Posted by: Vikram | December 13, 2009

Mayawati is asking for more states, therefore it must be a bad thing

This post is not so much about the creation of Telangana, as much as the response of urban Indians to the development.

1) These bloody politicians ! They will do anything to become CM and grab power.

The object of politics is to gain power. You cant fault the politicians for trying to ‘grab’ it. From the Pre-Republican Congress to Indira Gandhi in the 70s to the BJP during the Ayodhya movement, the principal aim has always been to gain or maintain power. In a democratic society, people’s aspirations change with time and smart leaders use these feelings and aspirations to get a shot at power. Democracy allows them to get power without bloodshed. This does not morally justify every single (or even most) action(s) of a politician, but the middle class of India, has to understand that the people of Telangana, politicians of India are just as self-interested as they are.

2) Where will this stop ? How many ‘pieces’ are we going to break the country into ?

I think in large measure these feelings stem from the fact that the middle classes do not respect federalism. States are not ‘pieces’. They are not simply administrative divisions, almost always they are part of people’s identity. A government does rely on collective action to achieve its goals (for good or for bad). And like it or not, ethnic similarity helps with collective action, and ethnic difference especially in an unwilling union, chokes it. Nobody (apart from some Kashmiris and a few Nagas) is asking for separation, most Indians have thought of themselves as Indians for generations now, and they do not want to imagine themselves otherwise. But the demand for new states is not one that can be simply dismissed due to unfounded fears of disintegration.

3) This is an administrative problem. The real solution is in improving governance.

This is an appealing but flawed argument. Like it or not, smaller, more ethnically homogenous states, are better governed. The evidence points to this. For those speaking of Jharkhand and Chattisgarh, you need to think of what they were before, when they were parts of Bihar and MP. Obviously, governance is a huge problem in the country, but most scholars would argue that one of the principal causes of bad governance across India, is the excessive centralization of administration, especially at state level.

4) Okay all that is fine, but Mayawati is asking for more states, therefore it must be a bad thing.

Okay then, lets move the Supreme Court against Mayawati asking for more states, and while we are at it, why not move the court against Mayawati talking, walking, writing letters, drinking water, eating food ….

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  1. …i’ve been arguing for smaller states too, but tend to be accused of wanting to ‘break up’ the country’s unity, and even of being a terrorist. i haven’t really seen rational/reasonable arguments in opposition to more states. one of the silliest i have seen, though, is that ‘i am afraid our children will not be able to remember all the names of the states’. wtf?

    in my (possibly flawed) understanding, smaller states lead to better representation.

  2. Vikram,

    Agree with all your points.

    Btw, important as small states (this is a bit of misnomer–T would be about as big, pop wise, as California, the USA’s largest state) are I think we’d still lag behind till the massive powers (financial and political) that the constitution grants the Centre is not bought down.

    The fragmentation of India’s polity during the 80/90s was, IMO, a result of this imbalance but sadly, none of the underlying constitutional provisions were amended.

    • @ Hades, absolutely. The largest US state is California, about the same size as Kerala. Here is the break down in the US, about 25 % of population is in states with 20 million or more people, about 16 % in states between 10 and 20 million, about 30 % in states between 5 and 10 million, and the rest 29 % in states less than 5 million.

      In comparison, in India, about 50 % live in 5 states with population greater than 70 million, about 35 % in those between 30 and 70 million and the other 15 % in states less than 30 million population.

  3. I have always maintained that we vote these people so that they can Govern the country,whereas they think we want them to rule us.
    Slowly,we seem to be going towards the olden days of RAAJ-RAJWADAS. It took Sardar Patel long time to bring all the states under Indian Flag. But,today’s politicians for personal gains are ready to break the entire system.

  4. @ baruk, I dont think anybody remembers all the names even as it is. This is just a case of an economic and political elite not respecting federalism.

    Funny enough that Indians in the US put up videos of their kids ability to memorize all US states and their capitals.

    @ Chowlaji, these states are not asking for separation. We need more autonomy and decentralization for the country to be able to reach its potential.

  5. very true!! and I agree with u.
    few days back someone said on twitter – “tell me honestly, Has Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Chattisgarh progressed more than when it was a part of a bigger state ?”

    People even RTed his tweet. Finally I had to reply with Chattisgarh’s (my state) statistics like
    #CG now is the power hub of the country!
    #CG has capacity to cover half the demand-supply gap in India & has already tied up over 5000 MW of power gen in 1 year alone.
    #Madhya Pradesh has a sex ratio of 919 whereas CG has a sex ratio of 989 – one of the highest in country
    #Last year Chattisgarh was declared winner in three out of four categories at the yearly CSI-Nihilent e-Governance Awards.
    #The GDP of CG has grown 9.41 % & its per capita income stands at Rs.25,321 in 2007-08, up 12.43 percent over the previous year

    After that he had nothing to say.
    People just start opposing things without understanding the issue and its implications fully.

    • Right on Reema ! You have said exactly what I have been trying to put across. Indians, especially the English ‘educated’ think they know everything there is to know about our vast and complex country. It is their ignorance that riles me more than anything else.

  6. this is for ms reema
    the stats you provide may be true but there is every likelyhood of them being similar to Laloo’s claims about indian railways.

