Regionalism And Regional Inequality

Regionalism And Regional Inequality

Many people saw regionalism as a major threat to Indian unity in the 1950s. However, regionalism was never a major factor in Indian politics and administration, and it tended to become less and less important over time. To appreciate regionalism's role in Indian politics, one must first understand what it is. Local patriotism and devotion to a community, region, or state, as well as its language and culture, are neither regionalism nor disruptive to the nation. They are completely consistent with patriotism and loyalty to the country. 

Concept of regionalism

•    It is not regionalism to be proud of one's region or state. Without being less proud of being an Indian or hostile to people from other regions, a person can be aware of his or her distinct regional identity—of being a Tamil or a Punjabi, a Bengali or a Gujarati. This understanding was also used by the Indian national movement. 
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•    It was founded as an all-India movement, rather than a federation of regional national movements. It also did not place national and regional identities in opposition to one another; it recognized both and did not see them as incompatible.
•    It is not to be branded as regionalism if one aspires to or makes special efforts to develop one's state or region, or to eradicate poverty and implement social justice there. In fact, some inter-regional rivalry centre on achieving such positive goals would be beneficial—and we have far too little of it. 
•    Local patriotism can also aid people in overcoming divisive caste or religious loyalties. Defending the Constitution's federal features is also not to be confused with regionalism. The demand for a separate state within the Indian union, or for an autonomous region within an existing state, or for devolution of power below the state level, may be criticized on several practical grounds, but it is not considered regionalist unless it is made in a hostile manner toward the rest of the state's population. 
•    Regionalism is defined as when a region's or state's interests are asserted hostilely against the country as a whole or against another region or state, and a conflict is sparked as a result of these alleged interests.


•    India has seen very little inter-regional conflict since 1947, with the exception of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMKpolitics )'s in Tamil Nadu in the 1950s and early 1960s. Over time, the DMK has also shifted away from its regionalist stance. Some point to Punjab in the 1980s as an example, but Punjab was a case of communalism, not regionalism.
•    If any region or state in India felt it was being culturally dominated or discriminated against, regionalism could have flourished. In his famous work, India—The Most Dangerous Decades, published in 1960, US scholar and journalist Selig Harrison saw a major threat to Indian unity due to conflict between the national government and the regions as the latter asserted their separate cultural identities. 
•    However, the Indian nation has proven to be quite successful in accommodating and even celebrating its cultural diversity, as Nehru put it. The various parts of India have had complete cultural autonomy and have been able to fully realise their legitimate desires. 
•    The linguistic reorganization of India and the resolution of the official language controversy have played a critical role in this regard, as they have removed a major source of cultural loss or dominance, and thus of inter-regional conflict.
•    Of course, there are numerous regional conflicts that have the potential to exacerbate inter-state hostility. There has been conflict between states over river water sharing, such as between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, and Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan. As in the case of Belgaum and Chandigarh, boundary disputes have arisen as a result of the formation of linguistic states. Such conflicts have arisen as a result of the construction of irrigation and power dams. 
•    However, while these disagreements tend to linger for a long time and occasionally elicit strong emotions, they have largely stayed within narrow, and we might say acceptable, bounds. 
•    The central government has often succeeded in acting as a mediator, drawing the wrath of the disputants on itself in the process, but preventing more serious inter-regional conflicts.


•    Economic disparities between states and regions could be a source of contention. Despite the fact that this problem has bred discontent and put pressure on the political system, it has not yet resulted in regionalism or a sense of discrimination against a region. 
•    The leadership recognised that some regions were more backward than others when the country gained independence. Only a few enclaves or areas in the vicinity of Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras had undergone modern industrialization
•    Bombay and West Bengal, for example, accounted for more than 59 percent of the country's total industrial capital and more than 64 percent of national industrial output in 1948. 
•    Agriculture had also stagnated under colonialism, but more so in eastern India than in northern or southern India. Per capita income reflected regional economic disparities. 
•    The national government has felt a responsibility to address this regional development imbalance since the beginning. 
•    From the start, the central government used a variety of policies to influence the growth rates of poorer states and regions in order to close the economic gap between them and the richer states and regions. The transfer of financial resources to the poorer states was a key government tool in achieving this. 
•    The role of the Finance Commission, which was established by the Constitution and appointed by the President on a regular basis, was crucial in this regard. The Commission establishes the principles under which the central government distributes taxes and other financial resources to the states. Various Financial Commissions have attempted to reduce inter-state disparity by giving poorer states preferential treatment, allocating larger grants to them than their population warrants, and transferring resources from better-off states to them.

