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Uttar Pradesh is India’s broken heartland, break it into 4 or 5 states

Uttar Pradesh, our largest state by population and most powerful, is also the worst governed. A state with 1-in-6 Indians has no hope because of its size.

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The state of Uttar Pradesh has finally given us a break from coronavirus and China. But what can we say to it in response, thanks, but no thanks?

Because the context is every bit as disturbing as the threat of a rampaging pandemic or the army of an intrusive neighbour. A man has been killed in an alleged encounter so poorly staged that the policemen — and their political bosses — who did this should lose their jobs for incompetence if not be sent to jail for extra-judicial killing. If you believe this yarn, you’d even believe that the fables of ‘Vikram-Betaal’ are a reality. To me, even some of those might look more convincing.

We are, however, leaving the forensics and jurisprudence aside for the moment and reading the political message here. What is the state of Uttar Pradesh, whose population constitutes 15 per cent of the entire republic of 36 states and union territories, and which has given India’s ruling party more than a fifth of all its Lok Sabha MPs, the prime minister and the defence minister, telling us? It is saying, go to hell. Take your Constitution, the rule of law and the courts with you. We make our own laws, and then break them at our pleasure. Why? Because we have the size.

Uttar Pradesh is our most powerful state. It is also our worst governed. And remains carved up between many competing mafias. Its state government is just one of these. The chronic virus that’s eating up Uttar Pradesh from inside is its size. It is also taking India down with it.

Also read: Kanpur ambush to Vikas Dubey ‘encounter’ — retracing events that unfolded in last one week

Let’s first size up the problem called UP. It is a state with 75 districts — that is, more than one-in-ten of India’s 739. To understand how unmanageable the state is, think of some nations with populations about the same as Uttar Pradesh. Pakistan and Brazil both have about the same population, in the 20-crore ballpark. The first has four full provinces and two supposedly “autonomous” federative units, and the second has 26 states. The chief minister of UP does it all by himself.

It is an impossibility. And it shows in the state’s governance quality and social indicators. We, at ThePrint, once carried a story that showed with copious data how UP, while being the same population size as Pakistan, also nearly matched its poor social indicators. Trifle better on some (infant mortality), worse on some others (per capita income, gender ratio), but about the same on the most significant negative: Population growth.

Uttar Pradesh’s population growth has slowed lately, but is at almost exactly the same level as Pakistan’s, around 2 per cent, which makes it twice as high as the rest of India’s. Uttar Pradesh’s per capita income is about half of our national average. Its crime rates, mafia infestation, and criminalisation of politics are the stuff of movies. It is because the state is so large, and its politics so divided on the basis of caste and religion, that those left out of the power structure then seek refuge in caste mafias and ‘bahubalis’ (strong men, mafiosi), for protection, justice and equity.

Let’s try and illustrate how this works. If a Yadav father or son is in power, it means the Yadavs have the power. That is, only about 9 per cent of the population. They make an alliance with Muslims, and often with Thakurs. So, they are all accommodated in the legitimate power tent — all governance, distribution of welfare, including sinking of tube wells and hand pumps, appointment of the most important officers. The castes that feel left out then lean on their mafia leaders.

This results in a counter-intuitive situation where the more active mafias usually consist of castes that are not in power.

In the past, until the 1980s, when upper castes were usually chief ministers, crime syndicates and dacoit gangs were from backward castes. It was late V.P. Singh as chief minister who first brought the encounter culture to the state in 1981-82 with the killing of 299 ‘dacoits’ in just over a month. It stopped, unfortunately, when his brother, Justice Chandra Shekhar Prasad Singh of the Allahabad High Court, was killed along with his teenaged son in apparent reprisal. V.P. Singh resigned soon thereafter.

An important political aside is that this is when a still-young former wrestler called Mulayam Singh Yadav made his fame, as an unlikely human rights activist campaigning against encounters. Many of the encounter victims were of the backward castes that later became his support base.

Of course, once power in the state shifted to the lower and middle castes, including the Yadavs, upper castes moved to organised crime too. Brahmin and Thakur gangs came up now, while western UP became a lawless zone in its own right. The mafia the state is now dealing with in Kanpur is exclusively Brahmin. Remember, the last Brahmin chief minister this state had was Narayan Dutt Tiwari in 1989. That is after a succession of Brahmin strongmen from Govind Ballabh Pant to Kamalapathi Tripathi. Now, the community has been deprived of that political power for 31 years. So, a Vikas Dubey became its Robin Hood in Kanpur, as Hari Shankar Tiwari might have been in Gorakhpur in the past.

