States Reorganisation Act, 1956
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Although additional changes to India's state boundaries have been made since 1956, the States Reorganisation Act of 1956 remains the single most extensive change in state boundaries since the independence of India in 1947.
The Act came into effect at the same time as the Constitution (Seventh Amendment) Act, 1956, which (among other things) restructured the constitutional framework for India's existing states and the requirements to pass the States Reorganisation Act, 1956 under the provisions of Articles 3 & 4 of the constitution.
Political integration after independence and the Constitution of 1950
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The British Indian Empire, which included present-day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, was divided into two types of territories: the Provinces of British India, which were governed directly by British officials responsible to the Governor-General of India; and princely states, under the rule of local hereditary rulers who recognised British suzerainty in return for local autonomy, in most cases as established by treaty. As a result of the reforms of the early 20th century, most of the British provinces had directly elected legislatures as well as governors, although some of the smaller provinces were governed by a chief commissioner appointed by the Governor-General. Major reforms put forward by the British in the 1930s also recognised the principle of federalism, which was carried forward into the governance of independent India.
On 15 August 1947, British India was granted independence as the separate dominions of India and Pakistan. The British dissolved their treaty relations with more than five hundred princely states, who were encouraged to accede to either India or Pakistan, while under no compulsion to do so. Most of the states acceded to India, and a few to Pakistan. Bhutan and Hyderabad opted for independence, although the armed intervention of India conquered Hyderabad and brought it into the Indian Union.
Between 1947 and about 1950, the territories of the princely states were politically integrated into the Indian Union. Most were merged into existing provinces; others were organised into new provinces, such as Rajputana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Bharat, and Vindhya Pradesh, made up of multiple princely states; a few, including Mysore, Hyderabad, Bhopal, and Bilaspur, became separate provinces. The Government of India Act 1935 remained the constitutional law of India pending adoption of a new Constitution.
The new Constitution of India, which came into force on 26 January 1950, made India a sovereign democratic republic. The new republic was also declared to be a "Union of States". The constitution of 1950 distinguished between three main types of states:
- Part A states, which were the former governors' provinces of British India, were ruled by an elected governor and state legislature. The nine Part A states were Assam, Bihar, Bombay, Madhya Pradesh (formerly Central Provinces and Berar), Madras, Orissa, Punjab (formerly East Punjab), Uttar Pradesh (formerly the United Provinces), and West Bengal.
- The eight Part B states were former princely states or groups of princely states, governed by a rajpramukh, who was usually the ruler of a constituent state, and an elected legislature. The rajpramukh was appointed by the President of India. The Part B states were Hyderabad, Jammu and Kashmir, Madhya Bharat, Mysore, Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU), Rajasthan, Saurashtra, and Travancore-Cochin.
- The ten Part C states included both the former chief commissioners' provinces and some princely states, and each was governed by a chief commissioner appointed by the President of India. The Part C states were Ajmer, Bhopal, Bilaspur, Coorg, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Cutch, Manipur, Tripura, and Vindhya Pradesh.
The sole Part D state was the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which were administered by a lieutenant governor appointed by the central government.
The movement for linguistic states
The demand for states on linguistic basis was developed even before India achieved independence from British rule. Through that time Indian administrative regions were identified as different provinces. Orissa was the first Indian state formed on a linguistic basis in 1936 due to the efforts of Madhusudan Das and became Orissa Province. In Orissa, the linguistic movement started in 1895 and intensified in later years with the demand for a separate Orissa province; at the time, what is now Odisha (formerly called Orissa) was a part of Bihar and Orissa Province.
The post-independence period saw the ascent of political movements for the creation of new states developed on linguistic lines. The movement to create a Telugu-speaking state out of the northern portion of Madras State gathered strength in the years after independence, and in 1953, the 16 northern, Telugu-speaking districts of Madras State became the new State of Andhra.
Other small changes were made to state boundaries during the 1950-1956 period. The small state of Bilaspur was merged with Himachal Pradesh on 1 July 1954, and Chandernagore, a former enclave of French India, was incorporated into West Bengal in 1955.
The States Reorganisation Commission
In December 1953, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru appointed the States Reorganisation Commission to reorganize the Indian states. It was headed by the retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Fazal Ali. and the commission itself was known as the Fazal Ali Commission. The other two members of the commission were H. N. Kunzru and K. M. Panikkar. The efforts of this commission were overseen by Govind Ballabh Pant, who served as the Home Minister from December 1954. The commission submitted a report on September 30, 1955, recommending the reorganisation of India's states. The parliament debated the report. A bill making changes to the constitution and reorganising the states was passed on 31 August 1956.
Related changes by other legislation
The States Reorganisation Act was enacted on 31 August 1956. Before it came into effect on 1 November, an important amendment to the Constitution was also enacted; this amendment (the Seventh) was timed to come into force on the same day.
Under the Seventh Amendment, the existing distinction among Part A, Part B, Part C, and Part D states was abolished. The distinction between Part A and Part B states was removed, becoming known simply as "states". A new type of entity, the union territory, replaced the classification as a Part C or Part D state.
Effect of the changes
The following list sets out the states and union territories of India as reorganised on 1 November 1956:
- Andhra Pradesh: Andhra State was merged with the Telugu-speaking area of Hyderabad State (also known as Telangana) to create Andhra Pradesh in 1956.
- Assam: No change of boundary in 1956.
- Bihar: reduced slightly by the transfer of minor territories to West Bengal.
- Bombay State: the state was enlarged by the addition of Saurashtra State and Kutch State, the Marathi-speaking districts of Nagpur Division of Madhya Pradesh, and the Marathi speaking Marathwada region of Hyderabad. The state's southernmost districts of Bombay were transferred to Mysore State. (In 1960, Bombay State was split into Maharashtra and Gujarat.)
- Jammu and Kashmir: No change of boundary in 1956.
- Kerala: formed by the merger of Travancore-Cochin state with the Malabar district of Madras State and Kasaragod taluk of South Canara district. The southern part of Travancore-Cochin, Kanyakumari district was transferred to Madras State.
- Madhya Pradesh: Madhya Bharat, Vindhya Pradesh, and Bhopal State were merged into Madhya Pradesh; the Marathi-speaking districts of Nagpur Division were transferred to Bombay State.
- Madras State: Malabar District was transferred to the new state of Kerala, and a new union territory, Laccadive, Minicoy and Amindivi Islands, was created. The southern part of Travancore-Cochin (Kanyakumari district) was added to the state. (The state was renamed Tamil Nadu in 1968.)
- Mysore State: enlarged by the addition of Coorg State and the Kannada speaking districts from southern Bombay state and western Hyderabad State. (The state was renamed Karnataka in 1973.)
- Orissa: No change of boundary in 1956.
- Punjab: enlarged by addition of the Patiala and East Punjab States Union.
- Rajasthan: enlarged by the addition of Ajmer state and parts of Bombay and Madhya Bharat states.
- Uttar Pradesh: No change of boundary in 1956.
- West Bengal: enlarged by addition of minor territory previously forming part of Bihar.
- Himachal Pradesh
- Andaman and Nicobar Islands
- Laccadive, Minicoy and Amindivi Islands: created from territory detached from Madras State.
- Administrative divisions of India
- Tulu Nadu state movement
- Swatantra Tripura Committee
- Unification of Karnataka
- Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014