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Friday, November 01, 2013

'Happy Birthday Andhra Pradesh': A Sad Day Of Formation And Likely Bifurcation Makes People To 'Think Twice'!

By M H Ahssan / INN Live

'Happy Birthday Andhra Pradesh' has a sad tinge to it today. For this November 1 could well be the last Andhra Pradesh Formation Day that the state is celebrating in its present form. If the Congress has its way, by December, the state would be cut into two to create a new state of Telangana with ten districts while the remaining 13 districts would continue to call themselves Andhra Pradesh.
In 1956, Andhra Pradesh was the first state to be formed on linguistic basis. In 2013, that will fade into history.

By all accounts it has been a messy divorce, with court proceedings (read appeals in the Delhi Durbar by people from Andhra Pradesh) virulent, emotional and ugly. That is because people from the coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions think they have been given a raw deal. They believe both in the short term and long term, the new Andhra Pradesh or Seemandhra is going to be unviable. A flop state, condemned to doom, from day one.

"Telugu speaking people will lose both politically and economically in a big way. But then if that is a choice that the Telugu speaking people have made consciously, they you cannot complain about it,'' rues Jayaprakash Narayan, President of the Loksatta Party. Narayan who is an MLA from Hyderabad city, is in favour of Telangana but objects to the manner in which the state is being bifurcated.

Interestingly, that it has been a case of 'winner takes all' is a sentiment shared even by Telangana politicians in private. They gloat that they have successfully managed to convince the powers-that-be in Delhi that the "historical mistakes of the past" should be corrected by being overgenerous to Telangana.

Andhra Pradesh sends 42 MPs to the Lok Sabha, the highest in south India. Since 1996, this contingent has played a central role in governments at the Centre, be it the Telugu Desam in 1996, 1998 and 1999 or the Congress in 2004 and 2009. Now Telangana state with 17 MPs and Seemandhra state with 25 MPs, will find their political clout considerably reduced.

"Size matters," points out D A Somayajulu, former Economic Affairs Advisor to Andhra Pradesh government and now a leader with the YSR Congress. "Now we are going to lose this size. So no one will take you seriously. Does anyone take Mizoram seriously the way they take a big state like Andhra Pradesh. They wont.''

But reduced political clout is not the only reason why many feel that it is a lose-lose situation for both states. People of coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema are ruing that since Hyderabad will longer be their state capital, it will take away the magnetic power the state had to attract investors.

"Any division will have its advantages and disadvantages. For the people of Seemandhra, losing a capital city like Hyderabad, a city that has been developed over decades is a loss. They cannot replicate even if they are given 2 or 3 lakh crores. That kind of money can create infrastructure but it cannot create an economy,'' says K Nageshwar, political analyst.

Somayajulu argues that the administrators of Andhra Pradesh erred by putting all the goodies in the Hyderabad basket as a result of which there is a world of difference between the the state capital and other cities in the state.

"In 2012-13, Andhra Pradesh had a software turnover of 55000 crores out of which Rs.54800 crores was from Hyderabad. Which means 99.9% is from Hyderabad. This means the engine of economic growth is in Hyderabad while the rest of Andhra Pradesh will have only compartments with no engine. That too at a time when agriculture constitutes just 15-16 per cent of GDP. So you cannot have 84 per cent on one side and 16 per cent on the other. Not the best way to divide a state," he says.

According to the Andhra Pradesh finance ministry, Hyderabad accounts for 70 per cent of Andhra Pradesh's tax revenues. In 2012-13, of the state's revenues of 69146 crore rupees, Rs.48400 crore came from Hyderabad and its neighbouring Ranga Reddy district. The revenue from rest of Telangana was Rs.6206 crore, coastal Andhra Rs.10729 crore and Rayalaseema Rs.3809 crores.

However the Justice Srikrishna committee which studied the situation in Andhra Pradesh, believed that Hyderabad as the bone of contention is over hyped. In its 505 page report submitted in January 2011, it said this about economic viability : "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.''

The committee's report pointed out that the Telangana region (excluding Hyderabad) ranks 15th in the list of 28 states in terms of absolute GDP. Including Hyderabad, its rank moves up to 13th place. Interestingly, coastal Andhra ranks 13th too in terms of GDP. The laggard is Rayalaseema, whose per capita income is below the all-India average.

