The federal character of the Indian Constitution involves the distribution of sovereignty between the Central Government and the states. The distribution of powers, in general, follows the Government of India Act of 1935. The Indian Constitution provides for a three-fold distribution of legislative powers between the Union and the States. The Central Government is given exclusive powers to make laws concerning 97 items including defence, national security, foreign affairs, banking, currency and coinage, transportation and communication, commerce, atomic energy, the general framework of criminal and civil laws, revenue collection, the ability to dissolve state governments during the crisis, citizenship, immigration, and monetary policy.
The State List comprises 66 subjects including agricultural development, water, forests, fisheries, wildlife, internal trade, public order and police, local government, public health and sanitation, and state taxes and duties.
The Thind List, called the Concurrent List, includes 47 items including criminal law and procedure, civil procedure, marriage, contracts, torts and easement, trust, the welfare of labour, insurance, economic and social planning, and education. In case of overlapping of any matter between the three lists, the Central Government has been given the paramount power. Likewise, all residuary powers ate given to the Centre.
State Reorganisation in India
The evolution of the Indian state has a long history of over 5000 years. The status of the nation was always changing, but it was never a democratic republic where the electorate elected the rulers till its Independence 1947. Thus during its long history of over 5000 years, India was never identified as a single state in the modern sense of the term. Interestingly enough, “neither the Mauryas, nor the Guptas, not the Mughals, nor the British at the height of their power, exercised sovereignty over the whole of India’s territory” (Pannikar, 1964). The British, after extending the political limits of their possession of ‘India’ to the traditional limits of the subcontinent, tried to bring about political stability in the area, and thus brought a ‘definiteness about the idea of India’ (Spate and Learmonth—1967 ). The boundaries, except for parts of the Greater Himalayas in the north were fixed. The British also in their turn did not exercise their power of administration uniformly over the entire territory of the sub-continent of India. Politically, there were two India:
- British India, government by the crown according to the statutes of the Parliament and enactments of the Indian legislature, and
- The Indian states under the personal rule of their rulers/princes.
Before Independence, India was divided into 14 British provinces and 600 princely states. The British Government had full control over the external affairs, defence and communications of the princely states. About half of these native states were in Kathiawad Peninsula and most of the remaining in Rajputana (Rajasthan) and Central India. These were classified in different categories according to the size, revenue, agreement, dignities, and titles of the ruler, etc.
In 1947, the creation of Pakistan was the outcome of the British colonial policy of the 20th century which contributed to Hindu-Muslim schism. Pakistan was carved out from the portions of the British provinces and native states having Muslim majority in the population according to the Census of 1941. India was given possession of 9 British Provinces and 562 princely states of different shape and size. The princely states were legally empowered to accede either to India or Pakistan.
After Independence, some of the princely states were merged with provinces geographically contiguous; some were formed into viable unions of states, while others were converted into centrally administered areas (Union Territories). Integration, in most of the cases, was achieved swiftly and peacefully. The boundaries formed after integration of princely states and the former British provinces were economically, administratively, linguistically, and culturally illogical. The newly created 27 states were unwieldy, expensive and inequitable. These states were divided into four categories, A. B, C, and D based on the principle of federalism. Category ‘A’ states (numbering 9) were governed by the governor, while category ‘B’ sates (numbering 7) were governed by the Rajpramukh. Category ‘C’ sates were administered by the Centre on a unitary basis and were called Commissioner’s states. Category ‘D’ states included Island territories of Andaman and Nicobar Islands under the full authority of the Central Government. The integration was a unique type of bloodless revolution unparalleled in the history of the world.
In addition to the British provinces and the princely states, there were five French (Chandannagar, Pondichery, Karaikal, Mahe and Yangon) and five Portuguese (Dadar, Nagar-Haveli, Goa, Daman and Diu) possessions in India, majority of which were located along or near the coasts. These possessions were also merged into the Union of India either with negotiations or by applying some force. The protectorate of Sikkim was integrated within the Union of India on April 26, 1975.
Reorganisation of Indian States
The integration of princely states was smooth and swift. But the political units devised in 1950 were not economically viable and politically sustainable. Hence, a need was felt to reorganise the states.
In the reorganisation of the states, the language was made the basis as provided by the Congress Parry Resolution of 1920 in Nagpur Session and its subsequent reaffirmation in 1927, 1937, 1938, and 1945-46. In December 1953, the Government of India appointed the State Reorganisation Commission to examine ‘objectively and dispassionately’ the problem of the reorganisation of states of the Indian Union.
The States Reorganisation Commission adopted a rational and balanced approach for the reorganisation of states. The bases of the reorganisation of states were:
- ‘to recognise linguistic homogeneity as an important factor … but not to consider it as an exclusive and binding principle. The linguistic basis ensures larger participation of people in the administration. Moreover, the linguistic states helped to pacify the people of different parts of the country whose languages were ignored during the British period;
- to ensure that communicational, educational and cultural needs of different language groups … are adequately met;
- where satisfactory conditions exist, and the balance of economic, political and administrative considerations favour composite states, to continue them with the necessary safeguards to ensure that all sections enjoy equal rights and opportunities.
- ‘to repudiate the ‘homeland’ concept … by upholding equal opportunities and equal rights for all citizens throughout the length and breadth of the Union;
- to reject the theory of ‘one language one state’ …; and
- finally, to the extent that realisation of Unilingualism at the state level would tend to breed a particularist feeling, to counterbalance that feeling by positive measures calculated to give a deeper interplay of different regional cultures, and inter-state cooperation and accord; and to reinforce the links between the Centre and the States in order to secure a greater coordinated working of national policies and programmes’ (Report of the States Reorganisation Commission, 1955).
There are some negative consequences of the re-organisation of states on a linguistic basis.
