Saturday, August 3, 2013

Why I oppose the bifurcation of AP

Disclaimer: Opinions are personal. Others' opinions/views are accepted.

Telangana it is! That's how the Congress Working Committee (CWC) reluctantly paved way to the creation of a separate Telangana state with 10 districts, re-defining internal boundaries of India by announcing the 29th state on July 30, 2013.
Though the news brought tears of joy to pro-Telangana people, it was a disaster for those who wanted the state to remain united with all the three regions. Everyone is aware that the decision comes in the backdrop of General Elections in 2014 and is evident that this is Congress' poll gimmick.

Now that the inevitable announcement has been made, let's look at whether it was done for Telangana people who have been fighting for a separate state for over six decades or there were political interests involved.

History of Andhra Pradesh

Andhra Pradesh came into being on November 1, 1956, as a result of the formation of State Reorganisation Committee (SRC) in December, 1953 when the movement for linguistic states gained momentum in India under the Prime Ministership of Jawaharlal Nehru. A state with a mix of three distinct regions i.e. coastal Andhra, Rayalaseema and Telangana.
 The state was constituted with the merger of the large and predominantly Telugu-speaking residuary part of the erstwhile state of Hyderabad with the state of Andhra that had come into existence earlier after its separation from the then Madras state. It was also the first state constituted on linguistic basis after India's independence.

The SRC measured the pros and cons of the demand for Vishalandhra and Telangana and came up with the following conclusions: (Source: Srikrisha Committeee Report)

1. The creation of Vishalandhra is an ideal to which numerous individuals and public bodies, both in Andhra and Telangana, have been passionately attached over a long period of time, and unless
there are strong reasons to the contrary, this sentiment is entitled to consideration.
2. Another advantage of Vishalandhra will be that the development of Krishna and Godavari rivers will thereby be brought under unified control. The Krishna and Godavari projects rank amongst the most
ambitious in India. They have been formulated after prolonged period of inactivity,…. Since Telangana as part of Vishalandhra will benefit both directly and indirectly from this development, there is a
great deal to be said for its amalgamation with the Andhra State.
3. The case for Vishalandhra thus rests on arguments which are impressive. The considerations which have been urged in favour of a separate Telangana State are, however, not such as may be
lightly brushed aside.

Even after demands from pro-Telangana leaders in 1956 -- Telangana students be given priority in education, jobs, sale of land in Telangana area be controlled by the Regional Council, etc, of the Gentlemen's Agreement were agreed upon and signed by the Government of India, there were two clauses that weren't approved. Despite the tensions, finally the proposal to form a unified state was agreed upon and it was called "Andhra-Telangana". The name was then changed to "Andhra Pradesh" when a Joint Select Committee made amends to the draft Bill of SRC.

However, in 1969, The "Jai Telangana" movement gained movement following agitations discontent in service and employment matters and further covering financial matters called “Telangana revenue surpluses”, quickly spread like wild fire all over Telangana area with devastating effect. And, the central government appointed a Regional Committee 1958, to have a legislative advisory role over the executive; albeit, it was restricted to Telangana related development issues.
This was followed by "Jai Andhra" movement in 1972.

Development in three regions

Despite Telangana people arguing that their region is a backward one, the Srikrishna Committee thought otherwise. It is foolish of us to ignore the report that has been put out after consultations with all types of stakeholders in the state. (Mind you, they're a bloody good team of intellectuals from all sectors).

The 505-page report by Justice B.N. Srikrishna and his team said: "Telangana as a new state can sustain itself both with and without Hyderabad. The other combination of regions - coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema -- together can also sustain themselves as a state; in fact they can sustain themselves separately."

Currently, AP is the fourth largest state in India in terms of area and fifth largest in population. It is ranked third in the size of gross domestic product (GDP) and 11th in the country in terms of per capita income. Gross state domestic product in 2011-12 was estimated at Rs 6,76,234 crore.

