The first Article of the Constitution declares that India is a Union of States. Explaining the term “Union of States”, Ambedkar said that it implied two things. First, the Indian Federation was not the result of an agreement among the units. Secondly, the component units had no freedom to secede from the Union.
Those who were not happy with the term Union contended in the Constituent Assembly that it did not sufficiently emphasise the federal nature of the Constitution. They wanted the adoption of the term “Federation of States.”
An important feature of the States in the Indian Union, which may be mentioned in this context, is that none of them was a sovereign entity at the time of the formation of the Constitution. The British Indian Provinces, under the Constitution Act of 1935 were at best only autonomous units.
The Indian States, until August 15, 1947, were under the paramountcy of the British Crown not only in the field of external affairs but even in respect of internal administration. Perhaps, in a technical sense, they all became sovereign on August 15, 1947, as a result of the Indian Independence Act and the consequent lapse of British paramountcy.
But whatever the content of the sovereignty of the Rulers, it was surrendered by them to the Government of India during the 1947-50 period on a negotiated basis.
Thus, none of the constituent units of India was sovereign in the sense the thirteen American colonies after the Declaration of Independence or the Swiss cantons were before they decided to enter into federal compacts by pooling their sovereignty. Nor was the Constituent Assembly a representative of the units.
It derived its power from the sovereign people, and, therefore, was entirely unfettered by any previous commitment in evolving a constitutional pattern suitable to the genius and requirements of the Indian people as a whole.
Thus, the significance of the provision, “India is a Union of States”, is that although it establishes a federal polity, the units have no right to secede from the Union as the federal system is the result of an expression of the will of the people through the Constituent Assembly.
Under Article 2, the Parliament of India is empowered to admit into the Union, or establish, new States on terms and conditions it thinks fit. Thus, it may form a new State by separation of territory from any State or by uniting two or more States or parts of States or by uniting any territory to a part of any State.
In the process, it can increase or decrease the area of any State, or alter the boundaries, or change the name of any State (Art. 3). Although the power of Parliament in this respect is exclusive, the Constitution provides for a procedure which enables the legislatures of the State concerned to express their opinion in the matter.
According to this, every Bill contemplating any of the above changes can be introduced in Parliament only on the recommendation of the President and after prior reference by the President to the Legislature of the State concerned for its opinion.
The procedure thus helps Parliament to have in view the sentiments of the people of the State concerned before taking a final decision. Any such change made by Parliament and the consequent alterations effected in the Constitution will not amount to an amendment of the Constitution (Art. 4).
Is Parliament competent, under Article 3, to make a law with a view to transferring a part of the territory of the Indian Union to another country? This question came up for detailed examination by the Supreme Court on a reference made to it by the President in 1960.
The reference was necessitated by the controversy that arose from a decision of the Government to transfer part of a territory known as Berubari Union (West Bengal) to Pakistan in exchange of Pakistani territory in pursuance of the agreement between the Governments of India and Pakistan in 1958.
The Court held that Parliament was not competent to make a law under Article 3 for the implementation of the agreement. The implementation could only be effected by an amendment of the Constitution under Article 368. Subsequently the Constitution (Ninth Amendment) Act, 1960, was passed to give effect to the transfer of the territory concerned.
At present, the Union of India is composed of twenty-eight States which are the unit, of the federal Union and seven Territories which are under the direct administration of the Central Government.
As such, the political map of India today presents a comparatively simple picture in contrast to what it was in 1947 when India became independent and in 1950 when the present Constitution was inaugurated. But this was the result of the successful execution of a gigantic task of integration and reorganisation during the first ten years of Independent India.
The process was indeed a difficult and even painful one and it cannot yet be said with certainty that the pattern which emerged and which exists at present is the final one. An attempt is made here to give a short account of the story of this integration and reorganisation.
In 1947 when the British left India, the organisation of Provinces remained in the same form in which it was in operation under the Constitution Act, 1935, except for the changes that resulted from the partition of the country into India and Pakistan. We have pointed out earlier the consequences of the lapse of British Paramountcy over the Indian States in August 1947.
