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Mainstream, Vol XLIX, No 15, April 2, 2011

Justice Srikrishna Committee Report and Statehood for Telangana

Friday 8 April 2011, by C.H. Hanumantha Rao

No one from Telangana asked for the appointment of the Srikrishna Committee. The Centre perhaps wanted to buy time after there was severe opposition from the influential and vocal sections of Seemandhra to the announcement of its decision on December 9, 2009 to initiate the process of the formation of Telangana State.

But once the Committee was constituted, there was widespread curiosity within the country and abroad to know the findings of an expert and impartial committee headed by a former judge of the Supreme Court on the following questions:

(1) Whether the movement for separate Telangana is genuine and widespread?

(2) What are the reasons for the discontent in Telangana?

(3) If the formation of Telangana provides a solution, then is this State going to be economically viable and socially cohesive and inclusive? and

(4) Will the formation of Telangana with Hyderabad as its capital adversely affect the viability of Seemandhra?

On all these four questions, the Srikrishna Committee’s findings are strongly in favour of Telangana.

The Committee’s finding on question (1):

The Telangana movement can be interpreted as a desire for greater democracy and empowerment within a political unit… Our analysis shows that cutting across caste, religion, gender and other divisions, the Telangana movement brings a focus on the development of the region as a whole, a focus on rights and access to regional resources …. within a larger vision of equitable development. (p. 413)

Committee’s finding on question (2):

The Upper castes in Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra are vehemently against the idea of dividing the state; their greatest fear being the loss of Hyderabad. The accommodation between these two regions has been in terms of political domination by Rayalaseema and economic domination by coastal Andhra. Together the two regions have ruled the state through Congress and TDP political formations. Telangana feels dominated by the upper castes of these regions and its struggle is primarily to shake off their yoke. (p. 390)

The Committee’s finding on question (3):

Telangana (excluding Hyderabad) ranks 13th in Gross State Domestic Product as well as in per capita income……..(among the 28 States in the country).Thus, from the point of view of sheer size of economy, Telangana as a new state can sustain itself both with and without Hyderabad” (Ch. 2, p. 121)

The Committee’s finding on question (4):

The industry in Hyderabad city is connected more to the national economy through investment and global economy through the market than it is to the regional economy. (pp. 316, 330, 332)

As regards labour, the traditional out-migrating states of Eastern India, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, which accounted for 23 per cent of the migrants earlier are now contributing 40 per cent. (pp. 323-4)

Hyderabad and each urban centre in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema have their own economic base. Other cities across AP do not seem to be solely dependent on Hyderabad city for market linkages and other services (pp. 336-7)

It is clear from the Committee’s findings that the adverse impact, if any, on the economy of Seemandhra on account of separation of Telangana with Hyderabad as its capital is not going to be significant.

GIVEN these findings, it appears the Srikrishna Committee has very narrowly missed recom-mending Statehood for Telangana with Hyderand as its capital, as the ‘first best’ option. Scales of justice got tilted against Telangana on account of vehement opposition from Seemandhra and the Committee’s own fears about the demands for smaller States cropping up as well as Telangana becoming a stronghold for Naxalism and religious fundamentalism discussed in Chapter 8 of the Report but withheld from public at large and submitted to the Ministry of Home Affairs in a separate cover along with the Report.

In the meantime, in response to a petition, the Andhra Pradesh High Court gave a judgment on March 23, 2011, against withholding this particular chapter by observing that

withholding of note from public is arbitrary, unreasonable and unconstitutional, and that a meaningful discussion, with reference to the Report submitted by the Committee, cannot take place, unless it is made public.

The Court observed further that

the objective in preparing a separate note and delivering it to the respondent was more an effort to persuade the Union of India to desist from showing any inclination towards Option No.5, i.e. formation of Telangana State.

The Court also opined that the Committee travelled beyond the terms of reference in its endeavour to persuade the Union of India not to concede to the demand for Telangana by offering its advice in great detail on “Political Management” and “Media Management” towards this end, in a three-page Supplementary Note appended to Chapter 8.

According to the Srikrishna Committee, the option of creating Telangana State (option 5) is to be exercised only if the decision can be reached amicably amongst all the three regions by instilling confidence in the people of coastal Andhra, Rayalaseema and others who have settled in Hyderabad and other districts of Telangana. (Ch. 9, pp. 450-8)

Compare this with what the SRC or the Fazal Ali Commission said in 1956. They were democratic to the core. They said Telangana should be merged with Andhra after five years only if two-thirds of the legislators from Telangana opted for it. They did not talk about the opinion of Andhra legislators.

The present approach of insisting on consensus among all the regions of AP betrays a lack of democratic spirit insofar as it ignores the universal sentiment in a particular region. It also shows lack of faith in the people of the region by invoking the fear of Maoism and religious fundamentalism. This approach ignores the history and traditions of Telangana, which is proverbial for its cosmopolitanism and religious harmony. It is here that people like Makhdoom Mohiuddeen and Shoiebulla Khan lived and died for religious harmony. It is here that an armed struggle was launched during the 1940s against feudalism for securing land to the tiller when thousands of lives were lost, but was withdrawn before the first general elections when the opportunities for democratic and peaceful movement were opened up.

[An updated version o the presentation made by the author on the occasion of the release of the book Justice Srikrishna’s Injustice, brought out by the Telangana Development Forum, in Hyderabad on March 20, 2011]

The author is an Honorary Professor, Centre for Economic and Social Studies, Hyderabad.

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