Botching up Telengana PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 20 February 2014 02:30
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Government’s lack of ground work shows up

The blacking out of the television proceedings of the Lok Sabha while passing the Telangana Bill, more than anything else, symbolises just how badly the government has botched up the process of carving out a separate state from Andhra Pradesh. The pepper spraying and the pulling out of a knife in Parliament, the snatching of the Bill to prevent it from being tabled in Parliament and the protest resignation of the Congress party’s chief minister in Andhra Pradesh all indicate just how little homework the government did on preparing the state for the bifurcation. The fact that the Bill has come on the eve of elections only adds to the suspicion that electoral concerns are driving the move. Creating a new state is never easy as there are vested interests in the status quo, and in the case of Telangana, the issue of Hyderabad has inflamed passions as all parties concerned want the capital to be part of their boundaries. Which meant the Congress had to work that much harder to build a consensus on the matter.

It hasn’t helped that the committee set up by the government to examine the issue of the state didn’t find too much evidence of a systematic discrimination against the Telangana region, usually the justification for the creation of a new state. The Justice BN Srikrishna Committee agreed with many grievances of the pro-Telangana group when it came to getting its fair share of water, or political power for that matter. In the case of political power, Telangana politicians have held the chief minister’s job for 10.6 years versus 23.9 for Rayalaseema and 18.1 for coastal Andhra; but they held the deputy chief minister’s job for 7.8 versus Rayalaseema’s 5.7 and the coast’s 2.2 and the revenue job for the most time—23.1 years versus 20.9 for coastal Andhra. But when it came to economic issues, the committee found no such discrimination. Telangana has nearly the same annual per capita income as coastal Andhra Pradesh—R33,771 versus R36,496—and with 9% workers who are graduates, Telangana ex-Hyderabad is better off than Rayalaseema with 7.4% and coastal Andhra with 8.8%; it has an 89% literacy among 8-24 year olds versus 88% in coastal Andhra; it does have less engineering seats though, and less MBA seats as well; and 8 doctors per lakh population versus 11 for coastal Andhra—whether this will get resolved with a separate state is open to question though. Which is why the Srikrishna recommendations were for a legislatively empowered Telangana council to ensure the area’s legitimate needs of more water and more educational institutions were met. Nor is it unequivocally clear that smaller states fare better than larger ones. Of the new states, Jharkhand hasn’t developed despite all its mineral wealth and Chhattisgarh’s Maoist problem persists. Given the possibility that a Telangana state—more of a reality now given the Lok Sabha has already passed the Bill, though the last word has clearly not yet been heard—will spur demands for other states, it is to be hoped that the government tackles these with more maturity.


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