- It increases the feeling of regionalism/sub-nationalism.
- It hinders economic co-operation.
- It promotes an antagonistic attitude towards neighbouring states.
The Commission submitted its report on 30 September 1955, recommending the reorganisation of India into 16 States and 3 Territories. The Government of India examined the report in detail and proposed the reorganisation of India into 15 States and 7 Territories. Finally, the Parliament passed the States Reorganisation Act, 1956 reorganising India into 14 States and 6 Union Territories from November 1, 1956.
As a result of the reorganisation, a very large area and population were brought under a similar administrative pattern. All the states, covering 98 per cent of area and population of India, now had a similar legislative, executive and judicial structure as chief components of the Republic. Only a small portion as the Union Territories was left under the Central guidance. The anomaly of the institution of Rajpramukh was removed, ending the last hereditary and feudal association with the administration as head of the state. The territorial contiguity was another major achievement. Various blocks of territories, existing as enclaves and exclaves, even after the integration of states were merged with the contiguous units; excepting the one anomaly in respect of Himachal Pradesh which was still left in two major blocks. Most of the reorganised states were larger in area and population than before. Madras and Bihar lost some areas, while Assam, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir underwent no change. Certain former states like Hyderabad, Coorg, Bhopal, Saurashtra, Kutch, Madhya Bharat, Vindhya Pradesh, Ajmer, Mewar, and PEPSU lost their identities as such. There were little boundary changes, old boundaries of different levels had been maintained. The number of states, as reorganised, was less than recommended by the Commission or proposed by the government.
The reorganisation of states could not satisfy all opinions, It did not mark the end of the process. On Linguistic, ethnic, or cultural grounds, pressing demands have been made for readjustment of politico-territorial units. Consequently, there was an increase in the number of units and also certain variations in the administrative set-up.
Although language was made an open issue in the reorganisation, it is evident that ‘communalism’ played a vital role in the partitioning of Bombay into Maharashtra and Gujarat (May 1, 1960), and Punjab (November 1, 1966) into Punjab and Haryana. The Sikhs felt themselves to be a different community from the Hindus in Punjab and so did the Marathas from Gujaratis in Bombay (Mumbai). Communalism, thus, in the pre-independent India was responsible for the partition of the subcontinent and in the post- Independence. India was responsible for creating further territorial divisions (Rai, Satya, 1965, and Singh, G.S. 1966). The States Reorganisation Commission had recommended one greater Punjab comprising the then East Punjab and Himachal Pradesh including PEPSU and Bilaspur. Various forces have succeeded in getting this region divided into four units as at present: the states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and the Union Territory of Chandigarh.
The other region of large territorial changes lies in the North-East. The internal administration of this area was organised and based on traditional tribal ways of life and social customs. Nagaland (1 December 1963), and Meghalaya (2 April 1970) were carved out from Assam, while Manipur (1971), Tripura (1971), Mizoram (8 December 1986), and Arunachal Pradesh (8 December 1986) were upgraded from the status of union territories to the status of full-Hedged states. In fact, the geographical and administrative isolation of various hill areas in the North-East was responsible for their economic backwardness. This feeling of political isolation and economic backwardness among the hill people led to their demands for separate political units. These hill people did not wish to be dominated by the people of the plains of the Brahmaputra Valley in Assam.
In other areas, Himachal Pradesh was raised to the status of a state on 26 January 1971. Sikkim, a Himalayan kingdom and protectorate of India, opted to join the Indian Union in April 1975 as an Associate State and became a full state on. Goa, a union territory since 1961, became a full-fledged state from 30 May 1987, while the exclaves of Daman and Diu continued to remain as Union Territory. More recently, the States of Chhatisgarh (2 November 2000). Uttarakhand (9 November 2000), and Jharkhand (15 November 2000) have been carved out from Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar respectively so as to form the 26th, 27th and 28th states of the Union of India. In addition to these, there are seven Union Territories also.
The reorganisation of states left many regions, which are clamouring for new states, dissatisfied. The Gorkhas of the Hill areas of West Bengal are demanding Gorkhaland: the Bodo tribe of Assam wants a separate Bodoland; the tribes of the North Cachar Hill District also feel antagonistic to the introduction of Assamese as the medium of education; the tribes of Mikir Hills also feel the same way; Ahoms have been demanding a separate Ahom State comprising the districts of Upper Assam; the Garos, inhabiting about 316 villages in South Central Assam, have sought their merger with the adjoining state of Meghalaya.
After the creation of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Uttarakhand, the demands are being raised for further sub-division of Uttar Pradesh into Bundelkhand, Harit-Pradesh, Purvanchal, and central Uttar Pradesh. There are demands for separate states from Madhya Pradesh in the form of Mahakaushal, Baghelkhand, and Malwanchal, and from Bihar in the form of Bhojpur. People from Telangana (Andhra Pradesh) also want to divide it into separate states. Similarly, there have been demands for separate states of Vidarbha and Konkan to be carved out from Maharashtra. Demands for smaller states have been made in the name of better administration and all-round development but such demands ignore the fact that the smaller states of the north-eastern region have not performed so well in the socio-economic development.
The tendency towards more and more fragmentation by dividing bigger states on one pretext or the other has been marked in the post-Reorganisation period in the country. The tragic irony of recent history is that peace has been brought at the cost of a strong integrated India by carving out new units and new administrative provisions (Srivastava, R.P. 1996). It has created a danger to the national unity since it has encouraged the feeling of regionalism, hindered economic co-operation between the states and developed an antagonistic attitude among them. With the beginning of multi-party coalition rule, the power of central authority has weakened, and centrifugal forces are gaining strength. Backed by our unfriendly neighbours and foreign powers, demands are being raised in some regions of the country for sovereign states.