role of Planning commission

•    Planning was also viewed as a powerful tool for alleviating regional disparities. This goal was reflected in the Second Plan, and it was repeated in subsequent Plans. 
•    ‘Balanced development of different parts of the country, extension of the benefits of economic progress to less developed regions, and widespread diffusion of industry are among the major aims of planned development,' the Third Plan stated explicitly. 
•    The Planning Commission allocated more plan assistance to the backward states for this reason. This assistance is provided in the form of grants and loans based on a formula that gives a significant weight to a state's degree of backwardness. Furthermore, with time, the bias in favor of backward states in the devolution of resources from the Centre to the states, both in the form of financial and plan transfers, has tended to increase.
•    The central government's investment in major industries like steel, fertilizers, oil refining, petrochemicals, machine-making, and heavy chemicals, as well as power and irrigation projects, roads, railways, post offices, and other infrastructural facilities, has helped to reduce regional inequality. 
•    Since the start of the Second Plan in 1957, India has relied heavily on public investment, with an effort made to favour backward states in this regard. Balanced regional growth has been an important consideration in the planning and location of public sector enterprises, though this has come at a cost to the businesses involved. Bihar and Madhya Pradesh have reaped the greatest benefits from such investments, but Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and the north-eastern states have also reaped significant benefits from infrastructure development, particularly roads. 

Role of banking sector:

•    Government incentives have been provided to the private sector to invest in underdeveloped areas, including subsidies, tax breaks, and low-cost banking and institutional loans. The government also used the licensing system for private industrial enterprises, which was in place from 1956 to 1991, to guide the location of industries in underdeveloped areas. 
•    Following the nationalization of banks in 1969, the expansion of their branch networks was used to benefit underserved areas. Banks and other public financial institutions were told to encourage investment in these areas. Various ministries have also devised plans for the development of underdeveloped areas. 

Role of agriculture:

•    Poverty eradication programmes, such as the Food for Work and Intensive Rural Development programmers, which have been in place since the 1970s, as well as education, health, and family planning programmer, and the public distribution system, have favoured poorer states to some extent.
•    Investment in irrigation and agricultural development subsidies are two areas where the principle of reducing regional disparity has not been kept in mind. This has been particularly true since the Green Revolution began in the 1960s, when investment in rural infrastructure and technological innovation was concentrated in Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh, namely areas where irrigation was or could be made readily available. 
•    Rain-fed dry land agriculture, in particular, was neglected in terms of investment and development. As a result, regional agricultural disparities have grown. The spread of Green Revolution technology to Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, eastern Uttar Pradesh, and parts of Rajasthan in the 1970s, and to Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa, and Assam in the 1980s, helped to alleviate the regional imbalance to some extent.

Role of Migration:

•    Economic mobility of the population, as a result of migration of unskilled labour from backward regions and skilled labour to them, can help to reduce regional disparities, and the Indian Constitution guarantees this mobility. There has been a lot of movement from one state to the next. 
•    Out-migration has benefited Himachal Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar, and Kerala, just as in-migration has benefited Bengal, Gujarat, and Maharashtra. Other states, such as Punjab and Karnataka, have benefited from both in-migration and out-migration. Unfortunately, as we will see in the next section, some states have attempted to restrict interstate migration.
•    It would be appropriate to ask how successful the national government's various efforts have been in reducing regional inequality. The picture that emerges is a bit of a mishmash. Although there has been some progress, regional inequality, particularly in terms of per capita income, remains a prominent feature of the Indian economy. 
•    The situation could have been much worse if it hadn't been for the government's actions, which prevented the economic divide between states and regions from widening. In terms of the impact of these policies, there are also other factors to consider. For one thing, inter-state industrial disparity has decreased, particularly in the organized manufacturing sector.

