Merger of States

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Merger Of States

  • On 15th April 1948, Himachal Pradesh was made a Chief Commissioner Province by merging 26 Hill States (Except Nalagarh) and three Hill States of Sirmaur, Chamba, and Suket (also called Punjab Hill States). Mandi was merged on 1st May 1948.
  • The crowning events of the long-drawn struggle against autocratic and feudal order were the Solan Conference of the Praja Mandals meeting the Princes held on 26th January 1948 and Suket Satyagraha, when thousands of people marched into Suket State on 18th February 1948.
  • The 30 erstwhile princely states were- Chamba, Mandi, and Suket; Bushahr (includes-Khaneti and Delath), Keonthal (includes-Koti, Theog, Madhan, Ghund, and Ratesh), Baghal and Baghat and Jubbal, Rawin, Dhadi, Kumharsain, Bhajji, Mahlog, Balsan, Dhami, Kuthar, Kunihar, Mangal, Beja, Darkoti, Tharoch, Sangri and Sirmaur.
  • Administratively, it was then divided into four districts of Chamba, Mandi, Mahasu, and Sirmaur. Chamba and Sirmaur princely states were made districts. Mahasu district was formed by joining Mandi, Suket, and the rest of the Punjab Hill States. (Merger Of States)
  • At the time of its inception, the total area of Himachal was 27,018 sq. Km with a population of 9,35,000.
  • In 1950, areas of Solan Cantonment, Kotgarh and Kotkhai, two villages from UP (Sangog and Bhattar) and the Kufri and Baragaon jungle from Patiala and East Punjab States Union’ (PEPSU) were merged in Mahasu district.
  • The people of Himachal were not happy with the bureaucratic set up provided to them in the form of Chief Commissioner Province. The first Chief Commissioner was ‘Mr. N.C. Mehta’, his deputy Mr. Penderal Moon and an Advisory Council consisting of three erstwhile rulers and six representatives of the people. This Council was set up on 30th September 1948.
  • The Advisory Council was to advise Chief Commissioner in matters of general policy, and development, and legislative matters. The public representatives were Leela Vati, Dr. Y.S. Parmar, Avtar Chand Mehta, Swami Purna Nand, Sh. Padam Dev and L. Shiv Charan.
  • The people continued to bear with Mehta-Moon misrule, with the hope that the constitution which was under preparation would bring them some relief. To represent Assembly had appointed a committee under the headship of Pattabhi Sittaramaya, to report on the constitution of Chief Commissioner’s provinces, recommended the establishment of legislatures and responsible ministries, though certain powers of supervision and control were to be retained in the hands of the centre. (Merger Of States)
  • This arrangement was the result of the constitutional battle waged inside and outside the constituent assembly, for the democratization of administration in these centrally administered areas.
  • The representative of Himachal Pradesh in the Constituent Assembly Dr. Y.S. Parmar had played a great role. Himachal Pradesh became a part ‘C’ state, with the inauguration of the constitution on 26th January 1950.
  • However, the pattern of government continues with no immediate change. The old bureaucratic set up continued. The Chief Commissioner, ‘Mr. E. Penderal Moon‘, was an Englishman who ruled the Pradesh autocratically from January 1950 to March 1951. He hardly consulted Advisory Council on important matters and where the council was consulted its recommendations were not implemented.
  • In utter disgust, Congress members of the advisory council resigned and anti-Chief Commissioner day was observed throughout the state. In March 1951, Mr. Moon was replaced by an Indian officer, Mr. Bhagwan Sahai.
  • The change of incumbent, however, did not satisfy the people and once again relentless struggle was waged for the democratization of administration. This led to the enactment of the GOVERNMENT PART C STATES ACT in September 1951, which conceded responsible government of a limited character to Himachal Pradesh along with some other Part ‘C’ states. (Merger Of States)
  • Elections to the 36 members of Vidhan Sabha created under the new Act were held in November 1951. The INC won 24 seats a ministry headed by Dr. Y.S. Parmar was sworn in on 24th March 1951.
  • Pt. Padam Dev and Gauri Prasad were sworn in as ministers. On 1st March 1951. Chief Commissioners gave way to Lt. Governorship and ‘Major General (Retired) Himmat Singh Ji was first to hold this office.
  • Under the Act of 1951, the Lt. Governor was to preside over the Cabinet meetings. This seriously degraded the influence and authority of the Chief Minister.
  • Towards the end of 1952, there were rumors that Punjab had demanded the merger of HIMACHAL and PEPSU in it and that can cabinet had held preliminary discussions on the proposal.
  • A year later, on 29th December State Re-organisation Commission (SRC) to go into the question of the reorganization of States on a linguistic basis. Commission was headed by Mr. Justice Fazil Ali and had two members, K.M. Pannikar and H.N. Kunzru.
  • In the meanwhile, the popular ministry won a big success when it was able to convince the centre of the incongruity of keeping Bilaspur as a separate Part ‘C’ state. (Merger Of States)
