A region is a territorial unit with dialect, ethnic group, and social and cultural institutions with widely prevalent sentiments of togetherness. This creates a sense of identity, which is real, and as dear to a people as their feeling of identity with a state or a nation or a religious group, or a linguistic group. This gives rise to the concept of regionalism.
Regionalism means excessive attachment to a particular region or state as against the country as a whole.
The term ‘regionalism’ has two connotations.
- In a negative sense, it implies excessive attachment to one’s region is a reference to the country or the state. This can be a great threat to the unity and integrity of the country.
- In a positive sense, it is a political attribute associated with people’s love for their region, culture, language, etc. with a view to maintaining their independent identity. Thus, it is a welcome thing, as it encourages people to develop a sense of brotherhood and commonness based on a common language, religion or historical background.
Development of Regionalism in India
In the pre-independence days, it was promoted by the British imperialists, and they deliberately encouraged the people of various regions to think in terms of their region rather than the nation, with a view to maintaining their hold over India during the national movement.
After Independence, the leaders tried to foster a feeling among the people that they belonged to one single nation. The framers of the Constitution sought to achieve this by introducing single citizenship, a unified judiciary, all Indian services, and a strong Central government.
But in view of the vastness of the country and cultures, regionalism soon made its appearance in India in the form of demand of the formation of states based on language.
Characteristics of regionalism
- Regionalism is conditioned by economic, social, political and cultural disparities.
- Regionalism at times is a psychic phenomenon.
- Regionalism is built around an expression of group identity as well as loyalty to the region.
- Regionalism presupposes the concept of development of one’s own region without taking into consideration the interest of other regions.
- Regionalism prohibits people from other regions to be benefited from a particular region.
Forms of Regionalism
Regionalism in India has assumed the following forms:
- Demand for greater Autonomy: Regionalism has often led to the demand by states for greater autonomy from the centre. Increasing interference by the Centre in the affairs of the states has led to regional feelings. Demand for autonomy has also been raised by regions within some forms of the Indian Federation.
- Demand for separate statehood like the demand for Bodoland, Gorkhaland, Vidarbha, and Telangana.
- Demand for full-fledged statehood like the case of Delhi.
- Demand for autonomy like in Kashmir by National conference, West Bengal by Forward Bloc for a larger share of powers for the states.
- Secession from the Union: This is a dangerous form of regionalism. It emerges when states demand separation from the Centre and try to establish an independent identity of their own. Its prime example includes states like Kashmir, Manipur, Mizoram, and Tripura.
Causes of Growth of Regionalism
- During the Ancient phase of history, it was only during the time of Ashoka’s rule, India became a single political entity. In other phrases, India was largely ruled by regional kingdoms Ex. Cholas and Pandyas of South India and Satavahanas of Andhra.
- During Medieval India, India was ruled by kings who belonged to Islam. It was only during Akbar’s rule, India again became united. Even though his rule had a central government-like character, there were numerous governors who ruled smaller provinces and had their own autonomy and culture. Ex. Rajputs.
- India again becomes politically united during British rule. British however due to their policy of divide and rule, encouraged regional differences. They gave autonomy and concessions to numerous princely states. They fought wars by using one king against another. Ex. Carnatic wars. This prevented the formation of a unified country.
- India has a very diverse geographical landmass. Thus, there is a huge variation in climate. These differences in climate cause changes in lifestyle and food habits. Ex.
- North India is very cold during winter and very hot during summer. This is not the case in South India which is hot and humid year-round, people’s clothing and lifestyle are varied due to this fact.
- People from the hilly Himalayas region have adapted to high altitude and cold conditions vis-à-vis people living in plains.
- People living in forests (Tribes) depend on it for food, shelter and other needs. Thus, they have a lifestyle that is significantly different from the rest of the population.
- India has 22 official languages that Constitution recognises. But there are around 1635 mother tongues as per the 2001 census. It is an essential factor in integrating people and developing emotional attachments, consequently, the demand for linguistic states started.
- It is also one of the significant factors of regionalism. Ex. The demand of the three autonomous states in Jammu & Kashmir is based on faith. The bases for their demands are- Kashmir Muslim-dominated, Jammu for Hindu-dominated and Ladakh for Buddhism-dominated region. Violent demand for an independent country of Khalistan in the 1980s was based on the Sikh religion.
- India is home to as many as 645 STs as recognised by Constitution. These ethnic differences formed the base for demands for political autonomy and secession. Ex. Nagas of Nagaland are demanding a nation based on their ethnic identity.
- States like Jharkhand & Telangana formed based on a lack of development.
- The lower level of infrastructural facilities in backward states: The story of infrastructural development, such as power distribution, irrigation facilities, roads, and modern markets for agricultural produce has been backstage. All these are state-list subjects.
- Low level of social expenditure by states on education, health and sanitation: These subjects are core for human resource development.