Also read: Brahmin pride and pain flood Facebook after Vikas Dubey’s encounter killing

It is because the context today is law and order that we have dwelt in so much detail over one dimension of this misgovernance. You can quickly run your eye over the rest. In seven decades, the state has failed to develop any new entrepreneurship, even a tiny flourishing industrial estate, except Noida, the sliver of territory abutting Delhi.

It inherited some of India’s oldest and finest cities. They are all in decay, if not dead already, like Kanpur and Allahabad. Its farming languishes, barring the few Green Revolution districts in its west.

Twenty crore people, divided over 75 districts spread over 2,43,000 sq km, is too much to govern for one government, especially when run entirely by one individual, which is the norm in our states now. Similarly, 80 seats in the Lok Sabha is too much power for one state in a federal republic. It is more than Gujarat, Rajasthan and Karnataka put together. It is politically distortionary. Especially when UP’s politics is so internally divisive based on caste and religion that the incentive for improving social indicators is poor.

Uttar Pradesh must be cut into four, if not five, states. The western districts have been demanding a Harit Pradesh for some time. Bundelkhand, to its south, should be carved out as another state, with three to four contiguous districts of Madhya Pradesh added. Purvanchal, with capital in Gorakhpur, should include all the districts going east along the Nepal border up to Bihar. The central state — you can call it Awadh Pradesh or anything else — can be governed from Lucknow.

This would make it four new states. In my book, however, five would be even better, as Purvanchal will be too big and too under-developed still. So, split it into two, Varanasi being the capital of the other.

No political leader wants to do it. One with a full majority has an even greater vested interest in keeping UP together: Why mend what is working, never mind how broken it is. But, unless somebody takes up that challenge, this state, where about one-in-six Indians lives, has no hope.

Also read: Yogi Adityanath said ‘gunda raj’ over and people bought it. But UP crime still the worst


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  1. A crying out loud truth. I did not think an Indian, that too a north Indian, will dare to say it in North India. Makes the Print all the more objective and special.


  3. REDUCTION IN POPULATION THROUGH TOUGH POPULATION CONTROL MEASURES IS WHAT IS NEEDED. Proper scientific education to all . No more contruction of religious structures of all RELIGIONS . A end to proselytizers activities. That’s the beginning to well being. Other measures can follow after a while.

  4. If it is written by SG, it should not be taken by the face value. Once one of favourites, his credibility is sinking at very very fast pace. So even a genuine article should be seen with suspicion. His hatred for Yogi is well known.

  5. Another option is to try a completely different philosophy. 740 districts, 740 district level CM ruling their respective 740 states. The same 740 district CM sits in the national parliament, the LokSabha. They, in turn, elect one amongst them to be the head of the executive – The President. Only one election. MP and MLA are confusing stuff. The President – the executive head – gets his team of specialists to head various departments – elected, unelected – doesn’t matter and responsible to the national parliament. Set a maximum of 2 terms to stop the abuse of power by the President. Anyway – constitution can only be amended by the LokSabha – President is only the executive head

  6. Shekhar deviate issue.
    Come openly whether up police was right in brutally killing dubey?
    How long you will try to cover sins of BJP ?
    I think, of late, shekhar has conveniently forgotten journalists ethics.
    Money and favor of Central government will not fetch inner satisfaction.
    Wake up, and be bold and do correct journalism.
    You are at a age where you have nothing to gain further.
    Serve society by doing hanest journalism

  7. Mr Shekhar your Haryana pampering will not work here, why should it be broken into two three pieces ? Why should only West part of that state have the fun. Now a CM is from other region of that state, let the other regions also develop and become strong. Central and East has been exploited by the partiality of leaders for West part.

  8. Wtf man!…you should be divided in parts for writing these downgraded articles….such a shame you are…..kabhi Up aao ….bol na dena ye sab.

  9. Brilliant!! An idea whose time has been long overdue. Imagine, Uttarakhand was also once part of this humongous state! You can bet your life on not one person from there wanting to join up with UP again.