Economical inequality among states: 

•    In terms of social welfare, as measured by life expectancy, infant mortality, and literacy, there is less disparity, though a few states, such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu, have made significant progress. As we've seen, increased disparities in agriculture are gradually being addressed, though rain-fed dry areas continue to lag behind. 
•    While the percentage of people living in poverty has steadily decreased in all states, the advanced states have made the most progress, resulting in an increase in the inter-regional disparity in poverty distribution. While all states have experienced economic growth, the rates of growth have been highly disparate, resulting in inter-state disparities that have remained significant.
•    Some backward states have been able to recover, while others have not, resulting in a shift in the state hierarchy in terms of development and per capita income. As a result, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Orissa remain at the bottom of the rankings. Maharashtra, Punjab, and Gujarat are still at the top. 
•    The previously underdeveloped states of Haryana, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu have improved their positions, while Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, and Uttar Pradesh have deteriorated, with U.P. moving to the bottom and West Bengal to the middle. Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan have remained at or near the bottom of the rankings. Overall, Haryana is an example of a state that has improved its position, while Bihar is an example of a state that has deteriorated.
•    At the national level, the low rate of economic growth has been a major factor in the persistence of regional disparities. To make a dent in this, a high rate of national growth is required so that large sums of money can be raised and devoted to the development of underdeveloped regions without affecting national growth. 
•    The Indian economy grew at a rate of around 3.5 percent until the end of the 1970s, and around 5% in the 1980s. Despite policies consciously designed to favour backward regions, this was not high enough to have a significant impact on regional inequality. 
•    The economy's growth rate has only recently surpassed 7%, and population growth has slowed as well. If the right kind of regional development policies are continued to be followed, economic inequality may be reduced. The backwardness of some states can be traced back to their socioeconomic and political structures. 
•    For example, the agrarian structure in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh is quite regressive, and land reforms have been inadequately implemented in many parts of these states. (Until recently, this was also true of Orissa.) The feudal mentality is still very much alive. In addition, land consolidation in Bihar and Orissa has been slow, which has hampered Punjab and Haryana's agricultural development.
Regionalism And Regional Inequality
•    Backward states have fewer infrastructure facilities, such as electricity, irrigation, roads, telephones, and modern agricultural markets. These are necessary for development and must be developed by the states themselves, as they are primarily state subjects. States also have low levels of social spending on education, public health, and sanitation, all of which are state-run institutions. 
•    Furthermore, they are unable to meet planned expenditures due to a lack of financial resources. Increased central financial assistance will not be enough to compensate for this shortcoming. A vicious cycle has been set in motion. A low level of economic development and production means fewer financial resources and fewer investments in infrastructure, planning, and social services. 
•    And, as a result, low levels of expenditure lead to low levels of production and, as a result, low levels of financial resources. Backwardness is also aided by political and administrative failure. Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are classic examples of states plagued by high levels of corruption, poor governance, and deteriorating law and order. 
•    As a result, whatever central assistance is available is underutilized and frequently diverted to non-development spending lines. Furthermore, infrastructure development, such as roads and electricity, is neglected, and existing infrastructure is inefficient and corrupt. 
•    All of this discourages the private sector, which in advanced countries is a major source of development. Better rates of economic growth in the relatively better administered states of south and western India, as compared to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, demonstrate the importance of greater administrative efficiency.
•    It may be mentioned in passing that disparities in development exist within each state. In many cases, this disparity has sparked sub-regional movements calling for separate states within the Indian union, greater autonomy for sub-regions within existing states, or at the very least special treatment and safeguards in matters of employment, education, and financial resource allocation. 
•    Regional economic inequality is undeniably a ticking time bomb aimed at national unity and political stability. Fortunately, it has been ‘digested, absorbed, and mitigated so far because it is not the result of advanced states dominating and exploiting backward states, or the national government discriminating against the former. 
•    The backward Hindi-belt states, on the other hand, wield so much political power that they cannot accuse the central government or non-Hindi states of dominating or discriminating against them. It's worth noting that accusations of central dominance have so far come from the relatively developed states of Punjab and West Bengal—obviously for political rather than economic reasons. 
•    The Hindi areas are not favored in all-India services, such as the IAS. Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and West Bengal are the only states with a higher representation than their population warrants. 
•    Another reason for the poorer states' lack of regionalism and discrimination is their intelligentsia's recognition that their poverty and backwardness are primarily the result of their own political and administrative classes' actions. After all, feelings of deprivation and lack of progress are essentially articulated by the intelligentsia. 
•    Simultaneously, the vast majority of people in poorer states are blissfully unaware of their state's backwardness and poverty in comparison to other states. This results in a lack of dissatisfaction with their position as well as a lack of effort to catch up to the more advanced states. This situation is likely to change as education spreads and the reach of visual and print media, such as television and newspapers, expands. 