But even while the Indian Independence Bill was being drafted negotiations were started with a number of Indian Rulers with a view to bringing their States into the Indian Union through accession. Several Rulers at once reacted favourably to the idea of accession and their example compelled others soon to follow suit.
The policy of accession ensured the fundamental unity of the country. India had become one federation, with the Provinces and the States as its integral parts.
Further, the Standstill Agreements between the Rulers of the States and the Government of India provided the basis for retaining intact the many agreements and administrative arrangements which had been built up over a century for safe- guarding all-India interests and which, with the termination of paramountcy, had threatened to disappear and in the process throw the whole country into a state of chaos and confusion.
In his address to the Constituent Assembly on August 15, 1947, Lord Mountbatten referred to the success of the accession policy and paid a tribute to Sardar Patel as a far-sighted statesman who played the most important role of bringing about such a satisfactory situation.
The period immediately following the transfer of power to India saw a revolutionary change come over the Indian States with dramatic speed. Once the States had acceded to India, it was impossible for them to resist such a change, however much they had disliked it. Two strikingly novel devices were made use of to bring about this change “Integration” and “Merger”.
Integration represented the joining of two or more contiguous States in order to form a new viable unit of the Union. By merger was meant the outright disappearance of a State unit by its incorporation into a Province within which it was situated.
As a result of this process of integration and merger, the number of State units in the Indian Union was brought down to a very small one from a number which stood around five hundred. Only three of the former States survived this process of integration and merger, namely, Hyderabad, Mysore and Jammu and Kashmir.
Side by side with the development of integration, there was also the extension of the authority of the Central Government. Further, under the initiative of the Centre, federal financial integration with the States was also realised.
The movement for democratisation of the administrative set-up in the States had already made considerable progress and in many States or States-Unions, full-fledged responsible government has already taken over the reins of administration. Thus, the Provinces and the States became equal partners in the Union.
While factors such as linguistic and ethnic homogeneity or historical tradition were taken into consideration to the extent practicable in the process of integration and merger, the compulsion of the dynamic urges of the time necessitated prompt decisions. A number of settlements, therefore, made in respect of these States had to be in the nature of transitional expedients.
Hence, it was inevitable that some of the features of the old order should be incorporated in the Constitution. The result of all these had been the emergence of a peculiar State-system established under the Constitution as it was originally passed in 1949.
Under this system, the constituent units of the Union had no uniform status. Instead, they were recognised under three separate categories, Part A, Part B and Part C States.
There was ten Part A States which were generally speaking, the Provinces that constituted the bulk of former British India which formed part of the Indian Union. Some of these had become larger in size, as a result of the merger of some former Indian States in their territory, while others had become smaller owing to the partition of the country. All the Part A States were full-fledged members of the Union and their status was based on the concept of federalism.
There were eight Part B States. These were mostly the products of integration. They too enjoyed a status similar to that of Part A States as members of the federal Union. Yet, they were a step below the Part A States in political progress and, as such, were not entitled to enjoy the fullest measure of autonomy as defined by the Constitution.
This was embodied in Article 371 of the Constitution, according to which the Government of every Part B State was to be under the general control of, and comply with such particular directions of the Central Government. Another distinguishing feature of the Part B States was that they were headed by Rajapramukhs and not Governors as in the case of Part A States.
The Part C States, although they were called as such, were not really States in the federal Union, for, they were territories directly administered by the Centre on a unitary basis. They were in all ten in number. Some of these were the former Chief Commissioners’ Provinces under the British.
Although some of them had been allowed from 1952 to have Legislative Assemblies of their own and Ministers responsible to them, the powers of these Assemblies were subject to the direct control of Parliament and the Union Executive was responsible to Parliament for their administration.
Apart from these three categories of States in the Union, there were also territories under Part D which formed part of the country. The only territories under Part D were the islands of the Bay of Bengal Andaman and Nicobar Islands which were under the direct and full control of the Central Government.
The names of the different States under Part A, B and C and the territories under Part D, as well as the area and population of each in 1950, at the time of the inauguration of the Constitution.