    The people who’ll oppose the splitting up of UP into more governable parts will do so for selfish reasons. And these reasons are closely tied up with a cause covered by another great Shekhar article – expansionism. As the PM so aptly pointed out, it has no place in the 21st century. The powers that be must realize that the people have equal right to land they live on. And as a nation, we have to serve their needs first, rather than the other way around.

    Will the PM, who prides himself on taking tough’ decisions, take this one up too?!

  10. Shekhar Gupta should spare us his sweeping ideas backed up by – nothing. Just to say that UP has a big population is to state the obvious. He doesn’t tell us why smaller will be better. The rest of the article is an interesting read to see the caste politics and caste criminality at play. None of this has anything to do with splitting up the state. We have come to expect better from Shekhar Gupta, but these lapses into poorly thought through ideas appears to happen frequently.

  11. I think Mayawati tried to divide the state into four earlier in this decade. Could you please tell what was the politics of that move, and why did it get stuck with Congress government at the center?

  12. I don’t always agree with Shekhar Gupta but this is a solid piece and a long overdue move he has suggested. The idea that a unified Uttar Pradesh is ‘holding’ India together is complete nonsense and it is high time the state was broken up so that people of different regions can start accessing their government more easily and their unique features can get better recognition and opportunities. Keeping Uttar Pradesh in one piece is a recipe for permanent backwardness and meant to exploit the people of the state to gain power nationally. UP contributes more people to the Indian army and paramilitaries than any other state in India , largely because there are no other opportunities and people have to put their lives on the line in order to put food on the table. It is time for rest of India to stop using the people of UP like doormats and give them the dignity they deserve.

  13. With this logic India should also be divided into several nations – too big to govern by one PM. And then next Maharashtra it’s larger in area and also have huge population. Then Kerala – very high density. The solution is not division – it just need political will. Yogi is doing quite well.

    • No that is not the logic . India has got lot of small states and they are doing much better. UP is dragging down rest of India.

    • There has been an historical demand for creation of a separate marathwada state. Also Gujurat was carved out of Maharashtra. Similarly chattishgarh out of Madhyapradesh and Jharkhand out of Bihar and Uttrakhand from UP these three were recent ones apart from latest Telengana and Andhra Pradesh. Similarly Himachal and Haryana were carved out of Punjab in 70 ties.
      Of course the recent seperationnof areas of Jammu and Kashmir very recently. Eastern India also saw some new states and a sikkim joined India.
      If you have any coherent argument for or against administrative reorganizing of states you can give it.

    • Your logic is flawed, India is a big country so it is already divided in separate states for better management. And smaller states outperform the biggest states like Uttar Pradesh. UP size/population is greater than kerala +Karnataka+AP.+Telangana. but only one CM is managing against 4 CMS , All the 4 states individually outperform UP.

  14. Jharkhand was also made on the same premise that smaller states are more manageable. What happened there?

    • You need to read up on how Jharkhand has aced social indicators and ease of doing business to be amongst amongst the top 2 best states based on improvement in those parameters.

  15. Mayawati as the CM of UP had said that the state should be broken up into 4 new states.. She had even a non-binding bill passed in the state assembly to that effect.

  16. I got a better idea.
    Instead of creating new stares which has its own problem, why not merge districts. UP even though large in population is small in size

  17. Very well put. Breaking up UP into 5 states could work remarkably well. If someone needs evidence or past example then look no further than Uttarakhand. When broken away from UP, it went up in human development index, overall prosperity and law and order.

  18. One thing though…it maybe the only state without any sub-nationalism and acts as the glue that binds india together.
    But it is good idea generally to split UP. Maybe East Maharastra as well as a separate state.

  19. You are totally lost in this article. First you said you hate caste basesd politics and than wrote the whole article based on caste. If UP divided in 4 states can be governed better.. than why not divide INDIA into 10 countries for better governance. DIVISION IS NOT THE SOLUTION. STRONGLY DISAGREE.

  20. India is much bigger than UP then why to have it as one nation?? Lets split that also!! Doing this will lead to the Muslim-majority states and nobody wants that..why? – Kashmir and Assam are prime examples.

    • Under Article 3 of the Indian constitution, the Indian parliament has the power to divide states. For that, it doesn’t even need the approval of the state. All it takes is a simple majority in the parliament.

    • Thanks for writing in. Article 2 of the Constitution allows Parliament to form new states. Article 3 says Parliament can form new states, increase the area of any state, reduce its area or alter its boundaries, through a law. The central government can introduce a bill for this purpose, on the recommendation of the President. The bill is supposed to be referred to the state legislature, if it affects the area, boundary or name of the state. The state is then expected to express its opinion on the bill within the time limit given to it.

