Regionalism started process of financial inclusion of backward

Regionalism is not about local patriotism or local pride as Gandhiji said ‘As the basis of my prideas an India, I must have pride in myself as a Gujarati otherwise we shall be left without anymoorings’. National pride is not opposite of regional pride and rather two of them coexisttogether and this was core to our nationalistic ideology too during our freedom struggle. Specialefforts to uplift one’s region is not regionalism as it promotes a progressive thinking and healthycompetition and even undermines other divisive factors like caste and class by divertingattention from them to regional well being. For same regions, demand for a separate state or anautonomous region is also not regionalism unless it is marked by bitterness towards others.Regionalism is instead an ideology which propagates that interests of a region are not inharmony with national interests or interests of other regions and hence may lead to hostility.

Politics of DMK during 1950s in Tamil Nadu is an apt example when a region becomes moreassertive of its cultural identity in a hostile manner. Case of Punjab during 1980s is not anexample of regionalism, but communalism.Linguistic reorganization of states averted a major face-off between various regions by acting asa safety value. Another area of potential conflict is sharing of riparian waters, especially insouthern states. Even such disputes have not aroused passions to such great extents to causemajor integrational threats.Another potential source of regionalism can be economic disparity. However, many specialprograms like Food for Work, IRDP etc in 1970s and special aid for development of such regionshelped in diffusing growth of strident regionalism.

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Industrial policy also ensured that newindustries are widely spread out. During planning process also, more development aid and fundswere given to lesser developed regions which continue even today and role of FinanceCommission is important in this aspect which allocates more grants to backward regions. Publicinvestment in various infrastructure projects like – rail, road, ports, industries etc also played role in offsetting the inequalities. Tax soaps and other incentives were provided to privatesector also to invest in industrially backward regions. Licensing policy was used to guide thelocation of industries in various regions.

Nationalization of banks started process of financialinclusion of backward areas as well. However, investment in agriculture sector and irrigationremained one ignored area. Green Revolution led to unequal benefits and considerableheartburn in other rain-fed and dry areas which was tried to minimize through extending theGreen Revolution to other areas as well.Results of above efforts have been a mixed one. Industrialization has relatively evenly spreadexcept a few states like North Eastern states and Jammu and Kashmir. Some states haveprogressed more than others and others have failed to keep pace. While states like Haryana andHimachal Pradesh have improved upon, states like West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh have losttheir position.

Andhra and Rajasthan have stagnated.One of the major reasons of economic disparity of poor economic growth of the nation as awhole and it was not good enough to make a dent in regional inequalities. Specific issues ofsocial and political organization of certain states are also a reason of their backwardness as incase of Bihar and West Bengal. Similarly, agrarian structure in UP and Orissa is still backward. InBihar and UP casteism is there. In West Bengal CPI led leadership didn’t allow much industrialgrowth due to strong trade-unionism.

Intra-regional disparities have also given birth to subregionalmovements as well as in case of Vidharbha in Maharashtra, Telangana in Andhra,Saurashtra in Gujarat, Darjeeling or Gorkhland in West Bengal, Bodoland in Assam etc.For various reasons, economic disparity has not led to growth of regionalism in India. While it isdigested for many reasons, some rational explanations like fault of their own political leadershipare given in other cases. Some others are even unaware of the acuteness of the situation.One particular instance of regionalism raising its head is in form of ‘sons of the soil doctrine’since 1950s. It holds that a state and its resources specifically belong to a particular cultural orlinguistic group inhabiting in that state.

It creates a notion of ‘us’ for insiders and ‘them’ foroutsiders. Outsiders are not regarded ‘sons of the soil’ even if they have been residing theresince long. To harness the employment and economic opportunities this doctrine was usedalong communalism, casteism and nepotism. As migration into major cities accelerated after1951, urban areas specifically became the playfield of this doctrine as ‘insiders’ were graduallyreduced to minority in these cities as these areas witnessed acute struggle for middle class jobsand other opportunities. Failure to create new employment opportunities created morecompetition in 1960s and 1970s. It particularly flourished in states of Maharashtra, Assam andTelangana and was primarily led by urban middle class as people in these areas had littletradition of migration as compared to other states like West Bengal, Kerala etc.

Worst amongthese was one led by Shiv Sena in 1960s which was more antagonistic towards South Indiansespecially Tamilians.However, regional chauvinism has not posed a great challenge to national unity after 1960s and70s. DMK has contended itself by changing the name of state and its capital city. Shiv Sena has turned to Hindu communalism instead. There are occasional flares like violence in Assam andrhetoric of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, but they are only limited in their intensity. 

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