A ‘Manifesto’ for the southern states

A ‘Manifesto’ for the southern states

The time has come for the southern states to create a unified platform to demand and fight for our rights in the federal system and share in the national resources.

Follow Us :

Last Updated : 24 April 2024, 22:31 IST
Last Updated : 24 April 2024, 22:31 IST

When the world celebrated Ambedkar Jayanti on April 14, I recalled his writings on ‘Dravida’, in which Ambedkar underscored the fact that “Dravidians, as Nagas, ruled not only over southern India but over southern and northern India.”

Why then, today, does the South feel deprived of its rights and dignity in the world’s largest democracy? Why is injustice being meted out to the southern states? The 675-mile-wide Vindhya range has come to truly represent a dividing line today.

By all parameters, the achievements of the southern states stand out in stark contrast to the northern states.

A basic comparison clearly shows the ever-increasing gulf between the economic and social scenario of the South and the North. The NITI Aayog’s Multidimensional Poverty Report states that the poverty rate in Karnataka is 7%, and it is less than 1% in Kerala. On the other hand, that in Uttar Pradesh is 22%. There is not a single North Indian state that has a poverty figure below 10%. The same gulf exists on the basis of per capita income, too. According to 2021-22 data, the annual per capita income in Karnataka was Rs 3 lakh, while in Bihar it is Rs 50,000.

It is ironic that this very development of the southern states, being the result of continuous progressive policies and social harmony, is sought to be turned into a handicap and a source of discrimination against them. The southern states have contained population growth, and it has even declined in some cases.

In return, there is the threat of the delimitation exercise, whenever it is carried out, punishing the southern states for it, as it will be based on the population criterion. Thus, the South will lose seats while the North will be rewarded for its failure to contain population growth and gain more seats, on top of the higher number of seats it already has. 

The taxes we pay go to the central pool, but we in the South get back a very small share of it, with the bulk of central assistance going to the northern states, based on the poverty criterion. This is the punishment for the South implementing better poverty alleviation programmes for our people.

Central projects are diverted from the South, Hindi and Hindutva are sought to be imposed at the cost of our own languages, culture and progressive concepts of socio-religious harmony; religious and caste discrimination are cleverly re-ignited.

Moreover, central government jobs are scarce and central assistance due to southern states is delayed or denied. Our regional political parties are targeted and divided using the immense power and resources of the ruling dispensation in Delhi. Our leaders who refuse to bow to their diktats are jailed; those who submit to the ‘washing machine’ offer go scot-free, even rewarded.

Indeed, the time has come for the southern states to create a unified platform to demand and fight for our rights in the federal system and share in the national resources. Many states are already knocking at the doors of the Supreme Court for justice.

I propose this ‘Manifesto’ for the southern states, giving voice to their concerns and demands of the people.

Population-based delimitation of seats in Parliament is too simplistic and no longer acceptable to the people of South India. We demand that our success in controlling population growth, increasing literacy, improving life expectancy, and growing per capita GDP while strengthening our historic focus on social justice be rewarded with a larger share of seats in Parliament than the current allocation.

The southern states have for too long not received their fair share of tax revenues from the Centre, to which they contribute the major share. We demand a new tax devolution formula that factors in the contribution of individual states to ensure fair treatment of the southern states.

The languages, culture, customs and way of life of the people of South India must be respected. The imposition of Hindi, Vice-Chancellors in centres of higher learning, and attempts to rewrite and rework the syllabus in schools/universities in South India to ensure conformity to the hyper-nationalistic, bigoted view of history dictated by Nagpur via New Delhi must stop.

It is a travesty that the southern states have to seek central clearances even for projects related to education, healthcare, irrigation and drinking water. We demand that basic infrastructure projects, designed to improve the quality of our lives, get central clearance within 30 days of approval being sought by our state governments.

While the central government is super-efficient in collecting taxes from the South, there are inordinate delays when it comes to paying out central subsidies to farmers or paying its share for schemes launched by it with much fanfare, putting state governments under severe financial pressure. We demand that the Centre pay its committed share of subsidies and finances for central schemes without delay and stop using such payments as a political weapon.

It is an insult to the people of the South that when our region is struck by natural disasters, the leaders of our states are made to parade in the corridors of power in Delhi begging for relief. The Centre must remember that the people of South India are not seeking charity but for return of some of the money they have contributed as taxes to the central pool.

Despite the high literacy levels in South India, unfortunately, the South is under-represented in the higher judiciary, in constitutional positions, and in organisations controlled by the central government. This discrimination must end and justice must be done.

The southern states cannot be treated as playgrounds of the Centre. We must be consulted in the appointment of Governors and Vice-Chancellors and permission must be sought before central agencies are allowed to run rampant in our states, acting on instructions of the Centre.  

This common ‘Manifesto’ for the southern states, with support from across party lines, will help strengthen democracy, federalism and our Constitution. Our leaders from the South, irrespective of party affiliations, must unite on the critical political and economic issues highlighted in this manifesto and speak in one voice and mobilise public opinion through civil society organisations to ensure justice is secured for the people of South India. It is now, or it will be too late.

(The writer has been a five-term Member of Parliament, a Union Minister, and Governor of four states) 


Deccan Herald is on WhatsApp Channels | Join now for Breaking News & Editor's Picks

Follow us on :

Follow Us