Srikrishna Committee Report:      

‘Expert’ Route to Backtrack
on Telangana?


Far from resolving the vexed Telangana question, the Srikrishna Committee report had further complicated it. The various options seem to have been invoked by it with the singular aim of delegitimizing the Telangana demand and preventing the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh.
In the first place, the SKC, for all its elaborate documentation, seems to have avoided facing facts about the historically deep-rooted sense of betrayed promises and confirmed apprehensions of the people of Telangana.

History of Belied Promises

The SKC does recognise that the States Reorganisation Commission (SRC) headed by Justice Fazal Ali had observed in its report that “One of the principal causes of opposition to 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 coastal area. In the Telangana district outside the city of Hyderabad education is woefully backward……the real fear of the people of Telangana is that if they join 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....”
The SRC had accordingly recommended that “After taking all these factors into consideration we have come to the conclusions that it will be in the interests of Andhra as well as Telangana, if for the present, the Telangana area is to be constituted into a separate State, which may be known as the Hyderabad State” and ““the residuary state of Hyderabad might unite with Andhra after the general elections likely to be held in about 1961, if by a two-thirds majority the legislature of Hyderabad state expresses itself in favour of such a unification.” 
Disregarding this recommendation, the Nehru Government had gone ahead with the merger and formation of the state of Andhra. The SKC has however disregarded the fact that no less than India’s first Prime Minister had repeatedly indicated that this merger could be dissolved if the people of Telangana felt a sense of discrimination. On 5th March, 1956, announcing the decision to merge Telangana with Andhra Pradesh, Nehru had reportedly said “ek masoom bholi bhali bachchi ka ek natkhat ke saath shadi ho raha hai. Bad me ittefaq nahi hone par talaq de sakte hain”. (An innocent girl (Telangana) is being married off to a naughty boy (Andhra). Later if they fail to remain in agreement, they can seek a divorce.) Again, at the inauguration of the state of Andhra Pradesh, Nehru declared: “From this day Andhra is on trial regarding treatment of the Telangana people. If the people of Telangana are ill-treated then they will have the right to seek separation”.  
Further, the formation of AP was preceded by a “Gentlemen’s Agreement (1956)” was signed between Telangana and Andhra leaders, intended to provide various safeguards to allay the apprehensions of the people of Telangana regarding power sharing, domicile rules for reservation in employment, education etc. The SKC’s recommendations today, of a Telangana Regional Council in its ‘best option scenario’ to address the grievances and desire for empowerment of the people of Telangana, seems out of date and out of step with reality, given that the 1956 Gentlemen’s Agreement had an identical provision. The TRC experiment began in 1958 and ended with its removal in 1974. Supporters of Telangana point out that while the failure of the TRC model in the case of Punjab resulted in separate statehood for Punjab, the same did not follow for Telangana. 
Time and again, notably in 1969 but many times since, protests by the Telangana people against broken promises has resulted in fresh promises of more equitable sharing of resources, employment and democratic participation – but these promises have been broken repeatedly. The SKC’s proposals this time around, far from addressing the apprehensions and aspirations of Telangana’s people, only revive memories of the similar promises belied in the past.       

