The issue of dividing Uttar Pradesh, the country’s largest state, into four smaller states has become a lost rhetoric, according to those who want the state divided for boosting economic and social development. The issue had been raised in 2011 by Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati and might gather steam as the state approaches Assembly polls next year.
Anoop Pandey, president of the Poorvanchal People’s Party, said, “If the general public actively raises the issue, the government will listen too. As of now, no strategic announcement has been made by any political party in this regard.” In the winter session of the UP Assembly in 2011, then Chief Minister Mayawati passed a resolution for the division of UP into four smaller states: Purvanchal, Bundelkhand, Awadh Pradesh and Paschim Pradesh (also referred to as Harit Pradesh). The idea of splitting UP into smaller administrative units was first mentioned by B.R. Ambedkar in his book Thoughts On Linguistic States, in which he had proposed the idea of UP being split into three states with the Western Region having Meerut as its capital, the Eastern Region having Allahabad as its capital and the Central Region with Kanpur as its capital.
Pandey said, “The 27 districts of Poorvanchal have an approximate population of eight crore. All the major manufacturing and production units in this region faced a shutdown due to the government’s ignorance. The big sugar mills and cloth mills that were opened in the region suffered gradual death or were transferred to other parts of the state and this severely affected the livelihood of the people. When there were no economic opportunities available here, people started migrating to other states. Due to the lack of development, agriculture in this region has suffered too. Purvanchal is the most neglected area of Uttar Pradesh.”
Sudha Pai, a political analyst and professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), said, “Such low key movements demanding separate states have come up from time to time. With modern technology, managing a bigger state and a smaller state is not much different, but implementation matters a lot. Dividing Uttar Pradesh along economic lines is not a bad idea, but how the smaller states will be ruled will affect the success rate of the division.”
Dr Kunal Keshri, an expert in population studies at the G.B. Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad, said, “In Uttar Pradesh, language and culture are comparatively homogenous, but geographically the terrain is largely varied. The distance between Bundelkhand and Lucknow is huge and it affects the development cost of Bundelkhand directly. Good roads and rail network contribute sufficiently, but at a time of natural crisis, the roads and air or rail networks fail to deliver quick relief. Western UP or Harit Pradesh, which is the most prosperous region of the state, is more similar to its neighbouring states like Haryana and Punjab than to the rest of Uttar Pradesh. The division of UP might lead to Western UP getting at par with its neighbouring states. For regions like Bundelkhand, which is the most backward region of UP, a division of the state would mean hope for grassroots development.”