Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 8, February 13, 2010
Statehood for Telangana: The Current Stalemate
Thursday 18 February 2010, by
The following article has been sent by the author for publication in this journal for the benefit of its readers. He is a follow-up to his earlier article, “Regional Disparities, Smaller States and Statehood for Telangana”, published in Mainstream (March 7, 2009).
The newly created smaller States, namely, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, have achieved much higher growth rates in their GSDP than the targets set for the Tenth Five Year Plan, whereas the growth rates achieved by their parent states, namely, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh fell significantly short of the targets. (Planning Commission, 2008; Rao, 2009) Further, the growth rates achieved in the first two years of the Eleventh Plan, that is, 2007-08 and 2008-09, by Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand were significantly higher than those achieved by their parent States. Apart from releasing the creative energies of the people, viability of smaller States may have contributed to better governance, attracting greater private investment from outside as well as planning and utilising resources more efficiently. (World Bank, 2007)
An extremely encouraging development is in respect of Bihar, where the average growth rate achieved at 9.7 per cent per annum during these two years was significantly higher than for Jharkhand at 5.8 per cent per annum. (Aiyar, 2010; Rao, 2010) This may be explained by improved governance, of late, in this State, facilitated not the least by the fact that with the creation of Jharkhand, Bihar has become less heterogeneous and much smaller in area, with the size of its population getting reduced by about 25 per cent.
Experience has demonstrated the failure of regional planning to ensure adequate development of backward regions within the larger States. This is explained by the politics of planning in democracy inherent in such States characterised by regional unevenness in development. The experience of Maharashtra and Gujarat amply illustrates the failure to develop backward regions, despite the existence of constitutional provisions for setting up Regional Planning Boards and the powers entrusted to the Governor to review the progress of development under such regional plans. This experience underlines the need for conceding separate Statehood for certain backward regions like Telangana and Vidarbha.
The observations of B.R. Ambedkar, the principal architect of our Constitution, on the desirability of smaller States are prophetic. He welcomed the recommendation of the States Reorganisation Commission in 1955 for the creation of Hyderabad State consisting of Telangana region and creation of Vidarbha as a separate State. Further, he envisaged the division of Uttar Pradesh into three States (Western, Central and Eastern); Bihar into two (North and South or present Jharkhand); Madhya Pradesh into two (Northern and Southern); and Maharashtra into three (Western,Central and Eastern). He was for linguistic homogeneity of a State in the sense of ‘one State-one language’ and not ‘one language-one State’. He thus envisaged two Telugu speaking States, three Marathi speaking States and a large number of Hindi speaking States. (Ambedkar, 1979)
While arguing for smaller States, Ambedkar was guided basically by two considerations. One, no single State should be large enough to exercise undue influence in the federation. Drawing from the American experience, he thought that smaller States were in the best interests of healthy federalism. On this issue, his views were similar to those of K.M. Panikkar, set out in his note of dissent to the Report of the States Reorganisation Commission. Second, he thought that socially disadvantaged sections are likely to be subjected to greater discrimination in bigger States because of the consolidation of socially privileged or dominant groups. (Ambedkar, 1979)
Over the last half-a-century, two new dimensions have been added. Population growth and the multiplicity of developmental functions have rendered governance in large-size States inefficient. Secondly, in the context of development planning under democracy, significant regional diversities with respect to the historically inherited levels of infrastructure and institutions within certain large States have given rise to severe tensions concerning the distribution of benefits from development. These tensions have reached a point where harmonious development seems no longer possible without their break-up into smaller States which are relatively homogeneous. (Rao, 2010)
The agitations for separate Statehood for Telangana in the Telangana region as well as for Samaikhya (United) Andhra Pradesh in the Andhra region are in full swing now. The agitation in Telangana is unprecedented in its sweep, being universal or, at any rate, far more widespread than in 1969, involving, among others, students, farmers, women and even children. The movement is virtually taken over and led by the students, all of whom were obviously born at least a decade after the agitation of 1969. It appears as if history is repeating itself or time is standing still for over four decades so far as this issue is concerned!