The constitutional provisions establishing the three-tier State-system were the product of expediency. No one was happy with this arrangement and desired to end it at the earliest opportunity. But the situation underwent an unexpected change in 1952 when the Central Government took a sudden decision to create a separate State of Andhra out of certain parts of the former undivided Part A State of Madras, on account of the compelling demands of the Telgu-speaking people of Madras State.
The State of Andhra came into existence on October 1, 1953. The inauguration of the new State was not, however, an isolated incident. Formation of new States on a linguistic basis and the consequent reorganisation of the entire State-system became almost a militant demand all over the country.
Political leadership found it no longer possible to stem the tide of this surging demand. The result was the appointment of the States Reorganisation Commission in December 1953, to go into the entire question of reorganisation “objectively and dispassionately” and make its recommendations with a view to settling this tangled problem.
The Commission was headed by a former Judge of the Supreme Court of India, Fazl Ali, and had, in addition, two distinguished public men, H. N. Kunzru and K. M. Panikkar, as Members. The Commission took over a year and a half for their work and submitted their report on September 30, 1955.
After considering fully all the aspects of the problem of reorganisation, the Commission arrived at four major principles which were to be given the utmost importance in any scheme of reorganisation of States. These are:
(1) Preservation and strengthening of the unity and security of India;
(2) Linguistic and cultural homogeneity;
(3) Financial, economic and administrative considerations; and
(4) Successful working of the national development plans.
In addition to these major principles, the Commission thought that there were others which ought to be given due weight although they came only next to these in importance.
Among these were a common historical tradition which fosters a sense of kinship and oneness, geographical contiguity, administrative considerations and the wishes of the people to the extent that they were objectively ascertainable and did not come into conflict with larger national interests.
Despite the enunciation and enumeration of these principles, the Commission recognised that the problems of reorganisation varied from region to region.
“It has to be kept in mind that the interplay for centuries of historical, linguistic, geographical, economic and other factors has produced peculiar patterns in different regions. Each case, therefore, has its own background. Besides, the problems of reorganisation are so complex that it would be unrealistic to determine any case by a single test alone.
We have, accordingly, examined each case on its own merits and in its own context and arrived at conclusions after taking into consideration the totality of circumstances and on an overall assessment of the solutions proposed.”
In making their recommendations, the Commission dealt with not only territorial readjustments but also other matters such as financial implications, administrative changes, integration of services, etc. Taking these as a whole, the following recommendations deserve special mention:
(1)Abolition of the classification of States into three categories, Part A, B and C, which was essentially a temporary expedient and the constitution of States enjoying a uniform status.
(2) Abolition of the special agreements entered into with the Union in consequence of the financial integration of Part B States. Also, abolition of the general control vested in the Government of India by Article 371 as well as the abolition of the institution of Rajapramukhs.
(3) Since there was no adequate recompense for all the financial, administrative and constitutional difficulties which the Part C States presented, they, with the exception of three (Delhi, the federal capital, Manipur and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands) to be centrally administered, should be merged with the adjoining States.
(4) On the basis of these changes, the Commission recommended the creation of 16 States and 3 centrally administered territories.
The publication of the S.R.C. Report precipitated disturbances in many parts of the country. Where wholesale changes in the existing system were recommended, it was only natural that many interests should be adversely affected. Further, where sentiments could be aroused and tempers frayed on account of these, the results could never be happy.
And where people imagined that political pressure and agitation could possibly dictate the course of action on the part of those who were in power, anything could happen. This was what happened after the publication of the Report. No one could claim that the recommendations of the Commission were flawless.
For one thing, despite all the major principles to which the Commission gave due weight in the scheme of reorganisation, the pattern that emerged from their recommendations consisted of practically unilingual States only. But that was perhaps inevitable in the context of prevailing conditions and circumstances in the country.
The Report was placed before Parliament and the State Legislatures which discussed it at length. After prolonged discussions both inside the legislatures and outside, and after protracted negotiations between the Union Cabinet and the interested parties, the Government announced its decision which was embodied in a Bill called the States Reorganisation Bill.
