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Santosh Nair

Is South India feeling left out?

The Modi bandwagon is exceedingly tapering down as the tirade against the PM resonates in unison!! Unlike the milieu elsewhere, black flags were being waived against him and just before he was airborne in a chopper, black balloons were hurled into the sky. This is not a normal sight for the PM though, but it happened during his recent visit to Chennai.

Below the Vindhyas, the mood is sullen!!!

The general perception down South is that the Northerners are arrogant but ignorant. They are indulging in colonialization of the South, culturally, politically and economically!! The Hindi speaking hinterland and the non-Hindi speaking coastal states are muddled along together with a compromise nowhere in the horizon. Neither the BJP representing the hinterland nor the regional parties dominating the coasts have any interest in seeking a compromise as well!!

Despite a tacit agreement, to ignore the demographic changes and to benchmark the 1971 census as the indicator of the population, the new Federal Government has conveniently abandoned the decade-old covenant on tax-sharing.

The finance commission was mandated to follow the 2011 census instead of 1971. The Southern states were adversely impacted by the above in terms of severe tax liabilities and dismal returns.

A non-partisan finance commission appointed once in five years was delegated with the responsibility of apportioning the funds allotted to the states. The commission was not accountable to the federal government but the latter had the rights to set the guidelines (terms of references).

India interior has human development indicators equivalent to Sub-Saharan Africa, while the Southern states human development indices resemble those of the upper-middle income nations. Whereas women are more empowered in the Southern states, the population tends to shrink compared to its Northern counterpart that is faced with a rapid burgeoning of the populace.

As a result, while Chennai gets Rs 30/- for every Rs 100/- sent to Delhi, Bihar gets a whopping Rs 219!! The Andhra Pradesh CM has accused the centre of diverting Southern funds to the North.

A state which has 4% of India’s population and 1% of the land area accounts for nearly 30% of the country’s foreign exchange through the export of spices, cashew, coir, plantation and marine products and an annual Rs. 3.5billion home remittance of its people working in the Gulf. Kerala is a state that pays Rs. 16000cr to the central exchequer while its annual budget is a measly Rs. 2000cr. If this is not the flight of capital then what is…??

Six decades ago the founder of the Dravidian movement in TN created a rallying slogan “Vadaka Vazhigirathu ; Theruka Teigir-athu” (North is thriving while the South is eroding)!! The North feels that the Government functions in its lap and it can caress it and fondle it at will!!

Penguin Books and the University of Chicago has upped the ante of ancient Southern literature much more than the Indian Government. The renowned epics like “Silapathikaram” & “Manimekalai” that are almost 2000 years old are available in the English language, thanks to the effort put in by Penguin books. English is hence a preferred language in the South. The National Book Trust and Sahithya Academy has done precious little to boost Southern literature, be it the Aghams (poems on love & relationships) or Purams (poems on war & politics). They are considered rich in literature and traditions.

Doordarshan news readers who pronounce names like Francois Mitterand, V. Zhirinovsky and E. Shevardnadze with elegance finds it more arduous to pronounce easier names like Venkatraman, Karunanidhi, V.R. Nedunchezhiyan and EMS Namboodiripad says S. Guhan, former economic advisor to the CM of Tamil Nadu.

According to Professor Naganathan, head of the Department of Economics at Madras University “A North Indian state is poor and backward when it comes to Planning Commission, but undergoes a magical transformation into a money generating one, when it comes to the Finance Commission, in order to get more projects and funds” he concludes contemptuously!!

India’s two halves have strong disparate interests demands and expectations. The emerging fault lines are distinct and unambiguous. The Government should refrain from imposing linguistic and cultural homogeneity but indulge in placating the Southerners and reassuring them of the Government’s firm commitment towards upholding of the diversity.

While being dismissive of appearing solely as a North Indian Party the BJP should convey of their evolvement as an all-encompassing entity that believes in inclusion rather than exclusivity. The Southern region needs to realize that the politics of resentment is easy to stoke but a lot harder to manage. Confrontations with the centre should not be conjured as a conflict/hostility that is eternal.

The Northern ignorance of the South is comparable to the Southern ignorance of the North. The divide is real but the effort to bridge the gap is lacking!!




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