Curiously, in the case of the Andhra region, history appears to have been overturned. The ‘Jai Andhra’ or separate Andhra agitation of 1972-73 was triggered-off by the land reform legislation and the validation of Mulki Rules (preference for natives of Telangana in employment) by the Supreme Court, because of which the big landed sections as well as educated youth could lose in the integrated State. Over the last four decades, however, certain leading business sections, including those involved in real estate business from the Andhra region, developed a big stake in Telangana, particularly in and around Hyderabad city. Thanks to the lop-sided urbanisation and concentration of financial sector services and IT industry in Hyderabad in the post-reform period, the educated youth—most of whom were born after the ‘Jai Andhra’ agitation like their Telangana counterparts—could understandably have developed an emotional identification with the capital city and so a stake in Samaikhya (United) Andhra Pradesh.
Guided by the consensus among the major political parties in favour of the formation of separate Telangana State, as espoused in their election manifestos and reiterated by them as recently as on December 7, 2009, the Central Government on December 9 announced its decision to initiate the process for the formation of the Telangana State. Within hours, this decision triggered off a counter-agitation in the Andhra region for a united Andhra Pradesh, leaders of the major political parties taking sides by getting divided horizontally on regional lines. It is not clear whether these leaders did not mean what they promised earlier on Telangana in the expectation that no worthwhile initiative would come from the Centre or could not anticipate the adverse public reaction in the Andhra region in the event of any favourable move on the issue. In any case, this has placed the Centre in a difficult situation leading to the stalemate in the resolution of the crisis.
As it is, the Constitution fully empowers the Centre to carve out new States, the role of the State legislatures being limited to merely expressing their views on the proposed Bill by the Centre. While politics cannot be wished away in a democracy and the Centre cannot normally be expected to proceed against the wishes of the majority of legislators of a State, ultimately, politics in a democracy have to come to terms with the provisions of the Constitution and respect the universal demand of the people of a region for separate Statehood. Also, in the long-run, the youth of any region in the modern age, imbued as it would be with the democratic spirit, would come to respect the people’s wishes from the other region for separate Statehood. Besides, a pride in the capacity to develop oppor-tunities in one’s own State is bound to come into play. Addressing the legitimate concerns of the stakeholders is essential to facilitate this process.
There is no alternative to the Centre as well as the leaders of both the regions taking initiatives for a constructive dialogue for resolving the outstanding issues by addressing the legitimate concerns of the stakeholders, to pave the way for separate Statehood for Telangana and thus end the perpetual uncer-tainty undermining the harmonious develop-ment of both the regions. While agitations are necessary for the assertion of legitimate rights, in a democracy, constructive dialogue is indis-pensable for bringing such aspirations to fruition.
Aiyar, Swaminathan S. Anklesaria (2010), “Fast Growth Trickles Up from the States”, Economic Times, January 6.
Ambedkar, Dr Babasaheb (1979), Writings and Speeches, Vol. I (Part II—On Linguistic States), Education Department, Government of Maharashtra.
Planning Commission (2008), Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-2012), Vol. I, Government of India, New Delhi.
Rao, C.H.H. (2009), “Regional Disparities, Smaller States and Statehood for Telangana”, Mainstream, Vol. XLVII, No. 12, March 7.
Rao, C.H.H. (2010), “Statehood for Telangana”, Economic Times, January 9.
Rao, C.H.H. (2010), Regional Disparities, Smaller States and Statehood for Telangana, Academic Foundation, New Delhi.
World Bank (2007), Jharkhand: Addressing the Challenges of Inclusive Development, Rural Poverty and Economic Management, India Country Management Unit, South Asia.
The author, a distinguished economist, is currently an Honorary Professor, Centre for Economic and Social Studies, Hyderabad. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org