THE 29TH STATE: A BRIEF ACCOUNT OF THE TELANGANA STATEHOOD ISSUE Telangana, India’s 29th state is to be carved out from the state of Andhra Pradesh in India. The city of Hyderabad would serve as the common capital of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh for ten years. On 30 July 2013 the ruling Congress party bowed down to the decades-old political pressure and announced its intention to shape Telangana out of Andhra Pradesh. The timeline for the creation of the new state involves an intricate process, which has been allotted 122 days; approximately four months. The split must to be approved by the Indian Parliament before the state is officially formed.
With a population of over 3.5 crore, the new state comprising mostly the Telugu speaking areas of the princely Nizam state will have 17 Lok Sabha seats and 119 assembly seats. After creation, Telangana will consist of 10 districts: Hyderabad, Adilabad, Khammam, Karimnagar, Mahbubnagar, Medak, Nalgonda, Nizamabad, Rangareddy, and Warangal; primarily Hyderabad and its surrounding districts. Since the Hyderabad state was amalgamated with Andhra to form Andhra Pradesh in 1956, there have been several agitations in Telangana aimed at quashing the merger and nullifying the decision of unification. On 9 December 2009, the Government of India announced the process of forming the separate state of Telangana. However, this process was halted just two weeks later, after aggressive protests shook Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions in reaction to this pronouncement. The demand for separate statehood:
Telangana is the largest of the three regions of Andhra Pradesh state, covering 41.47% of its total area. It is populated by 40.54% of the state’s population and contributes about 76% of the state’s revenues, excluding the contribution of the central government. When the central government’s contribution to revenue is included, Andhra Pradesh’s revenue sources come from Telangana- 61.47% (including 37.17% from Hyderabad), from the central government- 19.86%; from Andhra-14.71%; and from Rayalaseema-3.90%. Proponents of a separate Telangana state refer to perceived injustices in the distribution of water, budget allocations, and jobs. Within the state of Andhra Pradesh, 68.5% of the catchment area of the Krishna River and 69% of the catchment area of the Godavari River are in the plateau region of Telangana and flowing through the other parts of the state into bay of Bengal.
Telangana and non coastal parts of Karnataka and Maharastra states form Deccan Plateau. Telangana supporters state that the benefits of irrigation through the canal system under major irrigation projects is accruing substantially, 74.25%, to the Coastal Andhra region, while the share to Telangana is 18.20%. The remaining 7.55% goes to the Rayalseema region. The share of education funding for Telangana ranges from 9.86% in government-aided primary schools to 37.85% in government degree colleges. The above numbers include the expenditure in Hyderabad. Budget allocations to Telangana are generally less than 1/3 of the total Andhra Pradesh budget. There are allegations that in most years, funds allocated to Telangana were never spent. According to Professor Jayashankar, the celebrated academic and Telangana activist and ideologue, only 20% of the total Government employees, less than 10% of employees in the secretariat, and less than 5% of department heads in the Andhra Pradesh government are from Telangana; those from other regions make up the bulk of employment.
He also alleged that Telangana chief ministers represented the state for only 6 1/2 years out of over five decades of its existence, with no chief minister from the region being in power continuously for more than 2 1/2 years. As per Srikrishna Committee on Telangana, leaders from the Telangana areas held the position of CM for 10.5 years while those from Seema-Andhra region held it for 42 years. Proponents of a separate Telangana state feel that the agreements, plans, and assurances from the legislature and Lok Sabha over the last fifty years have not been honoured, and consequently Telangana has remained neglected, exploited, and backward. They allege that the experiment to remain as one state has proven to be a futile exercise and that separation is the best solution. Political indecision by the Congress Party:
However, in the wake of recent events, the Congress Party has done in the last few days what it shied away from doing in the last 9 years- to work overtime on a decision over Telangana. It is an undisputable fact that the Congress Party’s stand on the issue has neither been consistent nor transparent. Where the Congress party that won the elections in 2004 on the promise of a separate Telangana and thereupon reneged on its assurances, again at a time when there are only a few months left before the people of this country vote again, the party is in a rush to announce its decision pro-separation of the state. After winning handsomely in Andhra Pradesh under the leadership of YS Rajashekhara Reddy in 2004 and 2009, the Congress has turned its back on this state since the former Chief Minister died. In December 2009, the then Home Minister P Chidambaram announced the commencement of the process for statehood to Telangana only to be withdrawn hastily.
The Congress then sought to buy time by creating another committee on the question of Telangana. But, it remained indifferent to the collapse in administration, political violence and the unfortunate spectre of suicides by college students belonging to Telangana. Unlike other capital cities that became shared capitals by virtue of being on the border between two states, Hyderabad becomes a shared capital despite being located well within the geographical boundaries of Telangana. This leaves a great scope for operational difficulties. Thus, how practical is it for a state to have a capital that does not lie either within its boundaries or along its borders? The Congress party in its haste to safeguard its votebank with the announcement of separate statehood has ignored the brass-tacks. They have not planned constructive measures to prepare the minds of the people of the separate Andhra and Rayalseema areas. They have prepared no political roadmap for creating consensus or acknowledging dissent among the people, all they have is a “technical process”.
