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Special category states of India

There are eleven diverse hill states in India which comprise the group of “Special Category States.” They all suffer from the disadvantages that result from remoteness and geographical isolation, as well as historical and demographic circumstances. In addition to pathetic infrastructures, scant resources, unrealized human potential, and stymied economic growth, these states also represented various groups of marginalized minorities.

In order to address the issues facing these states, the Government of India accorded them each with a “special category status,” which was designed to solve their economic problems by allowing them liberal access to federal funds. The main problem with this solution was that is lacked any system of accountability. Even worse was that the unchecked flow of government resources was unlinked to any performance expectations in terms of the states’ growth.

Over time, several special category states developed to a capacity where they could use the federal funds for their intended purpose, and thus these states were able to improve themselves. Others could not do so for a multitude of reasons: some faced militant insurgency and political instability, others corruption, the lack of proper governance, and the absence of leadership.

As current states demand the same status, several questions arise concerning the nature, reality, and effectiveness of the “special category status.” Now, almost fifty years after the first Indian special category state was declared, we must consider the purpose behind their creation, the expectations while creating them, and whether they will permanently remain as special category states.

Featured image credit: Map ‘Prevailing Religions of the British Indian Empire’, 1909′ by John George Bartholomew. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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