  7. >>more ethnically homogenous states, are better governed.

    so, how do you define ‘more ethnically homogenous states’ (i’m sure u meant ethnically more homogenous states, but i digress)..

    for example, in the proposed telangana itself, there’s so much of further ethnic diversity and heterogeneity.. for every 60 kms or less.. certain areas are muslim predominant, certain others hindu predominant… certain areas have urban oriented cultural/ethnic sensibilities, certain others have rural oriented ones.. how and where do you draw the line of ‘ethnic homogeneity’..

    Welcome critic, I appreciate your comment. You are right about the fact that in a country like India there can be no ethnic homegenity in the strict sense, because the population differs along linguistic, religious and caste lines. But I would argue that the last two identities are not the best ones for collective action on a large scale. Religion because the nature of the Indian state is secular and religious communities are spread across a very large geographical area, in addition to the strong linguistic divisions that make communication difficult. Caste because the Constitution and the Indian Republic have the explicit goal of dismantling caste, although some of their provisions and actions have ended up reinforcing caste faultlines. It is not that we dont see collective action at the caste or religion level, its just that the provisions and the nature of our Republic require us to not allow the state to be used for collective action using those identities. So we are left with language, obviously there are fault-lines here too, and the Telangana issues is but one example. But experience has shown us that these are perhaps the best entities for positive collective action, even though there are divisions, cultural similarity is strong and mass communication easy, think of the tremendous growth in Indian language newspapers in the last 30 years.

    in any case, states are not the atomic most entities.. we have district level and town level administrations, just for the same purpose of making administration/governance easier, no?

    Yes, that is right. India faces massive problems of governance. But here you are talking about the nature of the state, which is a different question. I will address this in a coming post.

    the chattisgarh stats seem impressive, i’m curious about the jharkhand and uttarakhand stats too..

    >>a democratic society, people’s aspirations change with time and smart leaders use these feelings and aspirations to get a shot at power.

    u obviously don’t know the turn of the events in a.p. the ‘smart’ leader there didn’t ‘use’ ppl’s changed aspirations..

    when he was kicked out from the major TDP party, and was on the verge of political extinction, he instigated those divisive aspirations by vilefully ascribing the alleged developmental disparities to regional affiliations, whereas the truth is development has not been really that stellar anywhere in india, leave alone certain regions of a.p.

    >>Indians, especially the English ‘educated’ think they know everything there is to know about our vast and complex country. It is their ignorance that riles me more than anything else.

    urself included, i guess? what do YOU know about our vast and complex country, especially about telangana that the other ‘indians, especially english ‘educated’ ones’ don’t.. and why is ur understanding more correct than theirs? perhaps, just because this is YOUR blog?

    I think you have perhaps missed the gist of this post. I am not really trying to take a stand on this issue. The best way to decide, in my opinion, would be a referendum, I have a feeling that the next assembly election in AP will be exactly that. My point was to talk about how naive and reactionary the arguments that many English speaking Indians put for political debate are, and how easily they can be refuted.

    now, here’s some of the reasons to NOT have too many states, especially in the context of telangana:

    1. additional parallel sets of expensive legislative morons, executive and judicial members and election machinery to feed from within the almost same pool of tax rupees available..

    2. no optimal to resolve the status of post-separation hyderabad.. (making it a union territory not acceptable to all)..

    3. no clear indication as to whether a majority of ppl really want the separation, or if the politicians are co-opting them.. especially after the utter defeat, in recent elections, of TRS..

    hope ur intellectual mind that’s capable of knowing everything there’s to know about this vast and complex country gets it..

    critic, obviously I dont understand everything about India, that is why blog posts here have a comments section 😉 Cheers.

  8. i agree that state division based on linguistic homogeneity is perhaps the most viable option for india, and so did sardar vallabhbhai patel, although it is as complicated as any other basis for state divisions, because of the ‘faultlines’ that you point out.. not just in case of telangana, but also in case of the new hindi-speaking states that are mushrooming up by the year.. now pols are demanding for states based in dialects, which

    >>The best way to decide, in my opinion, would be a referendum, I have a feeling that the next assembly election in AP will be exactly that.

    but there has been a referendum in the AP assembly elections that just concluded early this year.. and TRS whose PRIMARY election platform was the separate telangana issue had disastrous performance (cong – 157, tdp-all – 106, trs – 10!!)..

    i understand ur post is not necessarily about telangana, but the drama around telangana issue ties back to #1 in ur post.. because TRS is staging these agitations and trying to CREATE/instigate these dialect based divisions.. (vs. just ‘using’ ppl’s ‘existing/changed aspirations’ for political mileage)

    >>u also mention in #1 that: Democracy allows them to get power without bloodshed.

    which is not exactly the ‘bloody’ power hungry TRS politician has in mind –

  9. Enjoyed the Mayawati analogy. There seems to be an ever growing sense of insecurity in the English media about Maywati. Some of their analysis borders on the ridiculous.

    If Mayawati was not around, the Congress would never have brought schemes like the NREGA. She is forcing the national parties to act on promises of good governance by increasing the competition for traditional vote banks.

    Coming back to small states, I am not too sure of whether or not it increases administrative efficiencies. I did some homework and did a blogpost with data [ ] The numbers do not seem to throw light on the debate one way or another (maybe I chose the wrong indicators).

    However, two indicators works strongly in favor of smaller states – Voter Turnouts AND women’s literacy.

    Data on corruption and Per Capita State GDP do not shed too much light on the administrative efficiencies.

  10. […] Original post: Mayawati is asking for more states, therefore it must be a bad thing […]

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