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Newer states are a boon for bureaucracy. But a critical factor can make or break them

The hype about the ‘growth miracle’ of Telangana isn't what it seems. Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh might want to take lessons from it.

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Telangana celebrated its eighth anniversary on 2 June last week, and most newspapers carried a four-page supplement highlighting the state’s achievements. The tagline: ‘India’s youngest state is fast becoming India’s best state’.

Telangana now possesses Hyderabad version 3.0 and districts that were part of the erstwhile Hyderabad State till the States Reorganisation Committee (SRC) push for linguistic states in 1956, which brought the entire Telugu-speaking region under one politico-administrative unit. Three years earlier, in 1953, an Andhra state, with its capital at Kurnool, had been carved out of the eleven Telugu-speaking districts of the erstwhile Madras Presidency after the riots that followed the fast-unto-death of Potti Sriramulu.

From 1956 to 2014, the erstwhile Hyderabad districts were part of Andhra Pradesh, but the feeling of discrimination persisted. The belief that language alone could be the unifying factor was disproved in a series of agitation for a separate Telangana within the first few years of the state formation of Andhra Pradesh.

In November 2022, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh will also mark the 22nd year of their formation and one can expect a similar advertisement blitz. New states are certainly a boon for the political and bureaucratic class because they expand the pool of chief ministers, chief secretaries, additional chief secretaries and director generals of police (DGPs), and chair many sinecures and commissions.

Also Read: The case against dividing Uttar Pradesh into smaller states

Implications of state reorganisation

When states are reorganised, the State Reorganisation division in the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) is tasked with the allocation of the All India Services between the successor states. The broad principle includes allocation by option, followed by domicile, and lastly, by the inclusion of junior most personnel.

If the number of posts allocated to a successor state is more than the total number of optees and domiciliary candidates, the balance posts are filled by those lower down in the seniority position in the cadre. While this looks fine on paper, it has often led to bitter litigation, especially in the context of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana as a majority of the Andhra officers wanted to stay on in Hyderabad.

With regard to the hype about the ‘growth miracle’, the comparison was made on the criterion of GDP growth. While Telangana grew at 13.8 per cent, Andhra Pradesh was not far behind at 12.7 per cent. In fact, Andhra’s growth is significant because of the absence of a city like Hyderabad, which is the main driver of growth for Telangana. Not only has Andhra Pradesh been able to overcome the loss of a major city and the confusion over multiple capitals, but it has also shown remarkable resilience in agriculture, food processing, MSME and infrastructure sectors.

In a similar vein, both Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh have been neck and neck. Both states are in the 11-12 per cent growth range at current prices. However, Uttar Pradesh has indeed set itself an ambitious target of boosting its economy to one trillion dollars per annum and also asked for Expressions of Interest from consultancy organisations to assist the state in this endeavour.

Even though Jharkhand did better in the first few years of the state formation, at current prices, Bihar has taken the lead by clocking a growth of 11.5 per cent, while the latter is just managing to stay above the double-digit growth. The contrast between Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh is more pronounced, with Chhattisgarh’s growth being less than double-digit, and Madhya Pradesh recording a growth of 14 per cent.

Also Read: IAS, IPS, IFS, IRS should have specific civil service entrance exams. At least discuss it

Are smaller states better?

Does this mean that we should not have smaller states? Yes, they should. Smaller states respond to their specific situations better. For instance, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Telangana, which were deeply impacted by Left Wing Extremism (LWE), addressed the issues of development, road connectivity and political outreach more meaningfully than when they were parts of a larger political formation.

Uttarakhand framed its development policy keeping in mind the fact that over 71 per cent of the state was under forest cover. As the Rural Development Secretary in Uttarakhand from 2002 to 2003, I have seen it refashion the Agriculture Production Commissioner’s branch as the Forest and Rural Development Commissioner’s branch because conventional agriculture was not the mainstay of the state’s farmers. The focus shifted to organic agriculture, medicinal plants, and ecotourism—and this would not have been possible if the political dispensation was based out of Lucknow.

Some political commentators have given importance to the increase in the number of constituencies, and the ability of the legislators to pay greater attention to the development works in their areas. Thus, in the erstwhile ‘undivided’ Uttar Pradesh, there were only 22 legislative seats for the districts that now constitute Uttarakhand. As a separate state, they now have 70 seats. Uttar Pradesh’s strength was reduced marginally from 425 to 403.

Similarly, while the ‘undivided’ Andhra had 295 assembly seats, after reorganisation, Andhra has 175 and Telangana 119. We also have a contrary example as well: the reorganisation of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh did not see the number of MLAs go up. The 324 seats of Bihar and 320 seats of Madhya Pradesh were distributed in terms of population: thus, Jharkhand got 81 and Bihar retained 243. In the case of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the figure was 230 and 90, respectively.

Also Read: India’s State institutions are failing citizens because they were built to control, not govern

Chief ministers make all the difference

One clearly identifiable factor is the stability in the tenure of the chief ministers. The states that have done better are those where the CMs have been in firm command. Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath outlasted three Uttarakhand CMs (Trivendra Singh Rawat, Tirath Singh Rawat and Pushkar Singh Dhami) in the last five years. Same for K. Chandrasekhar Rao and Nitish Kumar in Telangana and Bihar. But for a brief interlude, Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been at the helm in Madhya Pradesh.

However, in the case of both Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, Raghubar Das and Raman Singh had to make way for Hemant Soren and Bhupesh Baghel. Both Soren and Baghel are facing internal dissidence and they must divide their time between managing the party and the state.

While the Union government lays down the broad policy format and provides the major funding, the actual implementation of projects on the ground, from health to education to agriculture, is well within the purview of the state government. Stable tenures matter. Not just for the CMs but also for the district magistrates and other field functionaries who are tasked with the implementation of multiple programmes—from skilling to cleanliness, start-ups to crop diversification and health insurance to school attendance.

When the CMs have a stable tenure, the frequency of transfers down the line is substantially reduced, which is a key success factor in improving the parameters of good governance—an omnibus term that includes both Ease of Living and Ease of Doing Business.

Sanjeev Chopra is a historian and Festival Director of Valley of Words. Till recently, he was the Director of the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration. He was also the Secretary to the Government of Uttarakhand from January 2002 to January 2007 and former civil servant. He tweets @ChopraSanjeev. Views are personal.

This article is part of ‘State of the State‘ series that analyses policy, civil services, and governance in India.

(Edited by Srinjoy Dey)

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