It is indeed appalling that the Congress Party sought to hide itself behind committees, reports and futile deliberations instead of facing the people of Andhra Pradesh. Neither the Congress President nor the party Vice President have set foot into Andhra Pradesh in recent years, despite the fact that Andhra Pradesh sent the highest MPs for the Congress both in 2004 and 2009. It now remains to be seen what repercussions the creation of the new state brings and how the politicos at New Delhi plan to deal with them.
The following is a brief history of Andhra Pradesh and the chronology of the Separate Telangana movement: *The region, now being called Telangana, was part of the erstwhile Hyderabad state which was merged into the Indian Union on 17 September, 1948. *The Central government appointed M K Vellodi, as the first Chief Minister of Hyderabad state on 26 January 1950. In 1952, Burgula Ramakrishna Rao was elected Chief Minister of Hyderabad state in its first democratic election. *Andhra was the first state to be carved out (from erstwhile Madras state) on linguistic basis on 1 November, 1953. It had Kurnool (in Rayalaseema region) as its capital after the death of Potti Sriramulu who sat on a 53-day fast-unto-death demanding the new state.
* The proposal for amalgamation of Hyderabad state with Andhra state came up in 1953 and the then Chief Minister of Hyderabad state, Burgula Ramakrishna Rao, supported the Congress central leadership’s decision in this regard though there was public opposition in the Telangana region. * Accepting the merger proposal, Andhra assembly passed a resolution on November 25, 1955 promising to safeguard the interests of Telangana. * An agreement was reached between Telangana leaders and Andhra leaders on February 20, 1956 to merge Telangana and Andhra with promises to safeguard Telangana’s interests. A “Gentlemen’s Agreement” was then signed by Bezawada Gopala Reddy and Burgula Ramakrishna Rao to the effect. * Eventually, under the States Re-organisation Act, Telugu-speaking areas of Hyderabad state were merged with Andhra state, giving birth to the state of Andhra Pradesh on 1 November, 1956. The city of Hyderabad, the then capital of the Hyderabad state, was made the capital of Andhra Pradesh state. * In 1969, an agitation began in Telangana region as people protested the government’s failure to implement the Gentlemen’s Agreement and other safeguards they had been promised.
* Marri Channa Reddy launched the Telangana Praja Samiti espousing the cause of a separate state. The agitation intensified and turned violent with students in the forefront of the struggle and about 300 of them were killed in violence and police firing that ensued. * Following several rounds of talks with leaders of the two regions, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi came up with an eight-point plan on April 12, 1969. Telangana leaders rejected the plan and protests continued under the aegis of Telangana Praja Samiti. * In 1972, Jai Andhra movement started in Andhra-Rayalaseema regions as a counter to Telangana struggle. * On September 21, 1973, a political settlement was reached with the Centre and a 6-point formula put in place to placate people of the two regions. * In 1985, employees from Telangana region cried foul over appointments in government departments and complained about ‘injustice’ done to people of the region. The then Telugu Desam Party government, headed by N T Rama Rao, brought out a Government Order to safeguard the interests of Telangana people in government employment. * Till 1999, there was no demand from any quarters for division of the state on regional lines. However, in 1999, Congress demanded creation of Telangana state.
Congress was then smarting under crushing defeats in successive elections to the state Assembly and Parliament with the ruling Telugu Desam Party in an unassailable position. * Yet another chapter opened in the struggle for Telangana when Kalvakuntla Chandrasekhar Rao, who was seething over denial of Cabinet berth in the Chandrababu Naidu government, walked out of TDP and launched Telangana Rashtra Samiti on 27 April, 2001. * Bowing to pressure from the Telangana Congress leaders, the Central Working Committee of Congress in 2001 sent a resolution to the then NDA government seeking constitution of a second States Re-organisation Commission to look into Telangana state demand, which was rejected by the then Union Home Minister L K Advani saying smaller states were “neither viable nor conducive” to integrity of the country. *TRS started gradually building the movement for a separate state. The Congress forged an electoral alliance with TRS by promising to create Telangana state. *Congress came to power in 2004, both in the state and at the Centre, and TRS became part of the coalition governments at both places. *Protesting delay in carving out the separate state, TRS quit the coalition governments in the state and at the Centre in December 2006 and continued an independent fight. * In October 2008, TDP changed its stance and declared support for bifurcation of the state.
* TRS launched an indefinite hunger-strike on 29 November, 2009 demanding creation of Telangana. The Centre budged and came out with an announcement on 9 December, 2009 that it was “initiating the process for formation of Telangana state”. However, on 23 December, 2009 the Centre announced that it was putting the Telangana issue on hold. This fanned protests across Telangana with some students ending their lives for the cause of separate statehood. *The Centre then constituted a five-member Committee on 3 February, 2010, headed by Justice Srikrishna, to look into statehood demand. The Committee submitted its report to the Centre on 30 December, 2010. * Telagana region witnessed a series of agitations like the Million March, Chalo Assembly and Sakalajanula Samme (general strike) in 2011-12 while MLAs belonging to different parties quit from the House. * With its MPs from Telangana upping the ante, Congress made Union Home Ministry to convene an all-party meeting on December 28, 2012 to find an “amicable solution” to the crisis.