Among the three regions, Coastal Andhra region recorded a per capita income of  Rs36,496 followed by Telangana (including Hyderabad) with a per capita income of  Rs36,082 (Rs33,771 excluding Hyderabad) and Rs33,056 in Rayalaseema at 2007-08 current prices.

Interestingly, the Srikrishna report revealed that the GDP growth of Coastal Andhra remained constant ever since 2005 while Telangana (other than Hyderabad) and Hyderabad district have shown consistent increase in its share of GDP. For instance, the share of Telangana which was only 33% during 1993-94 has increased to 35% during 2007-08. Similarly, the share has increased from 5% to 8% in case of Hyderabad. Consequently, the share in coastal Andhra declined from 44% to 41% and from 18% to 16% in Rayalaseema region. It is important to note that the GDP growth in all regions excepting coastal Andhra.

There is no denying that the fight has been for Hyderabad, the bone of contention for Telangana and Seemandhra, for being the highest revenue earner in the state. The city accounts for more than 50% of the state's tax revenues.

In 2012-13, AP's tax revenues stood at Rs 69,146 crore. Of this, Rs36,400 crore came from Hyderabad and its surrounding Rangareddy district. The revenue from rest of Telangana was Rs11,207 crore, Andhra Rs 16,729 crore and Rayalaseema Rs4,810 crore.

According to the Srikrishna Committee, Hyderabad accounts for 99% of the total of around Rs 55,000 crore IT and ITeS exports from the state. Of the 72 notified special economic zones (SEZs) in the state, 37 are located in Hyderabad and Rangareddy. In fact, Hyderabad and Rangareddy districts account for 44% of the registered manufacturing and 39% of the construction activity of the Telangana region.

All this data only places Telangana (including Hyderabad) at a better spot compared to Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema (for being drought-hit almost throughout the year) where there has been minimal growth.

Justifying the demand for T?

Though there has been a storm in the T cup, the Srikrishna Committee report clearly states that it did not find any real evidence of any major neglect by the state government in matters of overall economic development of Telangana.

Despite the Telangana struggle resurfacing in the post -2000 period with the rationale virtually being the same as in the earlier movements for Telangana, (such as the partial implementation of the Gentlemen‟s Agreement, unsatisfactory implementation of Presidential Order of 1975 on employment issues, the gap in educational standards among the regions, the denial of fair share of water and irrigation resources, and
perceived neglect in economic development of Telangana region) the report described that there more sentimental and emotional reasons and attachment to a long held desire for a separate state of Telangana rather than the fight for better representation.

On the political front, the Telangana movement after P. Chidambaram's announcement in 2009,  saw an upheaval in the Telangana region -- from Osmania University to school students, NGOs and members from other T forums literally setting themselves on fire in the fight for a separate statehood.

All said and done, the movement soon disintegrated in minor factions which saw the rise of lackwits like Prof. Kodandaram, Swamy Goud who made the most of the "Telangana cause" from bribing to blackmailing. Even political parties had separate Telangana forums. Unfortunately, even the Tollywood industry bore the brunt of the movement.

On the other side, some innocent students who fought for the cause from the bottom of their hearts, lost lives during the struggle. Fast-unto-death became the new normal and the state was on fire with agitations and bandhs, making everyone's life hell, the agitators included.

There were reports of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), (formed in 2001 for Telangana statehood demand -- spearheaded by K. Chandrasekhar Rao), looting from people in the name of Telangana to warning insitutuions/corporates/companies of vandalising property. And, uncertainty loomed large over the status of Hyderabad as it happens to be the hub of bustling economic activity in the state.

Hair-raising speeches, those full of anger, against Seemandhra people brought Telangana people together. One cannot ignore the fact that it was also because Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh, is dominated by Seemandhra people. Almost 70-80 per cent of the capital is populated by settlers from Seema and Andhra regions.

