Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Maya of New States

There are three things one can never be sure of in life: the moment of birth, the moment of death and the number of states in India. The first two events can be forecast with some certainty using arcane powers of the occult but the third one is guaranteed to flummox even seasoned seers. Such is the unpredictability that shrouds the cartography of Indian polity.

During the independence era, we had 562 princely states and 17 provinces. That ace weaver Sardar Vallabhai Patel somehow managed to stitch together a tapestry of unity with the twin threads of nationalism and federalism. But then, our territorial gluttony kicked in sometime in 1956 and thus was born our never-ending appetite to divide and mutate into a mélange of linguistic units. The result: every decade we end up either demanding or creating new states citing some excuse or the other.

In the beginning, the demands seemed to make sense. But now, it feels as if no one really gives a fig about financial viability any more. It’s become one heck of a free-for- all. Almost like a wedding buffet. Everyone with an appetite has queued up for the goodies. That includes Queen Mayawati who’s brazenly proposed to carve up Uttar Pradesh into Ma, Ya, Wa & Ti (my code names for Awadh, Bundelkhand, Purvanchal and Paschim Pradesh) on an elephantine whim.

My fear is this politically inspired move might just inspire a million more groups to make a case for creation of edgy new principalities based on the flimsiest of ideologies. For example, what is going to be our justification for rejecting the creation of Tendulkar Pradesh? Or for that matter Bachchan Bhoomi, Rajni Nadu, Chiru Desam, and Salmankhanistan.

The way things are going, we as a nation, might soon end up with more states than the USA. The only way to arrest this farcical development is to announce certain basic parameters for state formation. What is required is an elucidation of minimum economy size, geographical area, natural resources and population to qualify for statehood. Otherwise every Pondy Bazaar will aspire to be a Pondicherry!