Administrative Divisions of Indian States and UTs

India, also known as Bharat, is an indestructible union of states and the very first article of the Constitution of India emphasizes the nature of its composition. Administrative divisions are created for various reasons such as administrative convenience, ensuring focus on specific areas in terms of development, and protection of the rights of the tribal population as mandated in the constitution.

This topic has been in the news frequently due to protests by different sections for special rights with respect to the sixth schedule and by others for ensuring the governance, powers bestowed by the 5th schedule.

In this article, we shall be discussing various aspects of the Administrative Divisions, present relevance and implications. Further, this article covers other important dimensions, keeping in mind the demands of the Preliminary as well as Main examination of the UPSC IAS Exam.

What is the Concept of  Administrative Divisions in India?

  • At present, there are 28 states and 8 union territories in our country, further divided into districts.
  •  As per the Census of India 2011,  there are 640 districts in India.
  • The states and Union territories are formed primarily due to the spoken language, administrative convenience, and special focus on development in the respective regions.
  • States are further divided into districts, and for administrative convenience, districts are clubbed together forming a zone or region in that state.
  • Often it is observed that the classification or clubbing together of districts to form zones are driven by geographical or prominent and common aspects of the state.
  • For example, Uttar Pradesh has 18 divisions, Maharashtra has 6 divisions, Chhattisgarh has 5 and Odisha has 3 divisions and so on.
  • Konkan division in Maharashtra stems from the  Konkan Coast, Bastar Division of Chhattisgarh includes several districts in the densely forested region, where the place Bastar has historic and cultural significance on many fronts.
  • Each district is further divided into sub-districts, known under different names across the country. Taluka, Block, Panchayat, Tahsil in common practice refers to similar administrative arrangements.
  • At the grassroots level, the primary administrative units of administration are the villages in rural areas and towns in urban areas. 
  • As per Part IX of the Constitution, states are required to constitute Panchayats at three tiers, i.e., Village, Intermediate and District except the states having a population of less than 20 lakhs, which may not constitute a panchayat at the Intermediate level.
  • The 12th Schedule of the constitution provides for Municipalities or Urban Local Governments, through the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992, with the provisions included in Part IXA.

To read more about tiers of governance, please refer to this linked article for notes and discussion on Panchayati Raj System.

Constitutional Provisions for Administration of Scheduled and Tribal Areas

Fifth Schedule

  • In the 5th Schedule under Article 244(1) of the Constitution, the expression ‘Scheduled Areas’ is mentioned.
  • It refers to such areas that the President may, by order, declare to be Scheduled Areas, and the President may at any time by order exercise the following options:
    • Direct that the whole or any specified part of a Scheduled Area to be declared for that purpose.
    • Increase the area of any Scheduled Area in a state after consultation with the Governor of that state.
    • Alter but only by way of rectification of boundaries, any Scheduled Area.
    • On any alteration of the boundaries of a State on the admission into the Union or the establishment of a new State, declare any territory not previously included in any State to be a  part of, a Scheduled Area.
    • Rescind, in relation to any State, any orders made under these provisions and in consultation with the Governor of the State concerned, make fresh orders redefining the areas which are to be Scheduled Areas.
  • As per Article 243M of the Constitution, the states of Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sixth Schedule Areas and hill areas of Manipur are exempted from the application of Part IX of the Constitution.

Sixth Schedule

  • Provisions as to the Administration of Tribal Areas in the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram are provided in the Sixth Schedule of the constitution, under Articles 244(2) and 275(1)
  • It provides for the creation of Autonomous Districts and Autonomous Regions, with powers for including, excluding, merging or altering the name or creating new areas vested in the Governor.
  • It mandates constituting District Councils and Regional Councils, such as a District Council for each autonomous district consisting of not more than thirty members.
  • Further, not more than four persons are nominated by the Governor and the rest are elected on the basis of adult suffrage.
  • There is a provision for a separate Regional Council for each area constituted as an autonomous region.         

Please refer to the linked article on Scheduled and Tribal Areas here for more details, questions and notes important for the IAS Examination.

