Creation of Telangana: More damage, less gained?
The ruckus created in Parliament over the passage of the bill concerning the creation of Telangana is a study of all that should not be done in a democracy, which prides itself of being the largest functional model of its kind.
Pepper spray, MPs being rushed to hospital, breaking of glass tables, flinging papers, wrenching microphone systems and Lok Sabha television blackout.
Most dysfunctional, one would argue. However, the debate about the proceedings in Parliament and the behaviour of those who are elected by us, I shall leave for another day.
The moot question on whether Telangana should be allowed to come to life in this manner, wailing and kicking, is of prime pertinence.
Post Independence, States Reorganisation Commission divided the state of Hyderabad rule by Nizams into three linguistic regions, with the Marathi speaking area merging with Maharashtra (Bombay State), Kannada speaking area melting into Karnataka(Mysore state) and Telugu speaking region being hitched with Andhra Pradesh.
The then prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had apprehensions of the merger of Telangana with Andhra, but had given his final consent to the alliance in 1956 calling it a “gentleman’s agreement” that had scope for “divorce” by consensus.
His concerns were, perhaps, based on the divergent levels of evolution of the two regions. While the Telangana region was less developed than Andhra, it had more potential for revenue and also had the advantage of having the headwaters of Krishna and Godavari rivers. As far as people were concerned, Andhra had a far superior and modern methodology of governance, along with better rates of literacy and education.
The anxiety of the Telangana people was that while the revenue and waters of the region would be freely used for the development of the state, particularly the Seemandhra portion, administration would be controlled by the better educated people from Andhra. The fears were partially true as the people of Telangana have actually managed only 20% of total government jobs and even fewer positions of heads of educational departments, as per a study by Professor Jayashanakar, who was a well known academician and Telangana ideologue.
The disproportionate development curve had led to demands of a separate Telangana from time to time, including in late 1960s and 70s. However, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s shrewd move to pick a Chief Minister from Telangana – Dr Marri Channa Reddy - helped shatter the movement then.
The death of YSR Rajasekhara Reddy in 2009 was a game changer, as Telangana movement found resurrection. Congress, which had been losing hold on the state since the death of YSR was scratching its head for answers on how to tackle to the rise Jagan Reddy, also found salvation in Telangana.
This was Sonia Gandhi - the junior Mrs G’s masterstroke. Bifurcate the state and create Telangana and let Congress romp home with 17 Lok Sabha seats in an election which is likely to see its worst ever show.
The Srikrishna committee that had surveyed the Telangana region and submitted a report, which was released by the Home Ministry in January 2011, had proposed 6 solutions including ones with some constitutional measures that would help devolution of power and ensure greater parity of socio-economic development. The creation of a separate state was but one of the options.
Cleverly enough, the issue was left to simmer and the campaign for separate Telangana allowed to strengthen till just before elections when the bill for its carving has been pushed unceremoniously, with TV blackouts et al, and without the scope of a serious debate in Parliament on so serious a matter.
The haste with which the entire episode has been enacted itself shows the fishy nature of affairs and duplicity of intentions. The BJP, on its part, has backed Telangana, arguing that it is in favour of smaller states as they are better managed administratively.
The point here is not whether the people of Telanagan have a grouse or not, as is being argued by the Congress. That is more or less indisputable.
The question is, first, whether creating a separate state was the best solution. Second, was this the best way to do it? And third, was this the right time?
If we were to accept the point of view of redressal of grievances of people in neglected areas, why should there be a piece meal approach and not a nationwide study by a Commission of erudite representatives, who look at all areas including those asking for Harit Pradesh and Gorkhaland etc?
Let there be a studied proposal on phase-wise restructuring or devolution of greater powers to areas that have been left under-developed after more than 60 years of Independence.
The commission should also study the best architecture of administration, creation of new townships and fairer allocation of resources to these areas.
The proposal should be thorough, one on which some consensus can be reached, and timed in a manner that it is immune to political developments.
Not when Lok Sabha elections are on our head.
Importantly, new states should not be created without a detailed plan on packages and support that the remaining regions (Seemandhra in this case) should be given after the state is fractured.
Most importantly, no political party should be allowed to derive political advantage by exploiting the sentiments of people who feel that they have been an uncared for lot.
Or situations allowed to reach a perilous point when common people fight for survival and resources, while political hawks feed on their insecurities to stay in power.