India’s federal structure is marked by the existence of Union Territories (UTs) alongside states. The concept of UTs in India has evolved significantly since the country’s independence and the adoption of its Constitution. Initially UTs were classified under various categories such as Part A, B, C, and D states.
Initial Structure at Constitution Commencement
1. Part A States: These were the former Governor's provinces of British India. They included major provinces like Bombay, Madras, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, etc. Governed by Governors appointed by the President.
2. Part B States: Comprised former princely states or groups of states. Examples include Hyderabad, Jammu and Kashmir, Mysore, and others. They were governed by Raj Pramukhs, usually the former princely state rulers.
3. Part C States: Smaller states and territories like Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura, etc. These were under the administration of Chief Commissioners. 4. Part D State: Only the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, directly under the President’s rule.
States Reorganisation Act and its Impact
The States Reorganisation Act of 1956 was a major milestone, leading to the reclassification and reorganization of states based on linguistic lines. This Act led to the abolition of the Part A, B, C, and D classifications.
Creation of Union Territories: Many of the Part C states were converted into Union Territories. This change was due to various factors like strategic importance, small size, or special administrative requirements.
Union Territories Formed: Territories like Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, as well as Lakshadweep (formerly Laccadive, Minicoy, and Amindivi Islands) were categorized as Union Territories.
Subsequent Developments and Statehood
Statehood Grants: Over the years, some Union Territories like Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Tripura were upgraded to full statehood.
Delhi's Transformation: Delhi was given a special status as the National Capital Territory in 1991. It received its own legislative assembly and Chief Minister, although with limited powers, particularly in areas of law and order and land.
Integration of Former Colonial Territories
Portuguese Territories: Following the liberation from Portuguese rule, territories like Goa, Daman and Diu, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli were incorporated into the Indian Union as Union Territories.
French Territories: The former French colonies of Pondicherry, Karaikal, Mahe, and Yanam were united to form the Union Territory of Puducherry in 1963.
Chandigarh's Unique Status: Formed in 1966, Chandigarh is the only Union Territory that serves as the capital of two states (Punjab and Haryana) and is administered by the Governor of Punjab.
Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh (2019): The erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir (with a legislature) and Ladakh (without a legislature).
Merger of Union Territories (2020): The Union Territories of Daman and Diu, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli were merged into a single Union Territory to streamline administration.
Today, India's Union Territories are diverse, each with its own unique historical, cultural, and strategic significance. They continue to play a vital role in the nation's federal structure, highlighting the unity in diversity ethos of India.