Differences and similarities

For this, one also has to look at the cultural differences between the three regions. Originally, because of the feudal system prevalent in Telangana, most worked a labourers under the landlords. This also tweaked the fear of being subverted by the Seemandhra people. Despite the advancement of the region, the colonial hangover still dogs Telangana.  

Historically. Telangana people have always been considered as those who preferred working where they belonged rather than migrate to other places for a living. In contrast, Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra people always migrated for a living. This also explains why Hyderabad is dominated by Seemandhra people.

Most businesses, educational institutions and other places are run and owned by the Seemandhra crowd in and around Hyderabad. Rayalaseema also has the history and the credit of producing some of the best politicians in the state of Andhra Pradesh. There is also another peculiar factor about Rayalaseema people -- they see Bangalore (Karnataka) as a better business destination because it is geographically closer and there is a culture-match.

All these considered, even education and employment-wise the Andhra and Rayalaseema regions have been able to excel while Telangana districts still lag behind. Even those in the IITs, BITS and other top institutions are evidently from Andhra region.

How politicians, of all sizes and parties, worsened things

Though the demand for Telangana created a buzz, it worsened with politicians' selfish motives. KCR, despite his hate speeches against Seemandhra people, has been able to unite people in the name of Telangana. That also marked the rise of his family members, his son, K.T Rama Rao, daughter Kavita and others like Harish Rao and actual believers like Narendra (who was instrumental in the formation of TRS party in AP) go into cocoon and later, resign from TRS.

The central government too played its cards right in ruining the state of Andhra Pradesh after Chidambaram's announcement. AICC chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Azad, Digvijay Singh and the other top Congress ministers swayed to Miss Gandhi's tunes and successfully dragged the issue till 2013. Even parties like the Telugu Desam Party, the BJP, Praja Rajyam Party (now merged into Congress -- led by K. Chiranjeevi) and YSRC party that opposed Telangana's formation dug their own grave on the issue. This also led to a party-hopping trend among MLAs, MLCs and other politicians.

Interestingly, Chidambaram was the one who paved way for the formation of the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Committee. Later, the Congress itself did not bother about the comprehensive report for which it has constituted a committee.

Moreover. the decision of a separate state would have been respected if the Srikrishna Committee report on Telangana was discussed in the Parliament and the Centre arrived at a decision on T after the debate. However, the report was ignored despite its analysis and the Committee's 7 solutions fell on deaf ears as the Centre decided to go ahead without any basis for carving out a separate state after the CWC meeting.

Furthermore, this is the first time that the central government has moved to create a new state in the face of such opposition from the "parent" state.

Pre-poll stunt

On his blog, Parakala Prabhkar, a political commentator, said: "A careful reading of the Justice Srikrishna Committee Report and a mere glance at economic data, history, political developments and the cultural narrative of the state and the region would have shown that the claims and allegations of the agitation are unsupported."

The decision of the Congress high command on T is unlikely to yield substantial electoral benefits in 2014 to the Congress. Telangana's electoral pie is small with 17 seats. The Congress will face stiff competition from several parties and end up with a small share of seats as TRS, YSRCP, CPI and TDP battle it out. In the Coastal and Rayalaseema regions, the electoral pie is larger with 25 seats. Here the party is likely to be routed because of its decision to divide the state where there is a strong demand for a unified state.

While the gains for the Congress in Telangana are likely to be uncertain and small, the losses in the other two regions seem to be certain. It's decision to retain Hyderabad as a joint capital for the first 10 years may also lead to tension between Andhra and Rayalaseema regions for a new capital. This can also be supported by Seema MLAs coming up with demands for Greater Rayalaseema to include Nellore and Prakasam with four districts - Kurnool, Kadapa, Ananthapur and Chittoor.

What's in store?

The Congress party's flawed understanding of the Telangana issue and its electoral miscalculation will guarantee the opening up a huge can of worms across the country.