•    Since the 1950s, an odious form of regionalism known as "the sons of the soil" has been widely practiced. The belief that a state belongs exclusively to the main linguistic group inhabiting it, or that the state is the exclusive "homeland" of its main language speakers, who are the "sons of the soil" or "local" residents, underpins it. 
•    All others who live or have settled in the state and whose mother tongue is not the state's primary language are labelled as "outsiders." These 'outsiders' may have lived in the state for a long time or may have recently migrated there, but they are not to be considered "sons of the soil." This doctrine is especially popular in cities, particularly in a few. 
•    The surge of economic progress after 1952 resulted in unequal development of economic opportunities in different parts of the country, particularly in cities. The result was a demand or preference for ‘locals' or ‘sons of the soil' over ‘outsiders' in newly created employment and educational opportunities. In the struggle for the appropriation of economic resources and opportunities, communalism, casteism, and nepotism were frequently used. 

Based on language:

•    Similarly, language loyalty and regionalism were used to systematically exclude ‘outsiders' from a state's or city's economic life. Because speakers of the state language were in the minority or had a bare majority in a number of cities or regions, the problem was exacerbated. 
•    In Bombay, for example, Marathi speakers made up 42.8 percent of the population in 1961. Kannada speakers made up less than a quarter of the population in Bangalore. Bengalis made up a slim majority in Calcutta. Assamese made up only 33% of the population in Assam's urban areas. The rate of migration into cities accelerated after 1951.
•    In states and cities where ‘outsiders' had more access to higher education and occupied more middle-class positions in government service, professions, and industry, as well as small businesses such as small-scale industry and shopkeeping, the friction was more intense. 
•    Members of the lower-middle class or workers, as well as rich and middle-class peasants whose position is secure but who increasingly aspire to middle-class status and position for their children, have been active in these movements. All of these social groups want to provide their children with a higher education, particularly in technical fields such as engineering, medicine, and business.
•    Because the economy failed to create enough job opportunities for the newly educated, there was a severe labor shortage in the 1960s and 1970s, resulting in fierce competition for available positions. Government service and public sector enterprises provided the majority of middle-class job opportunities after 1952. 
•    The majority linguistic group could therefore use popular mobilization and the democratic political process to exert pressure on the government to provide appropriate employment and educational avenues and opportunities. Some groups could then use the sentiment of "sons of the soil" to gain political power. Of course, this was not unavoidable.

Anti-migration movement:

•    Because of its ideological commitment, the Communist party in Calcutta refused to use anti-migrant sentiments, which is one of the reasons why the city has not seen a major "sons of the soil" movement. When confronted with major "sons of the soil" movements, Congress has taken an opportunistic and compromising stance, but it has not initiated or actively supported them. 
•    As agricultural laborers or workers in low-wage traditional industries like jute or cotton textiles, ‘outsiders' have been far more numerous in rural areas than in cities. However, because no middle-class jobs were involved, there was no sentiment towards "the sons of the soil" or hostility toward "outsiders." The ‘locals' did not compete for these jobs with the ‘outsiders.' 
•    As a result, when large-scale migration of laborers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh to Punjab and Haryana or Bombay city, or of workers from Bihar to the jute and other mills of Calcutta, or of workers from Bihar and Orissa to the tea plantations in Assam and Bengal, or of Oriya building workers to Gujarat, and domestic workers all over India, there has been little conflict with the "locals." 
•    Such migrations have not posed a threat to local middle classes; in fact, in the last case—that of domestic workers—the middle classes have been the primary beneficiaries and promoters of migration. However, because of the higher salaries, education, and skill levels required, competition between migrants and ‘locals' for employment in technologically advanced industries has tended to develop in recent years.
•    The existence or nonexistence of a migration tradition has also influenced the emergence or nonemergence of anti-migrant movements in a given area or region. When a state's citizens, particularly the middle classes, have migrated themselves, there has been little opposition to immigration. 
•    West Bengal, Kerala, Punjab, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh have all experienced this. Sons of the soil movements, on the other hand, have flourished in Maharashtra, Assam, and the Telengana region of Andhra Pradesh, where migration is not a tradition. 

