Creation of four new states in north-central India will improve democracy at regional and national levels

uttar pradesh

Creation of news states in India from time to time has helped India in satisfying regional aspirations and improving governance in some of the larger states. Of course creation of a new state is not easy and involves a lot of careful work and consultation with people and various stakeholders. Whenever these consultation processes are properly followed, creation of new smaller states had generally proved to be a source of strengthening and improving democracy.

To give one of the earlier examples, the reorganization of Punjab region to create the states of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh (with Chandigarh as a union territory  becoming the common capital of Punjab and Haryana) proved to be a success in satisfying regional political aspirations, strengthening local cultural identities and improving governance. All the three states are generally regarded among the more developed and better governed states, even though the development models followed by them have been open to criticism.

More recent efforts in this direction resulted in creation of states like Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Telengana. While actual experiences of people here may have fallen short of expectations, on the whole the creation of these states has strengthened Indian democracy by meeting regional political and cultural aspirations.

Strong reasons exist for the creation of four smaller states in north-central India from the present-day largest (in terms of population) state of Uttar Pradesh. Uttar Pradesh presently has a population which is over 5 times larger than the average population size for all states and union territories combined. This is over double the combined population of our four important neighboring countries Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar. The combined population of all the other northern states taken together falls far short of the population of Uttar Pradesh. No other state of India comes even close to the population of Uttar Pradesh.

Hence creating four smaller states on the basis of well-established and well-recognized identities after widespread consultation with people of the state will help to improve governance and correct political imbalance that presently exists. Following regional identities that clearly exist four smaller states can be clearly visualized here (all of which have been discussed earlier also at various points of time).

Firstly, there can be Western Uttar Pradesh, sometimes referred to as Harit Pradesh and having important cities like Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur, Agra, Aligarh and Mathura. Secondly, there can be Eastern Uttar Pradesh, sometimes referred to as Poorvanchal, including important cities like Varanasi, Prayagraj and Gorakhpur. Thirdly, there can be a state of Central Uttar Pradesh which would retain the present capital of Lucknow, apart from having the important city of Kanpur.

Fourthly, there can be a state of Bundelkhand, which would however need some districts of Madhya Pradesh as well. There has been long pending demand for creating a state of Bundelkhand by combining about 14 districts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Even after giving up its Bundelkhand districts, the population of Madhya Pradesh would remain above the average for all states and union territories.

The case for the establishment of smaller states is presently strongest in the context of Uttar Pradesh due to the size of the population of this state which, as pointed out earlier, has no other competitor and the size of the population of the number two state Maharashtra is almost half of the population of Uttar Pradesh. Even after the creation of four smaller states, the population of at least three of the new states is likely to remain higher than the average population of all states and union territories.

Despite there being a strong case for establishment of smaller states here, it would be wiser to seek the opinion of people and various stakeholders before taking any major decision. There is absolutely nothing divisive in this proposal and the entire issue should be approached only in the context of improving democracy, creating more of a balance, improving governance and at the same time making more room for the better assertion of various regional political aspirations and cultural identities at several levels. In fact at various times these aspirations have been raised to a lesser or greater extent, and in the case of Bundelkhand on quite a few occasions. Hence it would be in keeping with the spirit of a healthy and responsive democracy to consider the proposal of these four new states. At the same time, this new exercise can learn from the experience of some of the new states created earlier so that the new states can better live up to the expectations of people and the available resources (for example the resources to be  made available for the creation of three new capitals) can be managed in better ways, avoiding wasteful expenses and saving the most for the welfare of people.

Bharat Dogra is honorary convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Man over Machine—A Path to Peace, When the Two Streams Met, Planet in Peril and Protecting Earth for Children.


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