According to the Srikrishna Committee, the land locked region of Telangana may lose out on access and opportunities to eastern coastline, which has major ports. Similarly, Seemandhra could lose a major market inherent in the huge population, business and market concentration of the city of Hyderabad.

Telangana - and the remainder of Andhra Pradesh - may also face the further challenge of sharing Hyderabad as a state capital. Hyderabad, which will remain a centre of economic activity, is physically located within the Telangana state but may itself be separately administered as a Union Territory.

Even, the Muslims, who are an integral part of Hyderabad, could intensify their demand for a Nizam state through MIM party. This might create further tension within the state's capital.

On the flipside, after statehood, the hard task of choosing new political leaders, building new administrative structures, raising revenues, and negotiating with the central government poses a challenge. With small states like Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand failing to set good examples of economic growth, Telangana's creation also raises similar doubts, given the backwardness of the region.

As a result of carving out Telangana state, we already see a pervasive clamour for the creation of new states from several parts of the country like Bololand, Gorkhaland, Vidharbha, etc. These are only likely to increase in intensity and number, says Mr Prabhakar.

Even as differences between people of different regions cannot be ignored, they can still be respected, had the cause not been twisted for political interests. The movement also puts the country in a self-introspection mode where its strength lies in its unity in diversity.

Forget not what the Preamble of the Constitution says: “WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political;  LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation”

But beyond the goal of statehood lie multiple interests and visions which will need to be accommodated and its effects are open to guesswork until elections in the State and the Centre next year.

Events that led to Telangana's announcement

Picture credit: Financial Express


1948: The Indian Army annexed princely state of Hyderabad, which had different regions including Telangana.

1950: Telangana became Hyderabad State with appointment of a senior administrator M.A. Vellodi as the chief minister.

1952: First elections were held in Hyderabad State. Burgula Ramakrishna Rao became the first elected chief minister.

November 1, 1956: Telangana was merged with Andhra State, which was carved out of Madras State, to form Andhra Pradesh, a united state for Telugu-speaking people.

1969: 'Jai Telangana' movement for separate statehood to Telangana began. Over 300 people killed in police firing.

1972: 'Jai Andhra' movement began in coastal Andhra for separate Andhra state.

1975: Presidential order issued to implement Six-Point Formula, providing some safeguards to Telangana.

1997: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supported demand for Telangana state and in 1998 elections promised 'one vote two states'.

2001: K. Chandrasekhara Rao floated Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) to revive the Telangana movement.

2004: TRS fought elections in alliance with the Congress, won 5 Lok Sabha and 26 assembly seats. The UPA included the issue in its common minimum programme and formed a three-member committee headed by Pranab Mukherjee.

2008: TDP announced support for Telangana demand.

2009: TRS contested elections in alliance with TDP but its tally came down to two Lok Sabha and 10 assembly seats.

September 2, 2009: Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy died in helicopter crash, triggering political uncertainty.

October 2009: K. Chandrasekhara Rao began fast-unto-death for separate Telangana state.

December 9, 2009: Centre announced its decision to initiate the process for formation of Telangana state.

December 23, 2009: Following protests in Rayalaseema and Andhra regions and en mass resignations of MPs and state legislators, the centre put the process on hold, citing need for consensus.

February 3, 2010: Centre set up five-member Srikrishna Committee to look into Telangana issue.

December 2010: Srikrishna Committee submitted its report, suggested six options.

December 28, 2012: Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde announced after an all-party meeting that a decision will be announced in a month.

July 1, 2013: Congress leader Digvijaya Singh announced that a decision on Telangana is in final stages.

July 12, 2013: Congress core group met on Telangana to discuss reports by the chief minister, deputy chief minister and state Congress chief.

July 26, 2013: Congress core group held another meeting, Digvijaya Singh said Congress Working Committee (CWC) and UPA will take a final decision.

July 30, 2013: UPA coordination panel and CWC met and decided to carve out Telangana state.

 (Source: IANS)