Conceding the Merit of Telangana  

The Srikrishna Committee at many places recognises the validity of the feeling of “discrimination and domination” experienced by the people of Telangana, and concedes that the demand for separate statehood has “some merit.”
The SKC admits that “Overall, in spite of 50 plus years of policy protected planning and execution, one finds regional variations in the economic development of AP” and notes that the Planning Commission notified as backward nine of the ten Telengana districts (containing 87% of the population of Telengana) – with the exception of Hyderabad and resources have been allocated under its Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF). On the question whether “Telangana has low per capita income, lower access to employment, lower business opportunities and low access to education and so on”, the SKC indicates, “At the outset, some or all such allegations appear true when absolute amounts, numbers and percentages are reviewed”.
The SKC notes that in Telangana the “net irrigation by canals has increased only slightly from about 1 lakh hectare to around 2.5 lakh hectares. Tank irrigation has reduced from 4 lakh hectares in 1955-56 to around 2 lakh hectares at present.” It admits that “the implementation of G.O. 610 (regarding a share in government jobs – ed.) during 1985 to 2005 was, at best, tardy, which remains a grievance of Telangana employees. This issue continues to be highly contentious even today.”
It also observes that “the data received from the State Government shows that the combined amount released to government and aided colleges together is Rs. 93 crores in Telangana while it is 224 crores in coastal Andhra (with college going population similar to that in Telangana) and 91 crores in Rayalaseema (with population share being less than half that in Telangana).”
Further, “analysis of income change in rural areas over a period of one decade suggests that, in Telangana, the relative income growth has occurred only amongst the richest; whereas the poorer and the most deprived have experienced considerably large declines in relative income...The real income of the agricultural wage labourers has declined considerably in Telangana whereas it has increased considerably in coastal Andhra region. Similarly, the SCs, STs and minorities in Telangana region have suffered a decline in income during the past about decade or more, whereas these communities have gained substantially in coastal Andhra”.
Acknowledging the economic, political and social divide in the state, the SKC observes that “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....Large scale involvement of students including those from Dalits and Backward Castes in the current movement for Telangana seems to testify to this...
The SKC further suggests that the Madiga caste, predominant in Telangana and more numerous on the whole, which has hitherto had less access to reservation benefits than the Malas who predominate in coastal Andhra, would “certainly benefit from a separate Telangana” and that possibly “the ST community and the Muslims in AP may get a relatively better say in governance on separation in the state of Telangana”.
The SKC states that “The Telangana movement can be interpreted as a desire for greater democracy and empowerment within a political unit....sub-regionalism is ...not necessarily primordial but is essentially modern – in the direction of a balanced and equitable modernization. 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 and further, it pitches for a rights-based development perspective whereby groups and communities put forth their agendas within a larger vision of equitable development”.
The SKC concedes that “the grievances of the people of Telangana, such as non-implementation of some of the key decisions included in the Gentleman’s Agreement (1956), certain amount of neglect in implementation of water and irrigation schemes, inadequate provision for education infrastructure (excluding Hyderabad), and the undue delay in the implementation of the Presidential order on public employment etc., have contributed to the felt psyche of discrimination and domination, with the issue attaining an emotional pitch. The continuing demand, therefore, for a separate Telangana, the Committee felt, has some merit and is not entirely unjustified.”

Artificial Arguments Against Telangana

The SKC disputes the plank of “backwardness” of the Telangana region – mainly by repeated assertions to show that Rayalaseema is “more backward” on many counts. This argument appears specious and unconvincing. Why create a contest between Rayalaseema and Telangana for “backwardness” in order to deny the latter its demand? The demand for separate statehood for Telangana, is after all not premised on economic arguments alone – it is a political demand pre-dating the very formation of AP and is strongly rooted in social and cultural discrimination as well. Would it have made sense to deny Uttarakhand statehood based on the logic that perhaps Bundelkhand or eastern UP was more backward on some economic indicators?
The SKC admits that “the demand is unlikely to go away permanently even if it is subdued temporarily,” and given this, it states that “consideration has to be given to this option.” However, it states this to be “the second best option,” concluding that “separation is recommended only in case it is unavoidable and if this decision can be reached amicably amongst all the three regions.” It also cites the possible reactions in the rest of the state and the fact that it may give “a fillip to other similar demands” of separate statehood to opine against bifurcation. Given such arguments and conditions, perhaps even Jharkhand nor Chhattisgarh would seem to have had no rationale.

The Congress-led UPA-II, having politically conceded Telangana, has now taken an ‘expert’ route to backtrack and prevent the formation of Telangana. A more honest approach would have been to recommend, in the first place itself, a Second States Reorganisation Commission for a holistic treatment of all statehood demands. The Srikrishna Committee’s ambivalent position on Telangana and playing with the regional/social divides in Andhra to manufacture such a long list of options betrays a non-serious approach in the guise of a rigorous academic exercise. The dishonesty in the tactics of the UPA-II and the Congress is bound to add to the sense of the betrayal and injustice felt by the people of Telangana.