Telangana state cannot be the solution for "Telangana problem"

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) supremo K. Chandrasekhar Rao went hungry to redraw the political map of India by carving out a new state of Telangana from Andhra Pradesh. "There were questions on whether he was doing it for the cause of Telangana or to regain lost ground in State politics. Such apprehensions seemed vindicated when he nearly gave up his fast within two days of commencing it, in Khammam sub-jail, before being forced by agitating students of Osmania and Kakatiya universities to continue [Frontline]."

TRS was not formed on a deep rooted ideology, but was a result of political opportunism. When N. Chandrababu Naidu, then Chief Minister, denied a cabinet berth to Chandrasekhar Rao, he resigned as Deputy speaker of AP assembly and floated the Telangana Rashtra Samiti(TRS). "It is now debated whether K. Chandrasekhar Rao would have formed a party if he had not been denied a ministerial berth in Chandrababu Naidu's TDP cabinet."

What is the problem?
It is not just the political opportunism that has raised the Telangana issue, lack of socio-economic development of the region is true to the large extent.
1. Geographically, Telengana is a region of scanty rainfall, and accessing water for irrigation from Krishna, Godavari rivers has been difficult unlike the coastal Andhra where there is a comprehensive irrigation system. Thus, agriculture remained underdeveloped for decades.

2. People of Andhra have an advantage in securing jobs because of their higher levels of education. Though Mulkis are given adequate preference in jobs, such preferences are subjected to certain posts and only to certain extent. [Mulkis are those who are born in the region or had resided there continuously for 15 years].

3. Though people of Andhra and Rayalaseema in Telangana region are a microscopic minority, they dictate the terms with their money and influence, says Prof. K. Jayashankar, ideologue of TRS. To some extent, Telangana movement is also because of people whose identity has been eroded by dominant narratives.

Carving out a new state: does it help?
"If enhanced socio-economic development is the primary objective of the formation of the smaller states, the track record of Uttarkhand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, created nine years ago, are disappointing. In case of Jharkhand, the past nine years have only produced one corrupt government after another, leading to total disregard for the economic and developmental concerns of the people. Recently concluded election results have given rise to a hung assembly and Shibu Soren is set to become a king maker. Yet another corrupt government in waiting! Chhattisgarh was virtually bled by Maoist and created chaos in the lives of citizen. Uttarkhand though fared comparatively better, but here too, there have been no spectacular gains.

Creating Telangana based on the objective of socio-economic development may prove to be incorrect. Unlike Jharkhand, Telangana is not blessed with rich natural resources. "Geography has been unfair to Telengana, and negligence by successive governments has added to the problem." Political loyalty in the region is divided. Less than two weeks before his "fast-unto-death", K. ChandrasekharRao was a marginalized politician whose principles were questioned even by some of his supporters. Not everyone in Telangana considers KCR as their undisputed leader. There are politicians within Telangana who oppose the formation of new state and Congress has a support in the region to a significant extent. Thus, political instability will be a death blow to the development work in the region.

Right from the beginning, Telangana movement is, to a large extent, deep rooted in political opportunism rather than socio-economic development. "The demand for a separate Telangana state has always been an emotive issue and politicians have frequently used it to their advantage. The region’s backwardness, unemployment and absence of development have repeatedly provided a rallying point for ambitious politicians [Frontline]."

What we need is a single pointed focus on socio-economic development within the existing setup. Carving out a new state for development reasons may not work as we have seen in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Uttarkhand.

Consequence of "Telangana State"
Andhra Pradesh was the first state to be created on linguistic basis and the creation of Telangana will raise serious questions about the states reorganization based on language. Support for Vidarbha in Maharashtra, Bodoland in Assam, Harit Pradesh and Buldelkhand in Uttar Pradesh, Gorkhaland, Kamtapur and Cooch Behar in Bengal, etc... would increase in the post Telangana scenario and would lead to violent situations. Such movements are not only against the federal spirit, they would strike a coup-de-grace to the philosophy of unity in diversity. "Furthermore, when a state is carved out of another, it will be a small state that tends to be at the mercy of the central government." Autonomy of the state will be affected and will raise serious questions on center-state relations.

What should government do to arrest such divisive forces?
There can be no alternative to 'development works' to arrest such divisive forces. Equal distribution of benefits from development activities should be the guiding principle. Though this may sound as a rhetoric and theoretical, there is no better solution yet. However, under the current scenario, following ideas can be noted.
  1. Amend Article 3 of the constitution to restrict the power of parliament to freely alter the boundaries of states. Or may be give more power to the Rajya Sabha in the matters of altering the state boundaries. Article 3 has given parliament a liberal power to alter the boundaries of the states. Such power was based on historical and political reasons rather than social, cultural or linguistic divisions of the people themselves. This 'liberal power' of the parliament is not desirable should there be a cordial relation between center and states. Such amendment would discourage "politics" in creating new states.
  2. Appoint a second states reorganization committee to study the issue of "separate state" comprehensively and suggest such measures which would help in strengthening the unity and raising the federal spirit.
  3. Access to state institutions should be made easy. For example, regional high court benches should be established as it is done in Karnataka in the recent past.
  4. Considering regional factors in state and central planning so that development policy implementation is more meaningful.
  5. Leaders from the underdeveloped regions of the state should be given adequate ministerial berths in the state government.
  6. Center should be proactive in providing positive discriminatory aid to the underdeveloped regions of the state.
  7. Taking special measures to arrest regional disparities within the states. etc...
 "Regional disparities have increased in the post-reform period. Greater attention needs to be paid to the specific needs of the backward regions and states to allocate adequate and more equitable investment of scarce resources."

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This work by Manjunath Singe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License. The views and opinions expressed in this work are strictly those of the author and do not represent his employer's views in anyway.