The Union government on Monday raised questions on the proposal to carve up Uttar Pradesh (UP) into four different states by the Mayawati government. In effect, it put the proposal —passed by the state assembly last month—back into the state government’s court.
UP is the country’s largest state and has a population larger than most countries in the world. Its reorganization is bound to be complicated even if one ignores the political aspects of the problem. For any unit to be viable in a federal set-up, questions about its revenue base, administrative personnel, splitting assets and liabilities with successor units —in sum a “project feasibility report” as it were—need to be answered before the constitutional machinery can be moved.
The Mayawati government and the state legislative assembly did not provide an answer. So it was not surprising that the Union home ministry raised the issue of potential state capitals for four states, dividing the all-India service (Indian Administrative Service, Indian Police Service and Indian Forest Service) officers among four units and, most importantly, sharing the burden of UP’s existing debt among the new states.
Instead of answering these questions, Mayawati asserted that “instead of taking action on the proposal, as passed by the state legislature last month, it appeared that the Centre wanted to keep the issue pending”. She also added that under Article 3 of the Constitution, it is the responsibility of the Union government to create new states. This is unfortunate, for political statements cannot substitute for hard decisions.
To begin with, the move to split UP was blatantly political. It came at the fag end of the UP legislature’s terms—barely months before elections are due—and in the teeth of opposition by different political parties in that state. The resolution in the assembly was virtually “hustled” through what was perhaps the shortest session in its history, without any debate. Clearly, the Mayawati government had little time to spare for administrative questions on the proposed split.
There should be no hurry to divide UP. Ideally, the issue should be reconsidered by the reconstituted state legislature calmly, taking into consideration all relevant issues such as economic viability and administrative need.
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