  • On 1st July 1954, the Part ‘C’ state of Bilaspur was also merged into Himachal Pradesh through an Act of Parliament called H.P. BILASPUR (NEW STATE) ACT, 1954. It was added as the 5th district of Himachal Pradesh in 1954.
  • The SRC presented its report on 30th September 1955. The majority verdict of the Commission recommended Himachal’s integration with Punjab, though its Chairman dissented and recommended its retention as a separate entity. To the people of Himachal, it was the most shocking verdict.
  • It was with great difficulty that Dr. Y.S. Parmar could convince Pt. Nehru of the necessity of a separate Himachal Pradesh. But the Pradesh had to pay a heavy price for this concession; it had to revert to the old pattern of bureaucratic rule. It lost its assembly and popular ministry. “No sacrifice is too great to save Himachal Pradesh, said Dr. Y.S. Parmar at the time of laying down the office of Chief Minister on 31“ October 1956.
  • The next day 1st November 1956, Himachal Pradesh became a union territory. To achieve the lost glory of democratic rule, Dr. Parmar redoubled his efforts, through a peaceful struggle. A Committee of a Vidhan Sabha had already been formed in April 1956) to negotiate with the Central Government with regard to granting of democratic set-up to Himachal Pradesh.
  • The Committee succeeded in getting Clause 239 (seventh amendment, administration of Union Territories) of Act, 1956, altered in such a way as to remain in the hands of Parliament, the power to legislate for the government of Union territories through an Act of Parliament. (Merger Of States)
  • A little later, Union Parliament introduced a sort of ‘dyarchy’ in which some subjects were transferred to popularly elected TERRITORY COUNCIL. This was done by passing, towards the end of the 195 Territorial Council Act. The Council (Himachal Pradesh) had 40 elected and two nominated members. Elections were held in May-June 1957, in which Congress won a comfortable majority. The Council was inaugurated on 15th August 1957. Karam Singh Thakur headed it at its formation.
  • In December 1959, a Negotiating Committee was formed, headed by Dr. Parmar to take up the matter with the Congress High Command and centre, for the restoration of democratic rule. An official committee headed by Ashok K. Sen, then Union Law Minister, was appointed to examine the question of Union Territories under the persistent demand of the local people.
  • On 1st May 1960, Mahasu district was reduced in size when ‘Kinnaur district’ was carved out of ‘Chini tehsil’ and including fourteen villages of Rampur tehsil. It became the sixth district of Himachal Pradesh, divided into three subdivisions, i.e. Nichar ( Nichar tehsil), Kalpa (Kalpa and Sangla tehsils), and Pooh (Moorang and Pooh tehsils and Hangrang sub-tehsil). (Merger Of States)
  • The Ashok K. Sen Committee, which reported in June 1962, recommended the transfer of more subjects to the Territorial Council’ to bring them at par with the administration of other states of the Indian Union. But popular leaders of Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Tripura (Manipur and Tripura also had Territorial Councils) were not satisfied with this concession and insisted on a full-fledged legislative assembly and responsible executives.
  • Ultimately, the government of India decided to go beyond the recommendations of the Ashok Sen Committee and restored Legislative assemblies and Ministries in Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Tripura. This was done by the 14th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1962 and the Government of Union Territories Act, 1963. (Merger Of States)
  • Late Lal Bahadur Shastri who was Home Minister of India at that time, favored this demand of democratization. In 1963 while speaking in Parliament he said, “It is better not to take half-hearted steps and half-hearted measures. It is better to delegate whatever power we want to give them at a stretch and give the power to the representatives of the people to run their government.
  • Under the Union Territories Act, the Territorial Councils elected in 1962 were turned into Vidhan Sabhas. In Himachal Pradesh, a three-man popular ministry headed by Dr. Y.S. Parmar was sworn in on 1st July 1963. Thakur Karam Singh and Hari Dass were sworn in as ministers.
  • As long as the strong man Pratap Singh Kairon remained at the helm of affairs in Punjab, he was able to contain the movement for Punjabi Suba. But after him, the political stability of the Congress was in shambles and the Akalis were able to gather strength. The question of the reorganization of Punjab cropped up in 1965.
  • A Parliamentary Committee, headed by Speaker ‘Hukam Singh’ was formed in September 1965 to report on the problem. The Committee favored the demand of Punjabi Suba and it was conceded in March 1966. A Boundary Commission (J.C. Shah Commission) was appointed in April 1966 to adjust the boundaries of the proposed state.
  • Looking with admiration at the progress made by Himachal on account of the advantage of having its own government, the people of Punjab hill areas strongly demanded their integration with Himachal Pradesh.
