Explainer: The reorganization of states in India and why it happened

In 1953, the first linguistic state of Andhra for Telugu-speaking people was born.
Explainer: The reorganization of states in India and why it happened
Explainer: The reorganization of states in India and why it happened
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At the time of independence in 1947, India consisted of 571 disjointed princely states that were merged together to form 27 states. The grouping of states at the time was done on the basis of political and historical considerations rather than on linguistic or cultural divisions, but this was a temporary arrangement. On account of the multilingual nature and differences that existed between various states, there was a need for the states to be reorganized on a permanent basis. 

In 1948, SK Dhar - a judge of the Allahabad High Court - was appointed by the government to head a commission that would look into the need for the reorganization of states on a linguistic basis. However, the Commission preferred reorganisation of states on the basis of administrative convenience including historical and geographical considerations instead of on linguistic lines.

In December 1948, the JVP Committee comprising Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabh bhai Patel and Pattabhi Sitaramayya was formed to study the issue. The Committee, in its report submitted in April 1949, rejected the idea of reorgansation of states on a linguistic basis but said that the issue could be looked at afresh in the light of public demand.  

In 1953, the first linguistic state of Andhra for Telugu-speaking people was born. The government was forced to separate the Telugu speaking areas from the state of Madras, in the face of a prolonged agitation and the death of Potti Sriramulu after a 56-day hunger strike. Consequently, there were similar demands for creation of states on linguistic basis from other parts of the country. 

On December 22, 1953, Jawaharlal Nehru appointed a commission under Fazl Ali to consider these new demands. The commission submitted its report in 1955 and it suggested that the whole country be divided into 16 states and three centrally administered areas. The government, while not agreeing with the recommendations entirely, divided the country into 14 states and 6 union territories under the States Reorganisation Act that was passed in November 1956. The states were Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Bombay, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Madras, Mysore, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The six union territories were Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Laccadive, Minicoy and Amindivi Islands, Manipur and Tripura.

In 1960, the state of Bombay was bifurcated to create the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra following violence and agitation. In 1963, the state of Nagaland was created for the sake of the Nagas and total number of states stood at 16. 

The areas of Chandernagore, Mahe, Yaman and Karekal from France, and the territories of Goa, Daman and Diu from the Portuguese, were either made union territories or were joined with the neighbouring states, after their acquisition. 

Based on the Shah Commission report in April 1966, the Punjab Reorganisation Act was passed by the Parliament. Following this, the state of Haryana got the Punjabi-speaking areas while the hilly areas went to the Union Territory of Himachal Pradesh. Chandigarh, which was made a Union Territory, would serve as the common capital of Punjab and Haryana. 

In 1969 and in 1971, the states of Meghalaya and Himachal Pradesh came into being respectively. With the Union Territories of Tripura and Manipur being converted into states, the total number of Indian states rose to 21. 

Thereafter, Sikkim in 1975 and Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh in February 1987 also acquired the status of states. In May 1987, Goa became the 25th state of the Indian Union, while three new states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttaranchal were formed in November 2000. On June 2, 2014, Telangana officially became India’s 29th state. 

Presently, India has 29 states and 7 union territories. The states are: Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal, West Bengal and Telangana. The union territories are: Delhi, Chandigarh, Puducherry, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar haveli. 

Why language was used as the criteria for the division of states? 

It would lead to the local people participating in the administration in larger numbers because of being able to communicate in a common language. 

Governance would be made easier in areas, which shared linguistic and geographical features. 

This would lead to the development of vernacular languages, which had long been ignored by the British. 

Why the new states were created? 

One main reason was the cultural or social affiliations. For instance, the state of Nagaland in the Northeast was created taking tribal affiliations into account. 

Another reason was economic development. For instance, Chhattisgarh felt that the region could grow economically only through separate statehood because the region’s development needs were not being met by the state government. For an aggrieved region, there is a strong sense that overall development will not come to them in the bigger state because of inequitable distribution of resources and lack of adequate opportunities for growth.

There is also a shift in power from the Centre to the states and with the growth of diverse communities, the existing federal structure is probably not sufficient to meet the aspirations of the rising numbers. 

Also, parties tend to associate themselves with identity politics to get attention on the national stage and for gaining a vote bank. Hence, there is an increasing demand for formation of new states based on social and cultural identities.

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