Former director of Centre for Public Policy and a votary of Telangana, Dr Gautam Pingle therefore believes that this fear of Seemandhra being a Bimaru state is just not true. "If they are bimaru, we are also bimaru. We are in fact worse off. They have capital, entrepreneurship. For last 150 years, they had 2 million acres under both the deltas, thanks to the Brits,'' says Dr Pingle.

However, that has not prevented the battle for a united Andhra Pradesh from becoming a battle to retain control over Hyderabad, some way or the other. Votaries of status quo argue that it is because they are also interested in Hyderabad's prosperity. Being made the capital of a Telangana state, they argue, is killing Brand Hyderabad.

"If it were not to be the capital of a large state like AP, and be just be an erstwhile princely state like Mysore, Junagadh or Gwalior, it would have deteriorated and degenerated. But because it became the capital of a large prosperous state with two deltas, long coastline, minerals, Hyderabad prospered. Now if it were to become the capital of a state with just 17 Lok Sabha seats and not much economic activity in the hinterland of Hyderabad, then Hyderabad will be lost even before the next 10 years. It will be an insignificant metropolis,'' argues Parakala Prabhakar, a votary of united Andhra Pradesh.

However, Telangana activists say that it is time Seemandhra moved on, instead of crying hoarse that all is lost by losing Hyderabad.

"If we took the same view, we would go to Bangalore ten years ago. Because ten years ago, Hyderabad was not an IT hub, Bangalore was. So you have to start somewhere. If you want to present yourself as a location that is favourable and profitable, there is no point saying, we lost Hyderabad," says Pingle.

But Hyderabad is only one part of the issue in this tale of two states. The region whose concerns are being ignored the most in this entire division debate is Rayalaseema, which for all practical purposes, is even more backward than Telangana. Not everyone is confident that the two regions of coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema will continue as one state for too long. They point out that culturally and in terms of prosperity and work ethic, people from the two regions are very different. The apprehension is that Rayalaseema will be seen by people of coastal Andhra as a burden, almost like poor cousins. Especially since the region does not have the kind of resource base that coastal Andhra has.

"Rayalaseema's concerns and future are far more important than Hyderabad. Far too many people are focusing on Hyderabad. But we are ignoring central issue of 16 million people. They are most backward districts of India. There is a genuine sense of being orphaned. If we do not address that, we are not really finding a solution,'' says Jayaprakash Narayan.

Which is why there is almost a consensus that Rayalaseema that consists of four districts may want to break away from coastal Andhra, sooner than later. That a trifurcation of present-day Andhra Pradesh will most certainly take place.

G Omkarnath, Professor of Economics at Hyderabad Central University sees an unviability in terms of Seemandhra surviving as one unit. "There would soon be forces who would play up in Rayalaseema. The same forces who came in Telangana will say look, we in Rayalaseema have our own identity and become a third state instead of two states, sooner or later. It calls for tremendous institutional engineering, political statesmanship, vision on part of polity as a whole,'' says Prof Omkarnath.

When advertising professionals Shashi Vadana Reddy and S K Swaroop got married 13 years ago, the fact that Shashi hails from Telangana and Swaroop from Vizag in coastal Andhra, hardly mattered. But now in a situation where Andhra Pradesh is about to be cut into two, Shashi has to walk that extra mile to ensure peace in her household. She says divisions run so deep that people from her side of the family do not even want to give one of their daughters in matrimony to a boy from coastal Andhra.

"Sometimes it becomes a bit heated. For instance, when my aunt comes over. She is totally into Telangana and has very extreme views on it. When she comes over, I make sure Swaroop is not around,'' says Shashi Vadana Reddy.

But it is not so hush-hush when it comes to Telugu films. The manner in which the Telugu film industry, dominated by people from coastal Andhra, portray people from Telangana as comedians, has always been a grouse with those from the region. If a new wave of Telangana filmmakers emerge, that could change though the argument is that films should be made for all nine crore Telugus and not for four crore in Telangana, five crore in Seemandhra and two crore living outside the state.

Eminent film producer D Suresh Babu predicts that there will be one set of filmmakers on both sides who will try to make extreme regional films. "If they have a broader appeal, they will do well across. But if they have only local appeal, they will do well only locally and will slowly die out. Because business needs better films. So they will also come back - the bigger Telangana director and the bigger Vizag director,'' says Suresh Babu.