  • Linguistic and cultural affinity, besides the similarity of development problems and administrative viability, was cited by them in support of this claim. These developments  Himachal Pradesh a golden opportunity to acquire its proper recommendation of Punjab into two separate states of Punjab and Haryana decided to integrate the Punjab hill areas with Himachal Pradesh on 1st November 1966. (Merger Of States)
  • The following districts and tehsils formed the new administrative divisions of the integrated area:
  • (a) Kangra District: Kangra, Palampur, Nurpur, Dehra Gopipur, Hamirpur, and Una tehsils (Una was a tehsil of Hoshiarpur district), and Pathankot tehsil of Gurdaspur was also transferred to Kangra.
  • (b) Kullu District: Kullu tehsil and Banjar, Anni and Nirmand sub tehsils.
  • (c) Shimla District: Shimla, Kandaghat, and Nalagarh (area of Ambala district)
  • (d) Lahaul-Spiti District: Lahaul and Spiti tehsils.
  • With the integration of these areas, the territorial area of the state increased by 55, 673 sq. km and population to 28,12,463 (1961 census). The number of districts, which was six earlier, went up to ten with the merger of new areas.
  • On the integration, all the MLAs representing the Hill areas of Punjab Vidhan Sabha were declared the members of the Himachal Vidhan Sabha in January 1967 and two more ministers, Lal Chand Prarthi and Bakshi Pratap Singh from new areas were added to the existing ministry.
  • Himachal Pradesh went to the polls in February 1967 for 60 seats of the Vidhan Sabha while 3 more members had to be nominated thus making total of 63 seats. After the completion of elections and nominations, the party position in the Vidhari Sabha was as congress 37, Jan Sangh 7, CPI 2 and Independents 17 (as against this the party position in the next election on July 15, 1970 was as Congress (R) 43, Jan Sangh 7, CPI 2 and Independents 10).
  • On March 14, 1967 Dr. Y.S. Parmar became Chief minister for the third time, while L.C. Prarthi and Chaudhary Hari Ram were sworn in as Ministers. On 22nd April 1967, cabinet was expanded when Sukh Ram, Ram Lal were sworn in as ministers.
  • On 22nd April 1967, cabinet was expanded when Sukh Ram, Ram Lal were made ministers and Daulat Ram Sankhyan, Kartar Singh Wazir, Mehnga Singh and Nek Ram Negi were sworn in as deputy ministers. Again on 20 July 1967 cabinet was expanded when Karam Singh and Padam Dev were included as Ministers and Vidya Sagar was sworn in as deputy minister. (Merger Of States)
  • Now that the proper shape of the Pradesh had been achieved, it was natural for it to demand its due status, i.e. full-fledged statehood. But for time being, undivided attention could not be paid due to many other responsibilities, which had come upon the government with the merger of new areas from Punjab State.
  • The Pradesh Congress Executive Committee had, as early as 5th July 1965 through a resolution, demanded that the final stage of the constitutional development of the Pradesh, as envisaged in Sardar Patel’s letter of 1948, should be implemented and Himachal Pradesh should be made a state of the Indian Union. (Merger Of States)
  • The offensive started on 24th January 1968 when the Pradesh Vidhan Sabha unanimously passed a resolution demanding statehood. A negotiating committee headed by Prof. Tapinder Singh was appointed to take up the matter with the Congress High Command and the Centre.
  • The administration of Union territories was being looked after by Union Home Ministry. The officials there were in no mood to let these territories slip out of their hands. Dr. Parmar, therefore, decided to shift the scene of the battle from the corridors of the Home Ministry to the lobby of Parliament.
  • In both houses, private members’ resolutions on the demand for Himachal Pradesh statehood got overwhelming support. The question of the economic viability of the proposed state was discussed thoroughly. The discussions continued through the later part of 1969 and the beginning of 1970. On 31st July 1970, the bill for the grant of statehood was introduced in the Parliament.
  • The members belonging to different political parties extended their full-fledged support to the bill in both Houses of the Parliament. On 18th December 1970, the ‘STATE OF HIMACHAL PRADESH ACT‘ was passed and the new state (18th State of Indian Union) was inaugurated on 25th January 1971 by late Prime-minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi. (Merger Of States)
  • While passing the bill for the grant of statehood to Himachal Pradesh, glowing tributes were paid by members of Parliament belonging to different political parties, to the manner in which the peaceful struggle for the achievement of statehood was waged by the people and leadership of Himachal Pradesh.
  • While inaugurating the historic statehood function, she unveiled a marble plaque by pushing the button at a well-attended public function held on the ridge Shimla amidst divine showering of snowflakes (snowfall) and multitudinous thrilled hill folks. This was no instance of undoubtedly a unique case, where there was not even a single act of violence and unparliamentary or disgraceful language was committed. This was very much according to the nature and culture of the people of the state, reflected through their actions and commitments.

Read Also: Freedom Movement In Himachal Pradesh

Part-1 Part-2 Part-3 Part-4 Part-5 Part-6

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