The Telangana Imbroglio – Part I

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Life has come one and a half circles for the Telugu people. We read in history books about the sacrifice of Potti Sriramulu for the sake of a separate Telugu state. Andhra State was then formed in 1953 by separating the Telugu speaking areas (including the regions of Rayalaseema – the southern part bordering Tamil Nadu and Karnataka - and coastal Andhra) from the then Madras state.

At that time, the additional demand was also to make Madras as the capital of the new Telugu state! Of course it was turned down. But doesn’t it sound familiar with Hyderabad the bone of contention now?

Later, during the reorganization of states on linguistic basis in 1956, Telugu speaking parts of the Nizam’s Hyderabad state (which included roughly the proposed state of Telangana plus certain areas in present day Maharashtra and Karnataka) were merged with Andhra State and modern Andhra Pradesh was born. So, one separation, one unification, and now on the way to another separation.

However, problems arose soon after the formation of the new state. There were violent agitations in the '60s and '70s for separation of Telangana from Andhra Pradesh. Even after several committees and negotiations, status quo prevailed, and the resentment simmered. Telangana felt neglected and exploited. The region remained backward as most Chief Ministers over the years happened to be from Seemandhra (the combined region of Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra) who obviously gave more importance to their region.

One notable exception was P V Narasimha Rao who belonged to Telangana and had a tenure of merely 2 years. It is alleged that investments and development were concentrated in Seemandhra. However, Hyderabad was an exception. Having been the capital of the Nizam’s state for centuries, and now being a state capital and an important city, Hyderabad saw phenomenal growth over the decades. Apart from government investment, the private investment, it is said came mostly from rich Seemandhra residents, many of whom preferred to settle in the state capital in view of better infrastructure, living standards and job prospects.

The interior parts of Telangana saw little development. Historically, Telangana being part a large princely state in British India enjoyed some form of local governance under the Nizam, with little influence of the British Raj. The flip side of this was that the populace generally remained uneducated, and the economy remained mostly agrarian. The Seemandhra part, being part of Madras State, was better placed in matters of education and other developmental indices. With the formation of Andhra Pradesh, most of the government jobs were hogged by the better educated Seemandhraites. The Telenganites felt cheated.

Further, with Seemandhra sending more MPs and legislators than Telangana, various schemes of development and infrastructure got skewed towards this region. Today, a number of older, well established universities (except perhaps Osmania, which is the oldest in the state) lie in Seemandhra while a host of newer institutions including the mushrooming engineering colleges (many built with private funds from Seemandhra) lie in and around Hyderabad. Most of the professional colleges and job prospects are in and around Hyderabad and Secunderabad. Moreover, reportedly, almost 55 per cent of AP government's revenues are generated in Hyderabad, and 65 per cent of the Union government's revenues from AP are collected from Hyderabad metropolitan area.

The status of Hyderabad has emerged as the central point in the dispute. Obviously, Hyderabad is built from the sweat and blood of all Telugu people (both Talanganaites and Seemandhraites). The emotional and material ties are too strong for anyone to let go of this great city.

With rivers originating in Telangana and flowing through Seemandhra, a number of multi purpose as well as thermal power projects have come up in both the regions. However, Seemandhra accounts for a larger part of power generation, and coastal Andhra, where the large deltas of Krishna and Godavari lie, is considered the rice bowl of the state. So, if you take a materialistic view, Telangana gives water to Seemandhra, and Seemandhra in turn gives power and rice to Telangana. What a beautiful state of coexistence!

Seemandhrai'tes have expressed their apprehension about losing the educational and job opportunities for their children once Telangana is formed. Concerns have been expressed about sharing of revenue, river waters as well as power. I wonder whether Hyderabad will close the doors of its colleges for Telangana students or de-bar candidates from Telangana to take up jobs there.

In fact, the numerous engineering colleges in the vicinity of Hyderabad are already facing a shortage of students. Neither can Telangana alone fulfil all the requirements of the vast IT sector in Hyderabad. Young boys and girls from all over the country flock to Hyderabad for jobs in the IT sector. And who cares for state govt. jobs nowadays? Yes, the utterances of KCS Rao have not been helpful, but nobody can uproot people settled in a place for generations and force them to migrate to the birth place of their forefathers.

The constitution guarantees this protection. After all, how do so many students from across the country got to study in Delhi, Mumbai and Pune? Many Biharis also go to neighbouring UP - Allahabad and Varanasi for higher education. The Malayalee and Tamil diaspora is there for everyone to see – entrenched as they are in many walks of life in different states. I don’t understand why this fear is being whipped up. We did not face any problems of migration or non-acceptance or loss of jobs when the three states of Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh were created.

While a unified Andhra Pradesh has been doing well, if the people of a region have such strong aspirations, and the demand has not died down in decades, the bifurcation should take place with adequate safeguards and a suitable package for residual Andhra Pradesh.

It doesn’t need a genius to work out that the politicians are playing all the games and the common public is becoming fodder for their ambitions. Politicians on both sides of the divide have been giving hollow utterances of peaceful co-existence, but their action belies their words.

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