Ideas

Aimless Article 371(J): Political Will, Not Law, Is Needed To Push Development in Hyderabad-Karnataka Region

The Constitution of India.
Snapshot
  • The administrative deficiencies and problems that exist in this region and many others in the country cannot be solved by the use of constitutional provisions like 371 (J).

    To address these issues, the state ought to primarily focus on developing the region.

India’s Constitution has provided for a variety of transitional and special provisions under Part XXI. One of the latest additions to it is Article 371 (J), which was pushed through the 98th amendment of the Constitution. Article 371 (J) provides for certain benefits to the Hyderabad-Karnataka region by the establishment of a development board. However, the article has not had the desired effect. This article attempts to examine the consequences of Article 371 (J).

The Hyderabad-Karnataka region consists of Gulbarga, Bidar, Raichur, Koppal, Yadgir and Bellary districts. These districts were originally part of the Hyderabad state under the nizam, and were reorganised as part of the State Reorganisation Act of 1956 on a linguistic basis. This region was merged with Karnataka. It was, however, considerably backward compared to the rest of the state, especially to the Mysore region. The lower rate of literacy, higher incidence of malnutrition, infrastructural deficiencies and the lack of industrial development in the region prompted the Karnataka government to set up a high-powered committee to redress regional imbalances.

In 2010, the Karnataka government passed a resolution to make special provisions for the region under the Constitution. This eventually resulted in the enactment of the aforementioned 98th Constitutional Amendment, which added Article 371 (J), which combined elements of Article 371 (2) and 371 (D).

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Article 371 (2) of the Constitution had provided for the setting up of special development boards for Marathwada and Vidarbha in Maharashatra and Saurashtra and Kutch in Gujarat, while Article 371 (D) provided for special measures with respect to employment and education in Andhra Pradesh. Article 371 (D) has recently become the bone of contention between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Article 371 (J) incorporated the features of both these articles. It provided for the constitution of a separate development board for the region, ‘equitable’ allocation of funds and opportunities in employment and education. Article 371 (J), under clause (2), provides reservation of seats in employment and education for those born/domiciled in this region.

The development board, under this article, was constituted in 2013 under the then Siddaramaiah government. The board is to be the primary conduit for developmental activities in the region and other schemes through its actions. An earlier statutory board had been constituted in 1991, much like the Vidarbha and Marathwada development boards. However, the effectiveness of the board is limited. Development projects have been stalled and funds underutilised, subject to allegations of corruption. This has resulted in an increasing demand for a separate ministry for the region, or in fact, calls for a separate state. This is because the funds allocated to the development board are at the mercy of the state government, and the amount of authority and powers of the development board are quite limited. For development boards to work, it requires a significant amount of commitment from the state government as well as delegation of powers and oversight. The board, in essence, seems to be an avenue for politicians to make a quick buck.

Would a separate ministry address the challenges faced by the development board? The example of the Ministry for Development of North Eastern Development Region, which has also not been effective, serves as an example. Only under the current dispensation, the development of north east region has come into sharp focus. Besides, the current board other than having a ‘constitutional mandate’, has little else to boast about compared to the earlier statutory board. Other statutory development boards in Karnataka such as the Baayalu Seeme Development Board and the Malnad Development Board have also proven to be quite ineffective. The constitutional provision on the board seems unnecessary, considering that it has provided no additional impetus to it.

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The provision for reservation for those domiciled/born in the region for employment has not served the interests of the region either. Providing reservation in employment has served as a viable selling point for many political parties, but it does little to benefit the region. As Thomas Sowell said in Affirmative Action Around the World, reservation policies impose social costs on society as a whole, and do not confer any benefits to the disadvantaged groups. This clearly has been the case in this context as well, with reservations in jobs being a washout for the development of this region.

The reservation requirements in junior public service commission posts are high - ranging from 75 to 85 per cent. This reservation mandate creates a talent and manpower deficit in public administration and educational institutions. This, in return, results in an inefficient administration. The lack of quality educational institutions in the region also serves as an impediment to the growth of the region. Overall, the reservation requirements lead to more structural disadvantages than advantages.

The administrative deficiencies and problems that exist in this region and many others in the country cannot be solved by the use of constitutional provisions like 371 (J). They serve as mere emblematic representation of the question of regional imbalances. To address these issues, the state ought to primarily focus on developing the region. In the long run, we ought to look at a new set of solutions - including a second state reorganisation commission, considering that this problem is not limited to Karnataka.

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In conclusion, it can be said that Article 371 (J) is merely a symbolic provision in the Constitution that has not in any serious way paved for the development of the region. The impediment to the growth of the region has not been the lack of legal provision that empowers the state to act, but the lack of political commitment from the state governments for development activities keeping in mind the geographical reality of the region.

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