Reckonings at the crossroads- The need for the diversification of Indian Union capital towards South and East
The idea of multiple capital cities for Indian Union has found its way to the mainstream discourse through the newfound advocacy from Mamata Banerjee, an influential leader of the subcontinent. Capital city relocations are quite frequent if the global history since the dawn of twentieth century is treated as the sample for the analysis of this issue. As the world saw the eradication of powerful monarchies at the end of the first world war, a vast number of nation states were fragmented and combined into republics of different types. This abrupt modification of governance along with the irrational demarcation of boundaries had resulted in a discernible divergence in various socio-economic parameters of the constituent nationalities of many countries with varying degrees of federalism. In those cases, the capital cities play a crucial role in representing the internal diversity and equality. Wherever a capital city fails to fulfil this requirement, popular demands emerge for the relocation and diversification of the federal capital and institutions.
Indian Union serves as an illustration for a disproportionate concentration of power and its ramifications on the peoples’ lives, which became evident in the last decade with the intense subjugation of its citizens through multiple ludicrous centralizing schemes. One major aspect in all these dreadful developments is India’s notion of Capital city and the resultant political infrastructure of Delhi. For the India of 21st century, this is a serious predicament on the development of the country in the spheres of political economy and human development. The stability of this country is the result of the compromises between its diverse integrants. The reward for such sacred compromises should reflect on all facets of the governance in order for the Indian Union to maintain its political equilibrium. But the trajectory of the union governments since 1947 has been directed towards desacralizing the magnanimity of such efforts from its constituent population during the disintegration of British colonialism. As a result, the developed states of the country are currently being punished by the union government for their achievements.
CURRENT POWER DYNAMICS OF NEW DELHI
New Delhi hosts all the top bodies of legislative, executive, and judicial arm of union government. The perception of politics from Delhi environment is the stimulus behind this madness, as it tries to exclude any convergence between the governance at state level and union level. The accelerated centralization drive in the policy implementations is due to the Superiority complex of the members of the Union government. Despite the seven decades of independent existence, the functioning of Union Government of India from New Delhi is just a reminiscent of the British rule that is continued through the legacy of its choice of capital city. In an independent union, federal civil administrators should look up to governments that perform better than the average of that country. But in India, Delhi officials think the states which perform above the country’s mean in Human development Indices should be pulled down to the average level by quelling their autonomy. It’s not this unsophisticated thinking that causes trouble, but their ability to impose such primitive motives over outperforming states is the real problem that should be rectified in India. To understand the reasons behind this inference, a discursive reasoning about major factors that go into the selection of a capital city and need for diversification of Federal institutions is required.
The choice for the location of a capital city is premised on several parameters, some of which includes demography, geopolitics, economy, and military environment. Europe is where the democracy and federalism have reached their reasonable developments and refinements. Even in that progressive region, there are plenty of demands for the relocation of capital cities in many countries. Some demands stem form ethnic complications, some from economic inequalities, and others form geopolitical standpoint. For instance, there is a popular demand for relocation of the capital of United Kingdom from London to central region of the island. As the union government is gearing up for the construction of a new building for the parliament at Delhi, the political debates around the location of united Kingdom’s parliament in Westminster palace gives a deep inference about the absurdity and hegemonic attitude of those initiatives in Indian Union. During the debates about the Westminster Palace renovation there were some strong opinions from several high-profile leaders about the need for the relocation of UK’s parliament towards the northern region of the island to eliminate the negligence of those regions due to their remoteness from the power equations of London city. They also postulate that the London factor played a crucial part in the social movements behind Scottish referendum and Brexit.
THE ROLE OF GEOGRAPHY
Geography plays an important role in determining the effectiveness of a capital city. When Germany was re-united after the fall of berlin wall, the relocation of the capital from Bonn to Berlin city was concluded after multiple deliberations. A major advantage for Berlin over Bonn was its Geographical location in the economic landscape of the European continent as it is situated in the eastern part of the country. The veracity of this decision is evident from the economic rise of Germany and its evolution as a de facto leader of central and eastern Europe. In the emerging geopolitical scenario, the Indian ocean is becoming an inevitable region for trade and commerce.
The prominence of the peninsular expanse of the subcontinent could not be ignored and its potential can only be enhanced if the capital of this country is relocated from the land-locked Delhi towards south and diversified across the economic pivots like Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai, and Chandigarh.
Mumbai is already acting as the financial centre of Indian Union and it also lies on the coasts overseeing an important trade route in the Indian ocean. The development of Mumbai also becomes inevitable for the intended external policies of Indian Union as it helps to connect India with Central Asian region through the Arabian Sea by circumventing Pakistan. The Prominent role of Mumbai’s geography was factored in the foreign policy commitments of Union government to develop the Chabahar Port in Iran before it was handed over to China. On the eastern coast, Kolkata’s strategic importance was already made apparent during British Raj. It’s ideal location along the narrow land route towards South eastern countries becomes even more relevant for today’s Act east policy of Indian Union.
MULTIPLE UNION CAPITALS FOR INTEGRATED DEVELOPMENT
According to some historians, in any country, the important political roles of a capital city are: administration, integration, and conservative. The integrative role of a capital city has more onus if the country is a federal union of multiple ethnic groups. Clearly, New Delhi fails to accomplish this criterion to be eligible for a capital city of Indian subcontinent. British crown had settled on Delhi as its candidate for capital city when they faced an intense revolt from Bengal after it was partitioned unilaterally. As an important step towards De-colonization, which was carried out in many of the ex-colonial countries in Africa and Asia, Union government should have moved the capital away from Delhi when it declared India as a Republic in 1950. The administrative role played by Delhi is also squarely against federalism as it is not an autonomous state. Being a territory under the control of union government with a ceremonial legislature, the government institutions located in Delhi serve as the catalyst for anti-federal psychology of the bureaucrats who frame important policies for India. The historical reasoning for the location of capital in Delhi, apart from the British raj’s proclivities, are the legacy of empires of the Gangetic plain. While the tendency to resonate with the legacy of Moghul empires is understandable, the disregard for the equally important and ancient Empires of the south and east is unacceptable. India’s ambitions for a major role in QUAD cannot be achieved if it fails to appreciate the fact that it was the Cauvery delta which decided the destiny of South and South East Asia for many centuries. A parliament located in such a socially and economically progressive southern state would perform the constitutional duties in a much better way than the current standards. Bangalore has quickly advanced into the Silicon Valley of India by nurturing a thriving IT Industry on par with the west. With its economic policy conducive to business environment and its current status as the capital of Tamil Nadu, the manufacturing powerhouse of India, Chennai has positioned itself as the Detroit of Asia by encouraging a widespread industrial development. The recent farmer protests and the productivity of north western states in the agricultural sector underpins the necessity for the recognition of Chandigarh city as one of the union capitals.
Ethnic struggles materialize out of the negligence for a fair treatment of all entities in federal setups. Even in a financially prosperous society like that of Belgium, nationalists demand for bifurcation of federal capital between distinct ethnic homelands and diversification of federal infrastructures, quoting the inequalities prevalent in the federalism of that country. Compared to that, South Asia is just stepping into the development ladder. Hence, nationalities that aspire development should be treated respectfully as their development will eventually benefit the countries to which they belong. An indication for a developing federal country is the reduction of the separation in the hierarchy between state and federal governments which can only result with the decentralization of political power across the federation. Considering all these, the demand for the relocation of parliament to a southern state, Supreme court to an eastern state, and the diversification of Union capital across Mumbai, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Chennai, and Kolkata are the initial steps that can lead this country towards the path of social development and economic growth.