The Constitution also needed amendment at many places as a result of the proposed reorganisation. Both the amendment of the Constitution (the Seventh Amendment) and the Reorganisation Bills were passed in 1956 and were put into effect on 1st November 1956.
The provision of both the Amendment and the Act are based upon the recommendations of the S.R.C. except in a few instances. The most important of these were the decisions with respect to the formation of the Bombay State and the immediate creation of a united Telugu-speaking State of Andhra Pradesh.
The number of the centrally administered areas also was increased from the recommended 3 to 6. States as they emerged from the States Reorganisation Act, 1956.
As may be seen from this table, the Union of India then consisted of 14 States and 6 centrally administered territories.
The position, however, did not last long. The pattern underwent a further change in 1960 when on account of intense and persistent popular demand, Bombay was divided on a linguistic basis to form two new States, a Marathi-Speaking State of Maharashtra and a Gujarati-speaking State of Gujarat.
In 1961 yet another new State was created when the Nagaland (Territorial Provisions) Regulations were promulgated by the President. The areas comprising Naga Hills and Tuensang Area assumed the name of Nagaland and were given the status of the sixteenth State of the Indian Union.
During the next ten years between 1961 to 1971 five more new States were formed. The first of these was Haryana by reorganising Punjab to form two States, Punjab and Haryana, in 1966. In 1970 the Union territory of Himachal Pradesh was made a full-fledged State. Manipur and Tripura were also given the status of States, in 1971. In the same year yet another State was created and that was Meghalaya which was part of Assam until then.
In 1975 Sikkim acceded to India and was given the status of a State, thus raising the total number of States to 22.
The number of Union territories also has registered an increase since 1956. In August 1961, Dadra and Nagar Haveli were integrated with the Union of India at the request of the Varishta Panchayat and the people of Free Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
Similarly, Goa, Daman and Diu were also united with India in December 1961 and thus the remnants of Portuguese colonialism, which was the last to disappear, were brought to an end.
Pondicherry, a former French colony, became a Union territory in 1962 along with other French settlements in India. In 1966 as a result of the reorganisation of the Punjab, Chandigarh became a Union territory. In 1971 two more Union territories came into being, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. They, along with Goa became full-fledged States in 1987. Thus the total number of States became twenty-five.
Before reorganisation of states in 1956, Madhya Pradesh was the largest among states with an area of 130,272 sq. miles, as large in size as two-thirds of France. But as a result of reorganisation, Bombay became first with an area of 190, 668 sq. miles, almost as large as France.
But with the division of Bombay into Maharashtra and Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh became once again the largest State in India. The creation of Chhatisgarh as a separate state in the year 2000, however, reduced the size of Madhya Pradesh considerably and made it smaller in size than Rajasthan.
Hence, Rajasthan became the largest state in India. Sikkim with an area of 7096 sq. miles remains the smallest state. Along with Chatisgarh two more new States were created in 2000. They were Jharkhand which was part of Bihar and Uttaranchal which was part of Uttar Pradesh.
From a population point of view, Uttar Pradesh comes first, with more than 138 million people which is more than the population of the Federal Republic of Germany and France put together.
Sikkim has also the smallest population, approximately a little more than 400,000. But if density of population is taken into consideration, West Bengal comes first with about 775 people per square kilo-meter, perhaps the most densely populated State in the world.
A comparison between a country like India and a continent like Europe makes an interesting study from many points of view, such as area, population, language and race. India is two-thirds of the whole of Europe in size. The population of India is even more than three times that of Europe.
From a linguistic point of view, while Europe has a score of main languages, India too has a-linguistic diversity which is not less pronounced. From a racial point of view, the people of India present a greater diversity than the whole of Europe presents. But while India is today a single political entity, Europe has over a score of sovereign States.
How difficult a problem it would be if an attempt is made to weld together Europe minus Russia into a single political entity. The efforts to form a Western European Federation are yet to find fruition although an economic union of the European community seems to have achieved much success.
It is well to remember these facts while dealing with the problems of India, a sub-continent which presents both perplexing diversity and immensity.