The situation is worse when it comes to those practising purist cultural traditions. Varsha Bhargavi, a member of the International Dance Council of UNESCO, fears that dance forms that have their roots in coastal Andhra will find the doors of Hyderabad city as an art patron shut on them for ever.

"I feel the bifurcation will really affect the dance forms in Andhra Pradesh especially those performers based out of Vijayawada and Rajahmundry. Already many of them are not allowed to performed in Hyderabad city, which is really the place for the performing arts. We have seen a lot of negative views on Andhra Natyam dance form when we were performing at the Kakatiya dance festival in Warangal last year. We had to announce it as a temple dance tradition instead of Andhra Natyam,'' says Varsha Bhargavi.

If the borders of Andhra Pradesh are redrawn, future generations will witness water wars. That is the prediction, Seemandhra politicians like Kiran Kumar Reddy and Jaganmohan Reddy are making. Their argument is that river water sharing will at best be on paper, but never implemented in letter and spirit by the upper riparian state, which in this case will be Telangana.

Given the confrontationist nature of river water sharing disputes between Karnataka and Tamilnadu and even Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, people from Seemandhra region predict that this division will sound the deathknell for agriculture in coastal Andhra. They point to Andhra Pradesh's experience with Tungabhadra which is jointly managed by Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

"We hardly get 50 per cent of the water allotted to us in any year. In the years of flooding, anyway water will come. But in normal years, we do not even get water that is allotted to us. So now you will have another state created and this state with all its resources can utilise all this water. Who are you going to tell? What are we doing to Karnataka?'' says Somayajulu.

Interestingly, experts predict that Telangana region, that is largely dependent on borewells and tanks, and has seen many farmers burdened by debt killing themselves after their crop failed, could now see its agriculture take a turn for the better.

"Telangana agriculture might show more dynamism. Because they don't have a history of irrigation. Traditionally they have had tank irrigation but now tanks have been closing down due to real estate take over. But as they get more and more into river-based irrigation system, it will improve. Already Karimnagar, according to the Srikrishna committee report, is the rice bowl of Telangana. And the rice millers assocation of Karimnagar is very powerful politically,'' says Omkarnath.

Union ministers like Purandareswari and Pallam Raju from Seemandhra, reconciled to the inevitability of bifurcation, are now bargaining for a hefty package to develop the new state. But it will not be easy to attract private capital, unless juicy carrots are dangled. J A Chowdhary, Chief Mentor of The Indus Entrepreneurs points out that if any industrialist has to set up operations in Seemandhra, he will look for incentives such as tax breaks, both sales tax and income tax.

Analysts also warn Seemandhra against making the mistake Andhra Pradesh did and advise the state's future rulers to develop several industrial hubs across the two regions.

But it is not as if everything is hunky dory for Telangana state. Over focussing on Hyderabad could be a strategic error as would be to use the city only as a money-minting machine for the state exchequer. Experts point out that huge differences within Telangana - between a tribal Adilabad and a Mahbubnagar prone to large scale migrations - will have to be reconciled in a more socialist development ecosystem.

Many like chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy have argued that the lights will be off the moment Telangana becomes a separate state. That is because it will be a power deficit state. Telangana region now produces 57 million units in a day, but consumes about 115 million units. If the lift irrigation schemes in Telangana were to be implemented, it would need another 175 million units everyday. Which means the state will face a daily shortfall of over 200 million units. The result will either be loadshedding or a drain on the state exchequer to buy power from other states.

Telangana leaders admit the power situation will remain a concern in a future new state but say they will manage it. "Hyderabad is the hinterland of Telangana and is the economic engine that drives Andhra Pradesh today and will drive Telangana tomorrow. So Telangana being a surplus state can buy power from Andhra or Chhattisgarh and if we get grid connectivity, even from the north east. If power is the only issue, there are avenues to make up for the deficit. But yes, we admit that Telangana as on today will be short on power," says K T Rama Rao, TRS leader.

For the last four years, Andhra Pradesh has been a house divided, a case of Us versus Them, with the differences on regional lines completely exposed. But the real test starts now. For people in both states. They need to ensure that while united they stood, divided too they will not fall.
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