State building in India – I

The re-organisation of states in India may not simply be a question of giving voice to the aspirations of neglected groups within a specific region of the country.  It is also a question of whether such a group will be able to form capable institutions of administration to reap the benefits of statehood.  This is one of the major points of Prof. Mehta’s recent article in the Indian Express.  So on the one hand, while there is a definite case for giving greater regional autonomy to regions which feel they can manage themselves better as independent states, there is also the question of the country as a while assessing whether such a smaller state has the capability to do so.

This is where the central government’s decision to unilaterally concede to the demand for a separate state appears high-handed and arbitrary, and even weak (since they gave in to the demands of a political party which managed just two seats in the last general elections).  It will probably never be known whether the Congress high-command just gave in to blackmail, or whether the decision has been based on a deeper understanding of the issue at hand.

What we do know is that even in 2001, the Congress Working Committee was in favour of a separate state of Telengana, and had asked for the creation of a new States Reorganisation Commission to consider the whole issue.  If the ruling party did have an inclination to look at the Telengana issue favourably, why has it failed to constitute a new States Reorganisation Commission so far?  Why could the government not announce the setting up of a States Reorganisation Commission to look into demands for smaller states in a rational and well-thought out manner, instead of conceding to the demand for a smaller state?  Why did it risk throwing its state-party unit into virtual turmoil soon after it had recovered from the unrest created due to YSR’s death?

There is also the justness of the demand to consider:  The first States Reorganisation Commission (1955) had this to say about Telengana:

377. When plans for future development are taken into account, Telangana fears that the claims of this area may not receive adequate consideration in Vishalandhra [Andhra Pradesh]. The Nandikonda and Kushtapuram (Godavari) projects are, for example among the most important which Telangana or the country as a whole has undertaken. Irrigation in the coastal as of these two great rivers is however, also being planned, Telangana. Therefore, does not wish to lose its present independent rights in relation to the utilization of the waters of Krishna and Godavari.

378. One of the principal causes of opposition of Vishalandhra also seems to be the apprehension felt by the educationally backward people of Telangana that they may be swamped and exploited by the more advanced people of the coacation is woefully backward. The result is that a lower qualification than in Andstal areas. In the Telangana districts outside the city of Hyderabad, eduhra is accepted for public services The real fear of the people of Telangana is that if they enjoy Andhra they will be unequally placed in relation to the people of Andhra and in this partnership the major partner will derive all the advantages immediately, while Telangana, itself may be converted into a colony by the enterprising coastal Andhra.

379. ‘ The Telangana’ it has .further been argued, can be stable and viable, unit considered by itself. The revenue receipts of this area on current account have been estimated at about Rs. 17 crores, and although the financing of the Krishna and Godavari projects will impose a recurring burden on the new State by way of interest charges, the probable deficit, if any is unlikely to be large. In favorable conditions, the revenue budget may even be balanced or indicate a marginal surplus. This fairly optimistic forecast can be explained or justified by a variety of reasons.”

The Committee therefore had focussed on the source and quantum of revenue collection, the capacity of the region to generate revenue, and the apprehensions of the local population.  To put in a nutshell, poorer Andhra would feed off richer but smaller Telengana, and the lack of political space within the state would retard the region’s growth.  For reasons justified or unjustified, these concerns were overlooked, and Telengana has remained a part of greater Andhra for more than five decades.  A new States Reorganisation Commission needs to be setup now, if only to examine whether present agitations  highlight the justification of these concerns, or whether the agitators are merely continuing to voice the same apprehensions which have not borne fruition in Andhra’s history as a state.

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