Way forward:

•    Discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth is prohibited under Article 15. Article 16 of the Constitution prohibits discrimination in employment or appointments to state offices based on "descent, place of birth, or residence." However, the parliament, not any state legislature, has the power to pass legislation requiring residents of a state to live there in order to be appointed to positions within that state.
•    Many states, under political pressure and taking advantage of the Constitution's ambiguity, do indeed reserve jobs or give preference to local residents for employment in state and local governments and admission to educational institutions. In such cases, the period of residence is set or prescribed. 
•    While the Constitution only allows for reservation or preference in state jobs based on residence rather than language, some state governments have gone even further, limiting preference to local residents whose mother tongue is the state language. 
•    Long-term migrants, their descendants, and even residents who can speak the state language but whose mother tongue is a minority language in the state have thus been discriminated against. Of course, this was a flagrant violation of the Constitution. Many state governments have also issued directives to private employers requiring them to hire locals first.
•    The main argument for reserving jobs and education for locals has been that they are socially, economically, and educationally backward in the states in question, and thus unable to compete with more advanced migrant communities.
•    Also, in technical colleges and universities, the less advanced students from other states would overwhelm the less advanced students from their own state. Because of this, even the central government has tended to support preference for state residents in employment in central public sector enterprises below a certain level of technical expertise, as well as in colleges and universities, in the post-Nehru era. The courts have also approved reservations made on the basis of residence. 
•    However, as previously stated, reservations for tribal people fall into a different category. While it was undesirable from the standpoint of national integration to reserve jobs in state administrations and seats in higher education institutions for backward local residents, there was some justification for it. 
•    There was none, however, for the anti-migrant movements of the 1960s, which attempted to limit the flow of migrants from other countries and openly declared animosity and generated hostility toward them. These militant anti-migrant and "sons of the soil" movements were primarily concentrated in Assam, Andhra Pradesh's Telengana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Orissa's urban areas.
•    Even at its peak, it only affected a few cities and states in a severe manner, and it never threatened the country's unity or the nation-building process. Furthermore, its impact on the Indian economy has been minimal: internal migration has not been curtailed, and inter-state mobility is actually increasing. 
•    However, the problem is likely to persist until economic development is able to effectively address unemployment, particularly among the middle classes, as well as regional disparities.
•    Looking back on the divisive issues of the post-independence period, such as state linguistic reorganization, tribal integration, regional inequality, and regionalism, it is clear that the prophets of doom have been proven wrong. Even while allowing full cultural autonomy to different linguistic areas, linguistic states have strengthened rather than weakened Indian unity. Hindi and English are becoming more popular as national languages in India. 
•    Optimism must be balanced against ongoing concerns about threats to Indian unity. India's past experience in dealing with disruptive forces, on the other hand, may be instructive for the future. 
•    The role and legacy of the freedom struggle, the leadership's quality and wisdom, the leadership's correct understanding of India's diversity, the leadership's rejection of secessionist demands while respecting those within the constitutional framework, the democratic political structure, and the acceptance of the need for a strong national government within a federal structure have all contributed to the success of the movement. 
•    It is important to note that a strong state should not be confused with an authoritarian state. A strong national government does not imply weak state governments or a national government that ignores the Constitution's federal provisions. Federalism does not imply a weak national government, but rather a non-dominant national government that respects the polity's federal features.
•    For a developing country with strong federal features, a strong but democratic nation state is a must. What it does with its power is determined by the government's political nature and the ruling party at the time.

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