dr.ambedkar on the reorganization of states

dr.ambedkar had some interesting things to say on the consolidation of the north and the balkanisation of the south:
What the Commission has created is not a mere disparity between the States by leaving U.P. and Bihar as they are, by adding to them a new and a bigger Madhya Pradesh with Rajasthan it creates a new problem of North versus South.

The North is Hindi speaking. The South is non-Hindi speaking. Most people do not know what is the size of the Hindi-speaking population. It is as much as 48 per cent of the total population of India. Fixing one's eye on this fact one cannot fail to say that the Commission's effort will result in the consolidation of the North and the balkanisation of the South.

Can the South tolerate the dominance of the North?

It may now not be a breach of a secret if I revealed to the public what happened in the Congress Party meeting when the Draft Constitution of India was being considered, on the issue of adopting Hindi as the national language. There was no article which proved more controversial than Article 115 which deals with the question. No article produced more opposition. No article, more heat. After a prolonged discussion when the question was put, the vote was 78 against 78. The tie could not be resolved. After a long time when the question was put to the Party meeting the result was 77 against 78 for Hindi. Hindi won its place as a national language by one vote. I am stating these facts from my personal knowledge. As Chairman of the Drafting Committee I had naturally entry to the Congress Party enclosure.

These facts reveal how much the South dislikes the North. This dislike may grow into hatred if the North remains consolidated and the South becomes disintegrated and if the North continues to exercise a disproportionate influence on the politics of India (See Map 1).

To allow one State to have such preponderating influence in the Centre is a dangerous thing.

Mr. Pannikar has referred to this aspect of the case. In his dissenting minute he says:

"The consequence of the present imbalance, caused by the denial of the federal principal of equality of units, has been to create feelings of distrust and resentment in all the States outside Uttar Pradesh. Not only in the Southern States but also in the Punjab, Bengal and elsewhere the view was generally expressed before the Commission that the present structure of government led to the dominance of Uttar Pradesh in all-India matters. The existence of this feeling will hardly be denied by anyone. That it will be a danger to our unity, if such feelings are allowed to exist and remedies are not sought and found now, will also not be denied."

There is a vast difference between the North and the South. The North is conservative. The South is progressive. The North is superstitious, the South is rational. The South is educationally forward, the North is educationally backward. The culture of the South is modern. The culture of the North is ancient.

Did not Prime Minister Nehru on the 15th of August 1947 sit at the Yajna performed by the Brahmins of Benares to celebrate the event of a Brahmin becoming the first Prime Minister of free and independent India and wear the Raja Danda given to him by these Brahmins and drink the water of the Ganges brought by them ?

How many women have been forced to go Sati in recent days and immolate themselves on the funeral pyre of their dead husbands. Did not the President recently go to Benares and worship the Brahmins, washed their toes and drank the water ?

The North still has its Satis, its Nanga Sadhus. What havoc the Nanga Sadhus made at the last Hardwar Fair! Did anyone in U.P. protest against it ?

How can the rule of the North be tolerated by the South ? Already there signs of the South wanting to break away from the North.

Mr. Rajagopalachari has made a statement on the recommendations of the States Reorganisation Commission which has appeared in the Times of India of the 27th November. 1955. This is what he says :

" If it is impossible to put the States Reorganisation Schemes in cold storage for the next 15 years, the only alternative is for the Centre to govern India as a unitary state and deal with district officers and district boards directly, with regional commissioners' supervision.

" It would be utterly wrong to fritter away national energy in dispute over boundaries and divisions conceived in the drawing room and not on the background of conditions that have resulted historically.

" Apart from the general convictions of mine, I feel that a large southern State is absolutely essential for preserving the political significance of that part of the country. To cut the South up into Tamil, Malayalam and other small States will result only in complete insignificance of everybody and, in the net result, India as a whole will be the poorer."

Mr. Rajagopalachari has not expressed himself fully. He did do so fully and openly to me when he was the Head of the State and I was the Law Minister in charge of drafting the constitution. I went to Mr. Rajagopalachari for my usual interview which was the practice of the day. At one such interview Mr. Rajagopalachari, referring to the sort of constitution which the Constituent Assembly was making, said to me, "You are committing a great mistake. One federation for the whole of India with equal representation for all areas will not work. In such a federation the Prime Minister and President of India will always be from the Hindi speaking area. You should have two Federations, one Federation of the North and one Federation of the South and a Confederation of the North and the South with three subjects for the Confederation to legislate upon and equal representation for both the federations."

These are the real thoughts of Mr. Rajagopalachari. They came to me as a revelation coming as they did from the innermost heart of a Congressman. I now regard Mr. Rajagopalachari as a prophet predicting the break-up of India into the North and the South. We must do everything to falsify Mr. Rajagopalachari's prophecy.