Political and administration failure:
- This is the source of tension and gives birth to sub-regional movements for separate states. Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and recently Telangana. Many such demands are in the pipeline such as:
- Vidarbha water deprivation: 36% of the country’s dams are in Maharashtra, but Vidarbha faces drought almost every year, leading to farmers committing suicide. Politically and financially powerful groups almost always grab the lion’s share of water in the state.
- Disunited states of Uttar Pradesh: The demand for Purvanchal and Harit Pradesh in UP are primarily based on the demand for development. Purvanchal, the eastern part of UP, falls in Gangetic plains and is rich with fertile soil, but it is not as developed as the western part of the state proposed as Harit Pradesh.
- “Son of the soil” mentality: A state belongs explicitly to the leading linguistic group inhabiting it or that state constitutes the exclusive homeland of its primary language speakers, who are sons of the soil or residents. This feeling together with lack of adequate employment opportunity and economic well-being, a competition for jobs and limited resources occurs between migrant and locally educated middle-class youth.
- Rise of Political Parties with a regionalist agenda: Elitist character of national leadership and unwarranted intervention by the centre in the affairs of the state gives rise to regional forces aimed at securing the region’s interests and promoting minority interests. Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, TYC etc. belong to this category of regional political parties.
Impact of Regionalism
- A positive role in nation-building: If the demands of regions are accommodated by the political system of the country, people of that region feel empowered and closer to the larger nation.
- Strengthened representative democracy: Regionalism has a democratising effect as it helps people feel more involved in institutions of local and regional governance.
- Balanced regional development: By raising voices and by working together towards the upliftment of their region, thereby overcoming development imbalances.
- Socio-cultural diversity is given due respect as it promotes the development of regional culture, language, art and craft, tradition etc.
- Internal security challenges: Secessionist form of regionalism like the Khalistan movement is a serious threat to the development, progress and unity of the nation.
- The politics of a vote bank based on language, and culture is certainly against healthy democratic procedures.
- Hurdles in international diplomacy, as in 2013 when Tamil Nadu regional parties were against Prime Minister, attending the Commonwealth heads meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka.
- Negatively impacts economic growth: Regionalism-induced violence disturbs society, people are killed, students cannot attend schools/colleges, tourism cannot be promoted, and governments need to deploy extra forces to control the situation. All this has direct implications for the economy of the nation.
Measures to Address Negative Regionalism
It is hard to curb regionalism in a nation as vast and diverse as India. But the following steps can be taken to mitigate some of its worst effects.
- Political parties should try to avoid partisanship. Appeals made to the electorate based on regional identity must be stopped. They should aim at bringing national unity besides all sectarian interests.
- Doing away with regional imbalance: Ensure uniform economic development, especially in underdeveloped, backward and Naxal-hit areas must become a priority to avoid discontent people.
- Cultural sensitization programs must be taken up in colleges to avoid hatred based on regions and promote friendship among students. Ex. Ek Bharat Shresth Bharat.
- Promote national identity: Through use of sporting events like Cricket, Hockey to bolster the sense of unity and brotherhood in the country.
- The role of the National Integration Council must be revamped to solve conflicting regional aspirations.
- Promoting domestic tourism and intermixing of people.
Haryana’s local reservation Law
The Haryana government passed a law reserving 75% of private sector jobs for state residents. This raised a debate on such sons of soil policies undertaken by state governments like Haryana and Andhra Pradesh.
Haryana Employment of Local Candidates Act 2020: The Act requires private sector employers to reserve 75% of job posts that offer a salary of less than Rs 30,000 for individuals who are domiciled in Haryana. It is applicable to all private companies, societies, partnership firms, trusts, any person employing ten or more persons in Haryana, or any other entity as may be notified by the Government.
Provide employment opportunities to the locals and reduce regional inequalities.
Reduces the friction between local and Migrant labour and helps in managing labour unrest.
Since the migration of labour is more often seasonal, the law can lower the dependence on migrant labour and reduces absenteeism.
Drive away investments: Mandatory quotas for jobs and powers for officials to slap penalties on companies for violations may drive away competitive firms who will be wary of new inspector Raj and the impact on productivity.
The barrier to migration: Poses a risk of obstructing the free flow of labour from labour surplus states to labour shortage states, which is essential to reap the benefits of the Demographic dividend.
Increased Automation: Such affirmative actions in the private industry might encourage firms to increase automation in the production process which reduces the employment generation potential of private firms.
Social Implications: In a multilinguistic society such as India, restricted work-related migration stifles interaction of different languages and cultures and helps in thriving regionalist tendencies.
Unsustainable solution: Though such reservations provide temporary benefits to the local community regarding assured employment, they will not help address the basic issues responsible for low employment growth.
Hence, States need to abstain from such inward-oriented and parochial policies, adopt the spirit of cooperative federalism and work in a coordinated and synergistic manner to address the root cause- Lack of employment opportunities.