The panel also stressed that earlier division of many states came through popular movements of people and on the basis of culture and language and not mere comparative politics. The role of leadership and                resources for success of small sates were put by Mr. M. Ramanchandran as he made his case and comparison for successful divided states like Chattisgarh and Uttaranchal and failure to some extent Jharkhand. The law and order as an issue for proposed West U.P. was expressed as concern.
  •         There have been a near unanimity for division but people participated and panelist clearly voiced that any division must be with wider consultation and must not necessarily a number of 4 will suit to the purpose, it must be done with the process of Vision and Leadership so the development agenda is met and cultural heritage of U.P. remains preserved.


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