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The Indian Union

Study Material > Polity
  • Article 1 says, “India, that is Bharat, shall be a union of States” and not a ‘Federation of States’.
  • country is described as ‘Union’ although its Constitution is federal in structure.
  • According to Dr B R Ambedkar, the phrase ‘Union of States’ has been preferred to ‘Federation of States’ for two reasons:
    1. The Indian Federation is not the result of an agreement among the states like the American Federation; and
    2. The states have no right to secede from the federation.
  • However, the drawing of state boundaries has been vested with the Union. Thus, India is an indestructible Union of destructible States.
  • Notably, the ‘Territory of India’ is a wider expression than the ‘Union of India’ because the latter includes only states while the former includes not only the states but also union territories and territories that may be acquired by the Government of India at any future time.
  • The states are the members of the federal system and share a distribution of powers with the Centre.
  • The union territories and the acquired territories, on the other hand, are directly administered by the Central government. Apart from the States, the territory of the country includes the Union Territories and other territories acquired by India.
  • According to Article 1, the territory of India can be classified into three categories:
    1. Territories of the states.
    2. Union territories.
    3. Territories that may be acquired by the Government of India at any time.
  • The names of states and union territories and their territorial extent are mentioned in the first schedule of the Constitution. At present, there are 29 states and 7 union territories.
  • Formation of new states: Article 3 authorises the Parliament to:
    1. 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,
    2. Increase the area of any state,
    3. Diminish the area of any state,
    4. Alter the boundaries of any state, and
    5. Alter the name of any state.
  • Conditions laid by Article 3 in the above regards:
    1. A bill contemplating the above changes can be introduced in the Parliament only with the prior recommendation of the President;
    2. Before recommending the bill, the President has to refer the same to the state legistature concerned for expressing its views within a specified period.
  • The President (or Parliament) is not bound by the views of the state legislature and may either accept or reject them, even if the views are received in time. Further, it is not necessary to make a fresh reference to the state legislature every time an amendment to the bill is moved and accepted in Parliament.
  • In case of a union territory, no reference need be made to the concerned legislature to ascertain its views and the Parliament can itself take any action as it deems fit.
  • Thus the Constitution authorises the Parliament to form new states or alter the areas, boundaries or names of the existing states without their consent.
  • Therefore, India is rightly described as ‘an indestructible union of destructible states’.
  • Moreover, the Constitution (Article 4) itself declares that laws made for admission or establishment of new states (under Article 2) and formation of new states and alteration of areas, boundaries or names of existing states (under Articles 3) are not to be considered as amendments of the Constitution under Article 368. This means that such laws can be passed by a simple majority and by the ordinary legislative process.
  • The constitution has provided for acquisition of territory and admission of new states, but there is no provision for ceding territory to a foreign country. On a Presidential reference on Berubari Union (1960) the Supreme Court held that territory can be ceded only by a constitutional amendment. The ninth Amendment Act was used to cede part of Berubari territory to Pakistan.
  • State  reorganisation prior to 1953
    1. Prior to 1953, India was territorially divided into three types of States.
    2. Part A states, which were the former governors’ provinces of British India, were ruled by an elected Governor and state legislature.
    3. The nine part A states were Assam, West Bengal, Bihar, Bombay, Madhya Pradesh (Formerly Central Provinces and Berar), Madras, Orissa, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh (formerly United provinces).
    4. The part B States were formerly Princely states, governed by a Rajpramukh, and an elected legislature. The Rajpramukh was appointed by the President of India. The eight part B States were Hyderabad, Saurashtra, Mysore, Travancore-Cochin, Madhya Bharat, Vindhaya Pradesh, Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU), and Rajasthan.
    5. The Part C states included both the former Chief Commissioners Provinces and princely states, and were governed by a Chief Commissioner. The Chief Commissioner was appointed by the President of India. The 10 part C States included Delhi, Kutch, Himachal Pradesh, Bilaspur, Bhopal, Coorg, Manipur, Ajmer-mewar and Tripura.