  21. I agree.

    India is a young Nation. Federalism is still evolving. Just because of the extent population rather than the geographical areas, smaller states with manageable number of people will be better administered.

    The media and the opposition too have to participate positively in the process of Nation building. I find that since Independence these two important functions are ill served.

  22. The problem is it is an agrarian economy state away from ports and without much mineral wealth. Its people are intelligent and constantly migrating to rich states after getting educated. They are more into teaching, research, and civil services. UP is getting a good infrastructure in terms of high ways and railways. It is getting many other infrastructure projects of the PSUs. The agriculture is very good here. Also, it has a very good migrant based economy. It is sending workers to the whole India like Bihar and thus getting remittance to states. Division state may not help much as laggard regions will again have laggard government. So, it should have the governance council for all backward regions. BJP government is trying very hard for attracting industries by building the defence corridors and economic corridors. The PM should give more attention to Bihar and UP for development and better governance. These states are being ruined due to election politics. But now regional parties are getting finished. The development should pick up. We should also consider that if 20% population is rich, it is a huge market

  23. BSP’s Mayavati as chief minister passed a resolution in the assembly. Nothing happened. BJP which wants small states and supported for division of Andhrapradesh is silent, matter of convenience.

    • If it need to be divided into 5 states then, as per my opinion Prayagraj would be the best option for the capital of 5th state, because in all parameters prayagraj suited best to be capital city, not even varanasi or gorakhpur, they both lack basic amenities, although prayagraj is the administrative capital of UP, and last Prayagraj is not a part of Purvanchal, it’s a part of a central UP.
      People of Purvanchal are migrated from their cities and shifted to Prayagraj for better life standard.

  24. Mayawati wanted to do it. She even passed the resolution in the assembly in 2012 when she was CM.

    Probably she can do it again. Congress should support since it is in their interest too. This can be done if sufficiently pressurised.

  25. Venamous vicious ideas always emanates from SG. Anti bjp front of this sort of writing will only push india to b divided asbl SG may say one PM cannot goveren

  26. All the holy cities mentioned in Hindu mythology, Mathura, Vrindavan, Ayodhya and Kashi, are in UP. The Ancient hindu period, as given in history had its centre at Patliputra which is Patna. To put it summarily the Indo gangetic belt has been the theatre of Hindu civilization.. So the question to be studied is, whether Hinduism in these two states has lacked the adaptability to the changing times. Its a Modern Age with its own political thought..Its most distinctive feature are “Right to Equality” and coexistence of Rights and Duties.. And this has defined for itself a religion termed secularism… So we have to change with the changing times or else we will be left behind to perish..

  27. Good analysis…it is a long due demand for UP to break it into parts ..4 or 5 parts would change the BJP voting equation in Lok Sabha..there defeat is unstoppable.

  28. I completely agree with your views but don’t you think that a divided UP will hurt BJP’s political ambition more than other regional parties, which means that despite having such an acceptable and popular CM and PM the division of UP is not possible in the near future. But, being from Allahabad I still do not think that Allahabad is a dead city, but would still agree with the fact that old and cultural values ​​are steadily declining.

  29. It is not expected from Print to publish such type of article. It shows that in your views partition is the only solution to few of the problems. So as per your views we should partition every state in India wherever there is problem. UP is not the largest state by area, neither by density. This idea of partition is always coined by political parties to fulfill their political desires. Do you ever understand that partition will not only divide the land but also resources and it has been proved by earlier division of states that none of the later states has flourished beyond their earlier status. Partition can never be a solution.

  30. The mafia Don’s encounter is a godsend distraction for the Congress, its corrupt venal first family and stooges like Mr Gupta.
    This article is nothing more than a diversionary tactic. The author is providing covering fire to his paymasters to allow them to regroup.

  31. Why are The Print and its stable of junior reporters not writing eulogies on Duffer-DonkeyG, Mummy & their pvt ltd political party? Why the sudden silence? Are these instructions from your Chinese paymasters?
    Are you afraid that any mention of DufferG & Mummy will remind readers of the Family Trust and scams?
    Waiting for the heat to cool off are you?

