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Separate Telangana State:BRAZEN CONSENSUS CHARADE, by T.D. Jagadesan,6 March 2009 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 6 March 2009

Separate Telangana State


By T.D. Jagadesan

All the major political parties in Andhra Pradesh, excepting the Congress, have come out clearly in favour of the formation of a separate Telangana state. Even within the Congress Party, most leaders, including legislators, ministers in the State as well as at the Centre belonging to Telangana, are in its favour, but are not forthcoming.

The State Reorganisation Commission (SRC), which recommended in 1956 the formation of a separate Hyderabad State consisting of Telangana, referred to the consensus reached among the Telangana people themselves. It further recommended that after five years, Telangana could be merged with Andhra if two-third of the Telangana legislators opted for it. But consensus has now come to mean not a consensus among the people of Telangana but among everybody else at the national and state level.

The Committee headed by Pranab Mukherjee is supposed to be working towards building the consensus. But the Congress’ own position on Telangana is not made crystal clear. If it is ‘No’ then this exercise is unnecessary. If ‘yes’, it would make the exercise positive and meaningful. Even if a second SRC were to be constituted, as per the Congress Election Manifesto of 2004, the party could not have remained non-committal on the issue, as every party would have been obliged to make its position clear to the SRC.

Had the Congress supported statehood for Telangana, it would have introduced a bill in Lok Sabha. If it was unable to introduce such a Bill due to a lack or consensus in the UPA, then the people would have understood the constraints. But the Congress Party’s own position has not been made absolutely clear throughout the past five years.

The real explanation for the Congress not taking a stand is the ‘veto’ exercised by a few leaders in power in the State ever since the formation of Andhra Pradesh. In fact, this demonstrates how some individuals can manipulate the levers of power in a large and heterogeneous state by the sheer dint of resources and power at their command. Though they have been saying that they will abide by the decision of their High Command on Telangana, one is left wondering whether the High Command they talk of is in Delhi or in Hyderabad itself.

Telangana is indeed, a national issue, not just a regional one. It actually reflects the on-going social change in the country for the empowerment of people through decentralized governance by broadening and deepening our democratic system. Such empowerment and governance would enable articulation of the real problems of the people, resulting in a socially inclusive Telangana. Inclusiveness could not be achieved so far in the bigger state of Andhra Pradesh because the entrenched interests were perpetuated and the voice of the disadvantaged sections remained fragmented.

Tribals are the most disadvantaged section socially and economically with negligible political voice. They live in remote areas and are subjected to land alienation on a large scale. So far, hardly any initiative has been taken in Andhra Pradesh to restore their land despite strong recommendations made by a high-level committee constituted by the present Government. Consequently, the administration is alienated from the people and the areas became a breeding ground for extremist activities.

Yet, this has been treated as a law and order problem and not as the socio-economic issue that it is. The Scheduled Tribes constitute around 9 per cent in Telangana as against 5 per cent in the rest of the State. Thus, as much as 60 per cent of the ST population of Andhra Pradesh is concentration in Telangana.

Similarly, the population of Muslims is as high as 12.5 per cent in Telangana when compared to 6.9 per cent in the rest of the State. As many as 61 per cent Muslims of Andhra Pradesh live in Telangana of whom 60 per cent are spread over in different districts other than Hyderabad. Socially and economically disadvantaged sections including SCs, STs and BCs constitute not less than 86 per cent of the population in Telangana. They would all be better able to articulate their problems and politically assert themselves. A separate Telangana can thus strengthen the forces of social inclusion.

The Eleventh Plan document, lately approved by the National Development Council gives telling figures, wherein the recently-formed small states fared better than the parent states in regard to Gross Domestic Product targets set for the tenth plan period. A comparison of the targeted growth and that achieved in three such states shows: Chhattisgarh (targeted growth 6.1 per cent, achieved 9.2 per cent), Jharkhand (targeted 6.9 per cent, achieved 11.1 per cent) and Uttarrakhand (targeted 6.8 per cent, achieved 8.8 per cent). In contrast, the performance of their parent states, viz. Madhya Pradesh ( targeted 7.0 per cent, achieved 4.3 per cent), Bihar ( targeted 6.2 per cent, achieved 4.7 per cent) and Uttar Pradesh (7.6 per cent, achieved 4.6 per cent) was distinctly lower, falling considerably short of the targets.

This experience suggests that the growth potential of these backward areas remained suppressed for long before their constitutions into new States. Better governance may have also contributed to attracting outside investment as well as to better planning and utilization of resources.

Governance at the grass roots can be improved by strengthening the Panchayati Raj Institutions, which have been deprived of their functions, finances and functionaries. It is, indeed, ironical that the Congress, which owed allegiance to Rajiv Gandhi, who visualized the 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution, had not taken any initiative to revitalize these institutions.

On the contrary, attempts have been made to undermine these institutions by floating several top-down schemes and parallel implementation structures, even naming some schemes after Rajiv. Well, in a separate Telangana state, the empowerment of these local elected institutions would be high on the agenda because of greater pressures elected representatives can bring to bear on the new establishment. ---.INFA

 (Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)




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