It must not be forgotten that there was a civil war in the U.S.A. between the North and the South. There may also be a civil war between the North and the South in India. Time will supply many grounds for such a conflict. It must not be forgotten that there is a vast cultural difference between the North and the South and cultural differences are very combustible.

In creating this consolidation of the North and balkanisation of the South the Commission did not realise that they were dealing with a political and not a merely linguistic problem.

It would be most unstatesman like not to take steps right now to prevent such a thing happening. What is the remedy ?
in his notes, dr.ambedkar struggled with several problems raised by the reorganization of states, weighed the pros and and cons of linguistic states (which he favoured), and also formulated some principles for the creation of new states. more on that later.


oremuna said...

good post.

waiting for next posts.
what are the other points noted by him on states reorg?

Kiran said...

Rajagopalacharis ideas are praiseworthy . South states can still form a federation and have for example a supereme court bench and independent foreign relations (without a foreign policy) - like scotland in UK. i was arguing along these lines just a couple of months back with my colleagues.

kuffir said...


thank you. as i said, he did lay down some broad principles. among them was the principle that 'one state, one language' but not 'one language, one state'. which broadly means he wasn't against the division of linguistic states. this has been conveniently interpreted by some as indicating further division of *any* linguistic state. but i'm not sure dr.ambedkar would've applied that principle to the south. there are other significant issues raised by him which are being overlooked by the proponents of separation in telangana. hope to hear your views on my later posts.


andhra pradesh is now as big as the south, in terms of population, was in 1947. i'd rather advocate more powers for the states and major devolution of functions and funds to the districts and villages.

my view is that big states like andhra pradesh should be allowed to have their own federation with wide autonomy, and the centre's direct and all pervasive control over the country's economy should be progressively decreased. this is not something that has suddenly struck me now.

what we're witnessing now is a complete reversal of the process of democratization which began in 1947-- with vested social and economic interests driving this campaign to further weaken democracy in the village level, taking hard-earned democratic rights back to state capitals and to delhi..

Sridhar said...

Big admirer of your posts. Your views on decentralization of power reminds me of Loksatta. But I do not understand what are the incentives for elected representative to toe the line of centralization or surrender to party high command policies as opposed to power to local govts. Is devolution something that state govts can legislate themselves or left to parliament? Agitations like Telangana seem to tell that people are more interested in regional aspects of power and wealth than virtues of strong local governments.

kuffir said...


thanks for those kind words.

i'd begin my response to your observations by starting with the last line first.

'Agitations like Telangana seem to tell that people are more interested in regional aspects of power and wealth than virtues of strong local governments.'

the people would appreciate strong local governments more if they had ever really experienced any 'strong local governments'. the 73rd amendment clearly lays down that state governments need to devolve 29 functions like education (excluding medical education), minor irrigation, small scale and cottage industries, public health and hospitals, poverty alleviation, water supply and sanitation etc to local governments in the villages etc with 1) functional authority 2) administrative and other personnel and 3) requisite funds..this process hasn't moved beyond very initial stages of devolution in states like andhra pradesh.

'Is devolution something that state govts can legislate themselves or left to parliament?'
now, the responsibility primarily rests on the state govts.

'Your views on decentralization of power reminds me of Loksatta. But I do not understand what are the incentives for elected representative to toe the line of centralization or surrender to party high command policies as opposed to power to local govts.'

the devolution of powers to local govts is a natural process in the evolution of democracy.. the lok satta and most other parties while agreeing on the need of devolution, differ on the urgency of it depending on the caste/class composition of its members. yes, devolution would mean a real shifting of power from certain institutions and castes/classes, and would involve a change in power equations.. hence the opposition of entrenched class/caste interests.

one'd have to recognize that democracy in india is a painfully slow work-in-process and it took mature democracies in the west over two hundred years to reach where they are..the strength of the telangana movement shows that the people want a faster pace of change.

Sridhar said...

Thank you Kuffir. I agree that vested interests would want the status quo continue. The 29 functions that you describe seem to deal more with improving the quality of living by means of basic education, health care, sanitation etc. In general Indian public appears insensitive to the need for quality basic services. May be it is employment and income that concerns them more which explains their active alignment with political parties which inturn are proxies for caste/class interests you mentioned. May be these economic rewards diminish in strong and independent local govts?

Sorry for the digression!

kuffir said...