  32. 100 donkeys divided into 5 groups of 20 will still remain donkeys. The real problem are the people of UP. Till the desire to change comes from within, everything else is hand waving. Politicians will come and go. The system will go on.

    It’s not just the police or politicians, just look at the universities in UP.

    UP and Bihar’s ( as also of MP and Rajasthan) biggest handicap is Hindi, despite it being the national language. After Independence, most of the plum defence and aerospace industries went to the South, partly because English was spoken there, and partly because the decision makers themselves were comfortable with English.

    And that is what led to the development of modern industries in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Madras and Trivandrum.

    North India has nothing in comparison. The Modi government understands this, and tried to shift the Aero show from Bengaluru to Lucknow. There was a huge outcry and the idea was cancelled.

    Until this imbalance is set right, the problems in the Hindi-speaking states will continue.

  33. Shekhar Gupta , “Angoor Khatte hai” after having 60 criminal cases the culprit is free then what ‘s the use of that law. Nirbhaya had to wait for more than 7 years for jusctice . Does your small mind things breaking it into 4 0r 5 parts will make it easy to goverened. Your “shiv bhakt janeu dhaari ” Pappu Gandhi thinks spreading false propaganda will help him win election . Remember he had lost from amethi too.

  34. This would be the Biggest of all big bang reforms that India clamours for…but unfortunately as shekhar notes.. if 90% loksabha seats go to the winning dispensation there is a little hope that they would sacrifice chance of ruling over the whole country to fix what is probably the most broken of our states.
    Another reason it won’t happen is lack of grassroots demand …movement for Uttarakhand ran for decades before it became reality …Unless people themselves make a significant issue of it…it appears next to impossible though it could actually transform India.

  35. It is a sad story of negligence, indifference and Machiavellian politics which UP has suffered in all these years. (including 3 BJP govt may I add) This itself indicates that the entire political spectrum has no idea how to successfully govern the state. Superficially Shekhar babu your idea has merit but the experience of partition of Bihar hasn’t been such a happy one – both successor Bihar and Jharkhand seem to be doing not too great. But I guess no harm in trying – atleast it breaks UP’s outsized influence in National politics. This whole thing would atleast open some eyes to few uncomfortable truths (I hope)
    1. All parties are equally devoid of ideas for good governance. They may make a song and dance about it but good governance according to the current rulers seem to be politics of vengeance, oppression and cozy relationship with industrialists.
    2. Full and large majority govt seem to be doing horribly – specially those who have majority both in state and centre. Contrarian ideas seem to act as check on excesses and state govt apathy.
    3. Public support for what was obviously a staged encounter in Hyderabad seems to have emboldened state govt to act with impunity. Public must not support vengeance of a wrong committed by a gang by another wrong committed by the govt. Vengeance will only lead to bloodshed and increasing devaluation of human life without getting rid of incentives to commit the crime in the first place.
    4. The judiciary needs to get it’s act together pronto. Fast trials, punishing the police for deliberately putting up a shoddy case and push back against a govt usurping on judicial independence is a must. Otherwise the state of the judiciary will be like that of the constabulary – public will lose respect and politicians will make it their play-thing.

  36. Leftists and Shekhar Gutha was fine as long as SP, BSP, Congress was ruling UP in present state , but now these Leftists and Muslims realized Hindus are united against caste and voting BJP , the central government in I dis is always formed on the strength of UP , now these Leftists want to break in to pieces , 2 pieces of UP will be come Muslim majority and their dream of getting a Muslim CM outside Kashmir will be full filled, what a great plan Anti Hindus !!!

  37. Gupta ji is striving hard to hide his hatred for Yogi. By breaking states, you create a duplicated machinery – more corruption, more local satraps and of course more power to these cast based leaders. Take example of Telangana/ Andhra division driven by Guptaji’s beloved God Mother. How great is the development? How About JharkAnd or Chhattisgarh?

    UP has handled Corona much better than Guptajis favorite states. UP’s law and order is much better than what it used to be from 2002-2017.

    UP was reasonable till Mulayam family screwed it up royally. Only yadavs were appointed. Education system was damaged beyond repair.

    Yogi is fixing it and UP will be much better in 2024 in his 2nd term

    • Please read it with open mind. Many of my UP friends for many years have described the similar reasons for the UPs under growth.

  38. A good suggestive article indeed. I support this kind of ” national interests in mind ” kind of journalism. Keep it up, The Print.

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