  • Background of States Reorganisation
    1. The Constituent Assembly appointed the SK Dhar Commission in November 1947 to study the issue of reorganisation of the States on linguistic basis.
    2. It was felt that such reorganization was in a way reaffirming the objective mooted by the All Party Conference Headed by Motilal Nehru in 1928 which had pitched for linguistic basis of States.
    3. The Dhar Commission inquired into the assessment of reorganization of State on linguistic basis. Although, it received prominent support from different sections for linguistic reorganisation of states, the committee declined to entertain such proposal. It argued that such a reorganization would fuel regional chauvinistic sentiments and might threaten national integration which was precarious in the background of partition.
    4. The Dhar committee also opined that administrative convenience would outweigh any other consideration for reorganisation of states. This would be beneficial for better governance. Thus, the Dhar Commission categorically rejected the basis of linguistic formation of States.
    5. The Congress, in its Jaipur session in 1948, also appointed a three member committee to consider the recommendations of the Dhar Commission.
    6. The Committee was popularly known as the JVP Committee after the names of its three members Jawahar Lal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel and Pattabhi Sitarammaiah.
    7. The Committee rejected language as the basis for the reorganisation despite popular support for it. It also Concurred that such reorganization might destabilize national integration.
  • Linguistic Movements
    1. Political movements for the creation of new, linguistic based states developed around India in early 1950s. A passionate and strong Telugu movement lead by Potti Sriramulu insisted on carving out a telugu state.
    2. A “fasto unto death” protest by sriramulu stirred the regional agitation. Indeed, sriramulu died out of fasting in cause of statehood for Telugu speaking people. In October 1953, the Government of India was forced to create the first linguistic state, known as Andhra state, by separating the Telugu speaking areas from the Madras state.. Similar movements also followed in Mysore, Bombay,kerala,regions for creation of linguistic states.
  • The State Reorganisation Commission
    1. The creation of Andhra state intensified the demand from other regions for creation of states on linguistic basis.
    2. This forced the Government of India to appoint (in December 1953) a three-member States Reorganisation Commission under the chairmanship of Fazl Ali to re-examine the whole question.
    3. Its other two members were K.M Panikkar and H N Kunzru.
    4. It submitted its report in September 1955 and broadly accepted language as the basis of reorganisation of states.
    5. But, it rejected the theory of ‘one language–one state’.
    6. The commission suggested the abolition of the four-fold classification of states under the original Constitution and creation of 16 states and 3 centrally administered territories.
    7. The Government of India accepted these recommendations with certain minor modifications.
    8. By the States Reorganisation Act (1956) and the 7th Constitutional Amendment Act (1956), the distinction between Part-A and Part-B states was done away with and Part-C states were abolished.
    9. Some of them were merged with adjacent states and some other were designated as union territories. As a result, 14 states and 6 union territories were created on November 1, 1956.
  • Why do such demands arise
    1. Relative under development of a particular region as compared to the other region of the same state.
    2. Lack of participation in mainstream politics and decision making from a particular region.
    3. Distinct cultural identity based on language, tribe etc existing in a particular pocket of the state.
    4. Distance from the power of centre in the state leading to problem of administrative inefficiency and sense of alienation among the people.
    5. Politics of vote bank and the rise of Regional parties like Telangana Rashtriya Samiti, Gorkhaland National front etc.

Arguments for smaller states

Arguments against smaller states

It will increase administrative efficiency leading to proper utilisation of resources.

It will open the Pandora's box creating demand for more states.

Development will take place and regional disparities will become narrow.

It will add to the burden of Administrative expense, which could have been utilised for development work.

Small states are more effective for fiscal management.

Smaller states do not necessarily show better economic performance, example North Eastern states.

The popular demands, needs and problems of the region may be addressed efficiently

It may increase inter-state conflicts for example water.

There shall be greater competition among States for more development.

The disputes may lead to more and more demand for special packages from the Union.


Smaller States will have more homogenous preferences.


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