India is a vast plural country, full of diversities of religions, castes,languages, tribes, cultures, etc. A number of cultural and linguistic groups are concentrated in certain territorial segments, to which they are attached, emotionally and historically. As has been said that during colonial rule the administration was interested in economic exploitation of the country and not in its development; it encouraged various divisions based on religion, region, caste and language and did not pursue any plan or strategy for a balanced development of the country.
These resulted in regional imbalances,and group identities. Subsequently, the independent India saw the rise of regionalism, linguism, separatism, etc. In this chapter we will read about the background, causes and nature of these phenomena and possible ways out to check them. All these are related and interconnected. A region is a territory, the inhabitants of which have an emotional attachment to it because of commonality of religion,language, usages and customs, socioeconomic and political stages of development, common historical traditions, a common way of living, etc.
Any one or more of these, and above all widely prevalent sentiments of togetherness, strengthen the bond. This territory can coincide with the boundaries of a State, parts of State or even with more than one State. A sense of discrimination or competition on economic, political or cultural grounds, desire for justice or favour gives rise to regionalism. Depending on reasons,and related nature, regionalism can be manifested in many ways like demand for autonomy or powers for State,creation of new State, protection of language or culture of the region or separation from the country.
By regional disparities or imbalances is meant wide differences in per capita income, literacy rates, availability of health and education services, levels of industrialisation, etc. between different regions. As already mentioned, these regions may be either states or regions within a State. In this regard in India there are enormous imbalances on various accounts. The exploitative nature of British colonial rule either created or accentuated regional disparities. The planning in independent India has also not been ble to remove these. As is well known, the British colonial administration was primarily interested in selling their products in Indian markets and taking away raw materials from here. In some cases they were also interested in establishing some industries to invest their surplus capital and use cheap labour. Keeping these needs in view, they introduced Zamindari system in some regions to get maximum land revenue. In some regions they favoured peasant proprietary system and improvement of agriculture to create markets for their products.
As such, in agriculture there came up significant variations both in production relations and level of production in different states and regions. The pattern of urbanisation was based on the strategy of exporting primary products and importing finished goods. This laid the foundation for the emergence of port towns as the major centers of urban-industrial activities. Therefore, the growth of trade nd commerce in colonial India meant the creation of jobs and educational opportunities at coastal centers like Bombay, Calcutta and Madras and some princely states’ capitals.
This also led to the emergence of some consumer industries in these enclaves and hence to the development of a merchant capitalist class. This gave these regions a head start over others where the vast tracts of agriculture had lost their traditional handicrafts and other small scale non-agricultural activities in the face of competition from the high technology associated with the modern processes of industrialisation. Another factor in the uneven regional development was the growth of the education system.
The British imperialists had linked India to Europe via trade relations and the coastal areas especially around the ports of Bombay,Calcutta and Madras. To man the establishments in these areas modern education was introduced. An educated professional class, mainly lower paid government and commercial clerks, grew up in these areas. These regions also threw up an elite group of lawyers and other professionals who were involved on both sides of the independence movement. On the eve of independence interstate and inter-district disparities were quite sharp and widening.
There were differences in the levels of per capita income and consumption, literacy, medical and health facilities, natural resources, population growth, infrastructure development,employment opportunities etc. The independent India, thus, was burdened with the task of removing these disparities. The need for the removal of regional disparities was well recognised by the leaders of the independent India. The Constitution of India, has made it mandatory for the government at the Centre to appoint a Finance Commission once at least in every five years.
It was to examine the problems arising out of the gaps between the needs for expenditure and the availability of revenue and other such matters. Accordingly, the balanced regional development had become the declared goal of the Central government and of its two principal agencies — the Planning Commission and the Finance Commission. One of the objectives of planning was to restore the balance between various areas and regions. However, these institutions were to work within overall socio-economic infrastructure of the country and the developing political process.
As has already been mentioned that because of the strategic position of the ruling class and adopted model of development right from the beginning,the development has been drifting away from the desired goals. Moreover, to begin with planning was primarily restricted to the national level. Hardly any attention was paid to the problem of regional disparities and the few measures that were taken, were adopted to deal with specific problems faced by certain areas having natural calamities.
Thus, the problem of regional development in a national context did not get adequate attention of the policy makers. Some of the already developed regions enjoyed the privilege to develop further at the cost of the backward regions which continued to stagnate. The Third Five-Year Plan devoted some attention to the problem of regional disparities. Some efforts were made to identify the backward regions. Fourth plan onward, planners have increasingly emphasised this objective. Deliberate policy measures are being taken to improve the levels of living of the people in regions identified as backward.
However, in practice, in spite of the increasing awareness of these aspects, very little has been achieved. While industrially backward regions have been identified by India’s Planning Commission, no such attempt has yet been made as regards regions which can be deemed to be backward from the point of view of overall economic development. Actually, the main focus of regional policy during the Indian plans has been on the dispersal of industry among the different regions of India.
But, in spite of various attempts for industrialisation, agriculture continues to be the most important economic activity from the point of view of output and employment in most of the States in India. And within the agricultural sector, because of emphasis on immediate increase in production,inter-state disparities in per capita agricultural production have been on the increase. It is well known that in agricultural development policy, the green revolution and its impact has been confined to relatively small areas.
Thus, the disparities in socio-economic conditions of the people have beenincreasing both within and between different regions of the country. Existence and continuation of regional inequalities both among States and within States create the feeling of neglect, deprivation and of discrimination. In a country which is multi ethnic and multi religious, with groups concentrated in states or regions, these disparities also become cause of social conflicts leading to political and administrative problems.
In any case regional imbalances are a major cause of regionalism in India in many ways. The movements for creation of separate States in Jharkhand area of Bihar and West Bengal, Uttaranchal and Chattisgarh in Uttar Pradesh andMadhya Pradesh were because of underdevelopment of these regions in those States and a feeling of deprivation and exploitation among people. Finally,these areas were constituted as separate States in 2001. Similar movements are going on in Telengana region of Andhra Pradesh, Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, Darjeeling region of West Bengal and in some other regions.
Apart from sense of deprivation in the neglected States or regions there also are grievances due to sectoral imbalances in States like lack of industrial development along with agricultural development. Because ofthis, on the one hand there have developed interests, particularly in rural areas of developed States, and on the other sectoral conflicts. Both these are encouraging regionalism in developed States. For example, in areas where Green Revolution was introduced and has been successful, thenew rich farmers class has become economically and politically important.
They are now interested in perpetuating the concessions and facilities which were given to them. In spite of agriculture having become quite profitable they want subsidies to continue and income not to betaxed. These rich farmers in such States provide major social basis of regional parties. Another aspect of imbalanced development is that because of development only in limited areas, the work force from other States and areas, keep on fighting and winning transitions. Focus is on regional development and not on equivocal or equi-sectoral development. This leads to a major imbalance within a country’s economy and across state-wise economies.