- Culture & Society
States of India - "Unity in Diversity"
23 Dec 2021
Independent India was formed as a union of a large number of states. With the liberation from colonial rule, the question arose of how to form a new nation state out of a diverse patchwork of languages, cultures, and religions. This enormous diversity of India already finds expression in the constitution, which came into force on January 26, 1950. The newly formed Republic of India is defined as a secular democracy, which guarantees the free practice of religion. While only Hindi and English have been established as the official languages of the entire Republic, an additional 21 officially recognized languages are listed in the Eighth Schedule to the constitution.
This multitude of languages is also reflected in the federal structure of the Indian state. At the time of independence in 1947, more than 500 princely states were spread across the territory of the Republic of India, which had to be integrated into the federal states. At the beginning, the course of the borders of these states was still following the administrative structure of British India. However, the political map of India was transformed considerably during the 1950s and 60s when the borders were redrawn on the basis of ethno-linguistic criteria. In the following decades, the federal structure of the country underwent further changes. On the one hand, additional states joined the Republic, such as Goa in 1961 or Sikkim in 1975, and on the other hand several states were split up, which included the separation of Chhattisgarh from Madhya Pradesh as well as the division of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two newly created union territories.
Currently, the Republic of India consists of 28 states and 8 union territories. While the states have their own governments, which are formed based on the elections for the legislative assemblies of the states, the union territories are governed by the central government in New Delhi. Similar to Germany, the competencies are divided between the national level and the level of the states. India’s central government has the sole authority over several policy fields such as foreign and currency policy as well as national defence, while the states are responsible for the education system and the police.
The states can also exert influence on the national legislation through the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian parliament. This chamber acts as the political representation of the states on the national level. Together with the Lok Sabha (lower house), it forms the legislature of the Republic. However, the influence of the state chamber is limited in comparison to the lower house. Although the two chambers are equivalent in their constitutional status, the Lok Sabha occupies a more powerful position in the case of disagreements. In such a situation, both chambers come together for a joint session, which provides the Lok Sabha with a decisive advantage due to its significantly larger number of members. In addition, the lower house has the prerogative over the budget policy and votes of no confidence against the government can only be introduced and passed in the Lok Sabha.
India’s states differ not only with respect to their cultural heritage and their population structure, but there are also enormous variations in terms of their size, economic power, and political influence. Concerning the geographical dimensions, the spectrum ranges from the small tropical state of Goa, with a somewhat larger area than the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, to the vast deserts and mountain ranges of Rajasthan. India’s largest state occupies an area of almost the same size as the entire national territory of Germany. The population size also varies enormously – from Sikkim with around 600,000 inhabitants to Uttar Pradesh (UP). This state in the Ganges Plain is home to an estimated number of 230 million people, which amounts to around half the population of the entire European Union. The economic heart of India beats in the second most populous state of Maharashtra with its capital Mumbai – the most important financial and economic hub on the Indian subcontinent. The megacity on India’s west coast accounts for an impressive 60% of customs duties and a third of India’s total income tax revenue.
In view of these figures, it does not come as a surprise that UP and Maharashtra occupy a prominent position within India’s political landscape. In particular, the elections to the legislative assembly of Uttar Pradesh, which take place every five years, serve as an important indicator for the political sentiment within the entire country. Hence, public attention has already shifted to the elections that are due to take place in February and March 2022. It is not for nothing that the well-known saying goes as follows: “Whoever wins UP, wins India.”
If you have any questions regarding the states of India or if you want to learn more about a particular state write it in the comments below or leave us a message at [email protected]!
Written by: Ferdinand Schlechta
Foto Credit: Gayatri Malhorta - Unsplash
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