The fresh demand for a separate North Karnataka state stems from decades of neglect the region has endured at the hands of successive governments and it comes at a time when the ruling dispensation is seen to be heavily tilted in favour of South Karnataka. The demand, being raised repeatedly since the 1990s, has not turned into a mass movement yet but will not die unless steps are taken to address the regional disparities. The lack of development in North Karnataka has a historical background as the region comprises areas that were once part of the erstwhile Bombay and Hyderabad states. They remained neglected even during the colonial rule, while other regions benefitted from the initiatives of their pre-Independence rulers.
But even 60 years after the formation of Karnataka, the differences between the regions in terms of development are stark. This shows how the Bengaluru-centric political administration has ignored the region. The Nanjundappa Commission was set up in 2000 to study regional imbalances in the state and suggest redressal measures. In its report submitted in 2002, it identified 39 taluks as most backward, most of them in North Karnataka. Several measures were recommended, but they are yet to be fully implemented. The special status conferred on Hyderabad-Karnataka, comprising seven districts, under Article 371(J) has helped the people of the region but there’s a long way to go.
North Karnataka’s current state of neglect can also be blamed on its political leaders who, once elected, rarely bother to check back on the people. There have been at least six chief ministers and several central ministers from the region, but none of them was able to ensure equitable development. However, statehood does not seem to be a practical solution. Karnataka’s strength lies in being united. At the same time, the demands of the people of North Karnataka can no longer be ignored. The government must act to set right the disparities before it’s too late.