Zonal Councils – Enhancing Administrative, Cooperative Decision-Making 

  • They are the  framework for interstate cooperation and enhancing administrative efficiency, decision-making at regional level,
  • The idea of creation of Zonal Councils was mooted by the first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru in 1956, during the course of debate on the report of the States Reorganization Commission.
  • He emphasized states be divided into four or five zones having an Advisory Council in order to develop the habit of cooperative working among these States. 
  • It was suggested that the States proposed to be reorganized may be grouped into four or five zones having an Advisor.
  • This suggestion was made by Pandit Jawahar Lal  Nehru at a time when linguistic hostilities and bitterness as a result of the re-organisation of the States on linguistic patterns were threatening the very fabric of our nation. 
  • As an antidote to the linguistic hostilities, bitterness, it was proposed that a high-level advisory forum should be set up to minimize the impact of these hostilities and to create a healthy interstate and the centre-state environment with a view to solving inter-State problems and fostering balanced socio-economic development of the respective zones.

What is the Composition of Zonal Councils? 

  • Five Zonal Councils were set up with respect to Part-III of the States Reorganisation Act, 1956.
  • Following are the present composition of each of these Zonal Councils: 
    • The Northern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, National Capital Territory of Delhi and Union Territory of Chandigarh;
    • The Central Zonal Council, comprising the States of Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh;
    • The Eastern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Sikkim and West Bengal;
    • The Western Zonal Council, comprising the States of Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra and the Union Territories of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli;
    • The Southern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry.

What are the Committees of Zonal Councils?

  • Each Zonal Council has set up a Standing Committee consisting of Chief Secretaries of the member States of their respective Zonal Councils. 
  • These Standing Committees meet from time to time to resolve the issues or to do the necessary groundwork for further meetings of the Zonal Councils.

What is the Organisational Structure of Zonal Councils?

  • Chairman – The Union Home Minister is the Chairman of each of these Councils.
  • Vice Chairman – The Chief Ministers of the States included in each zone act as Vice-Chairman of the Zonal Council for that zone by rotation, each holding office for a period of one year at a time.
  • Members- Chief Minister and two other Ministers as nominated by the Governor from each of the States and two members from Union Territories included in the zone.
  • Advisers- One person nominated by the Planning Commission for each of the Zonal Councils, Chief Secretaries and another officer/Development Commissioner nominated by each of the States included in the Zone
  • Union Ministers are also invited to participate in the meetings of Zonal Councils, depending upon necessity.

What are the Roles of the Zonal Councils?

  • The Zonal Councils provide an excellent forum where irritants between Centre and States and amongst States can be resolved through free and frank discussions and consultations. 
  • Being advisory bodies, there is full scope for a free and frank exchange of views in their meetings. 
  • They are the regional fora of cooperative endeavour for States linked with each other economically, politically and culturally. 
  • Being compact high-level bodies, specially meant for looking after the interests of respective Zones, they are capable of focusing attention on specific issues taking into account regional factors while keeping the national perspective in view.

What are the primary objectives of setting up zonal councils? 

  • Bringing out national integration.
  • Arresting the growth of acute State consciousness, regionalism, linguism and particularistic tendencies.
  • Enabling the Centre and the States to co-operate and exchange ideas and experiences.
  • Establishing a climate of co-operation amongst the States for successful and speedy execution of development projects.

Functions of the Councils

  • A  Zonal Council may discuss, and make recommendations with regard to the following-
    • Any matter of common interest in the field of economic and social planning.
    • Any matter concerning border disputes, linguistic minorities or interstate transport.
    • Any matter connected with, or arising out of, the reorganization of the States under the States Reorganisation Act.

Conclusion

India is an indestructible union of states. The very nature of the Constitution paves the way for governance catering to the demands and diversity as per the geography of the land. Administrative divisions and all similar mechanisms are meant for making the administration reach the last mile, the doorstep of the ones who might be left out otherwise, with differential access barriers. Further, reforms and administrative inventions, policy interventions are intended to evolve a participatory rule, ensure democratic governance, with ease of access for the common citizens. 

The institutions play a crucial role in ensuring the goals of the constitution to ensure justice and equality for all its citizens. With existing demands from different regions for further classification based on linguistic principles, cultural heterogeneity should be studied and effective mechanisms ensuring the development reached to every section, every citizen would be the panacea in the long run for our democracy. 

This article is relevant for the Polity sections of the UPSC syllabus prescribed for Preliminary and Main Examination of UPSC Civil Service. 

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