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Federal Concept at Work

Ajay K. Mehra

By C.H. Hanumantha Rao
Academic Foundation, New Delhi, 2010, pp. 150, Rs. 495.00

VOLUME XXXIV NUMBER 9 September 2010

In this slim book noted economist C.H. Hanumantha Rao brings together his eight essays on regional disparities, smaller states and Telangana written at different points of time since 1969 with an Introduction and an Epilogue contextualizing them and observations on recent developments in Telangana. That they still sound relevant shows that issues related to equitable regional development, autonomy and statehood in India’s federal framework have not been sorted out by India over six decades since Independence fifty-four years since the reorganization of states. He makes a strong case not only for Telangana, but also for smaller states in India and advocates the need for a second States’ Reorganisation Commission (SRC). The fourteen states created by the SRC in 1956 doubled in four and a half decades. Practically in each decade since the first reorganization of states in independent India there have been demands, agitations—many a times violent ones—for a new state in some part of the country or the other—leading to creation of new states under political imperative—and nearly a dozen demands for new states exist across the length and breadth of the country. This book with a potential to raise a healthy and informed debate on economic and developmental issues that create rationale for demands for autonomy and statehood for ‘neglected’ regions comes at an opportune time. Hanumantha Rao in this volume sticks to his forte, economics, to make out a case for a second SRC; he does not talk politics that lurks behind most of such demands. Rao takes up the issues upfront at the very outset: ‘… inter-state disparities in the levels of development persisted and even increased in some cases … these disparities are explained by the failure to bridge gaps in the post-Independence period …. For the same reason, the disparities in development between different regions with certain larger states persisted. They even increased in certain cases, especially where the backward regions do not have political clout in decision-making regarding public investment and provision for jobs. This led to regional tensions and persistent demands for carving out separate states consisting of such backward areas’ (p. 9). He also points out that the need to reduce inter-state and intra-state disparities in development has emerged as one of the biggest challenges in the post-reform period. For, private investments too are mostly flowing to more developed states, leaving the less developed states in a morass of underdevelopment. That ...

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