Saturday, October 05, 2013

Which New State Is Being Created: Telangana Or Andhra?

By M H Ahssan / INN Live

In the December of Year 2000, India's 26th, 27th and 28th states, namely Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, were born. They came out of the shadows of their parent provinces split from -- Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, respectively. With new capitals, they were to find their separate identities. But the case of the upcoming 29th state, Telangana, is starkly different. 

Its birth would eclipse the parent state itself, reducing it to nothing but a small block (Rayalseema) and a coastal strip (Coastal Andhra) on the map of the country. In case of UP, MP and Bihar, their names and respective capitals remained the same. In case of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh would cease to exist. And Hyderabad will not be capital of Andhra, but Telangana. In the scheme of states, it's Seemandhra that will be born. Telangana would just acquire the name Telangana.
Usually, when new states are created, its residents dance in joy. Seemandhra is not. High-profile ministers resigned soon after the Union Cabinet's Thursday evening decision of giving a go-ahead to the Home Ministry's proposal of bifurcating Andhra Pradesh. Human Resource Development Minister M. Pallam Raju, Textiles Minister Kavuri Samba Siva Rao, Minister of State for Tourism Chiranjeevi and Minister of State for Railways Kotla Surya Prakash Reddy were the first to put in their papers.

There has been political turmoil in Coastal Andhra and Rayalseema regions ever since the Congress Working Committee unanimously passed a resolution on July 30 to recommend the formation of a separate Telangana state from Andhra Pradesh. The reason for the trouble is in the geography and a part in history.

Seemandhra (Coastal Andhra and Rayalseema combined which is what will be left after Telangana is formed) is a poor cousin of Telangana, which is rich in industry and, more primarily from a southern perspective, water. Of the three regions of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana has the largest area (114,800 square kilometres). The Deccan plateau has two major rivers - the Godavari and Krishna. 

Of this, Telangana alone has some 69 per cent of the Krishna river and 79 per cent of the Godavari catchment area. Besides, Telangana is also drained by minor rivers such as Manair, Bhima, Dindi, Kinnerasani, Manjeera, Munneru, Moosi, Penganga, Praanahita, Peddavagu and Taliperu. And if we did not have enough water disputes south of Vindhyas, expect more than ever once the two warring cousins (Telangana and Seemandhra) are born.

On Friday, YSR Congress leader Jagan Mohan Reddy expressed his fear that Telangana will make Hyderabad jobs off limit for outsiders after a decade. "When an engineering student graduates, where will he go to get a job?" Reddy asked. Hyderabad, the prosperous IT city, will be a shared capital for 10 years after which it will belong to Telangana, which is one of the primary concerns of those fighting against the formation of Telangana.

Geography apart, history also has some of the answers. The States Reorganisation Commission, appointed in December 1953 to recommend the reorganisation of state boundaries, was not in favour of an immediate merger of Telangana with Andhra state, despite their common language. The people of Telangana had several concerns. 

Their region had a less-developed economy than Andhra, but had a larger revenue base which people of Telangana feared might be diverted for use in Andhra. They feared that planned irrigation projects on the Krishna and Godavari rivers would not benefit Telangana proportionately, even though people of Telangana controlled the headwaters of the rivers.

With the intervention of the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Telangana and Andhra states were merged on November 1, 1956. Nehru termed the merger a "matrimonial alliance having provisions for divorce". The agreement signed was called the Gentleman's Agreement.

The State Reorganisation Report of 1955, which brought the merger into effect, said that the existing Andhra State had faced financial problems of some magnitude ever since it was created. Besides, in comparison with Telangana, the existing Andhra State had a lower per capita revenue. Telangana, on the other hand, was much less likely to face financial embarrassment, the report noted. The report also strongly notes the dissent of the people of the Telangana region and their unwillingness to form the larger Andhra Pradesh.

So, in a way, things have come a full circle. After 57 years of merger, Telangana is all set to go its own separate way. Like it was destined to at that time but didn't go because it had to help its poor cousin. After five decades of independence, the cousin is certainly not as poor as it was. It has a superfluous fishing industry, special economic zone in Vizag and a promising power generation capacity. 

The region is already generating nearly 5,626 MW from both thermal and hydel projects against the demand of 4,000 MW from all categories of consumers. But the loss of Telangana which is rich in natural resources and has filled the combined state's treasury thus far, is still too big. In a way, after nearly six decades of spoonfeeding, the new state being born is actually Seemandhra and not Telangana.

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