'May be it is employment and income that concerns them more which explains their active alignment with political parties which inturn are proxies for caste/class interests you mentioned.'

no, that's a misinterpretation.. the idea is to give panchayats/mandals/districts function like little governments on their own.

i had pointed out the functions include-- small scale industries, cottage industries on the one hand and poverty alleviation and minor irrigation on the other. this means the panchayats get wide leverage to promote both employment generating industry and agriculture and related activities to improve incomes on the other.

strengthening local governments means enabling people to gain control over their lives, and the resources needed to improve their lives.

when i refer to caste/class interests, i mean dominant caste/class interests. dominant castes/classes in india would like nothing more than a centralized power structure, located in state capitals or delhi. the weaker/classes/castes in the villages can only depend on the reluctant patronage of the dominant castes/classes in such a scenario (as is happening now).

i think it'd be useful if we studied how the smallest of villages/towns in the democratic west have more control over the local economy, and society etc.

as i hinted earlier, we still haven't moved out of centralized power structures (as are the norms in feudal/colonized societies) to a democratic polity in which political power is much more widely distributed.

ved said...

One of the issue I see in this decentralization up to panchayat level is the difficulty in monitoring them for their efficiency. Instead of few dozen entities, now we need to monitor hundreds of them to see whether they are delivering effectively. Now you need to watch all of them for any corruption.

It looks good on paper that the people of panchayat themselves have vested interests to manage efficiently and therefore it has self correcting mechanism, but in reality this will create huge gap between panchayats that managed effectively and the one that don’t.

The other concern is the loss of economies of scale. If each of the panchayats have Rs 50000 budget to create a cottage industry, it will be lot more productive for 50 panchayats to invest Rs 25 lakhs to generate productive output.

I’m not defending current corrupted centralized system. But we can’t compare corrupted centralized system with a utopian non-corrupted decentralized system. We need to compare apples to apples. Is such thing as non-corrupted efficient centralized system? If there is one, is it possible to create one without too much experimentation?

gaddeswarup said...

I this connection, the paper "The limited Modesty of Subsidiarity" by N.W. Barber (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=712191) may be of interest. It requires subecription but I have downloaded the paper and if anybody is interested I can send it. I came across the paper through some posts in 'The Law and Orhet Things'.

kuffir said...


you're looking at local government from a top-down perspective.

why do you wish to monitor the functioning of any panchayat, municipality in which you do not live? it's for the people of that panchayat/municipality to monitor the functioning of the local government. just as the people of one state monitor the functioning of that particular state government.

there's nothing utopian about democracy at local level. in fact it's a broad recognition of the fact that the idea of one all-knowing, incorruptible, able leader heading one centralized group of all-knowing, incorruptible, able administrators is utopian. apart from being the antithesis of democracy.

we already have local governments. the 73rd amendment only identified and recommended (in the early 90s, after studying the functioning of governance structures since independence) what administrative functions could be basically more optimally performed at the local panchayat/mandal/district level. which means the amendment talks about a very practicable set of ideas..

swarup garu,

yes, i've read about the paper. please mail it to me, thanks.

gaddeswarup said...

Sent it. Pl. see whether this paper is useful:
Community initiatives in building and managing temporary check-dams across seasonal streams for water harvesting in South India

kuffir said...


as for disparities in development between villages, i think the disparities created by development managed totally by centralized structures are much more serious, as we can see now. states which have gone far on the path of decentralization rank much better on human development indices, because development is planned and monitored right in the villages, and not by planners hundreds of miles away. and you can't deny people the democratic right to meaningful political participation.

'The other concern is the loss of economies of scale. If each of the panchayats have Rs 50000 budget to create a cottage industry, it will be lot more productive for 50 panchayats to invest Rs 25 lakhs to generate productive output.'

we're talking of societies, not businesses. the inclusion of subjects such as cottage/small industries doesn't mean that panchayats or district govts would be empowered to actually invest in starting such enterprises.. their role will be limited to promoting and facilitating the establishment of such job-generating investments.

Sridhar said...

Kuffir, would you mind sharing info on states that have strong local govts? The attributes of these states that have enabled them to puruse a degree of decentralization would be interesting. Should these local govts be entitled to a share of state sales and income tax based on population or their gross output? You already mentioned about correlation of strong local govts to high HD indices. Any evidence of decentralization crippling politicians and bureaucrats practicing corrpution would be interesting too.

kuffir said...


sorry for responding late.

kerala has been among the pioneers in devolving functions and funds to panchayats.. there is a lot that needs to be improved going by kerala's experience, but the results, all things considered, have been positive. one study says over 30% of plan funds are being diverted to panchayats (yes, part of the total plan funds available with the state govt) and delivery to beneficiaries has improved by over 30% (over the famous 15% figure quoted by rajiv gandhi).

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