By Shelly Mahajan:
It’s time we make necessary changes in our Social Sciences textbook and revisit the chapter on ‘States and Union Territories’. We are now a ‘29 states’ nation, Telangana being the latest one to be conceived after Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand in 2000. Probably this section of the book will have to undergo massive alternations quite often now.
For some, it’s a moment of celebration of a struggle that finally paid off whereas others predict the chain of events that may follow. The demand for a separate statehood in case of Telangana has always been considered a more sensitive, relevant and undisputed one vis-a- vis the rest. Mind you, the word ‘rest’ now also includes Mayawati’s demand for carving out four states off Uttar Pradesh.
Until 1953, Hyderabad and Andhra were two separate states. The region being called ‘Telangana’ today was part of Hyderabad. The proposal for merging the two states together in 1953 met resistance from the Telangana region right then, rightly so because of its marked distinction from coastal Andhra. Nevertheless, Andhra Pradesh was created in 1956 with the assurance of protecting the interests of Telangana as a part of the “Gentlemen’s Agreement”. In due course of time, the failure to live up to the promises made to address Telangana’s concerns was much prominent giving rise to a full-fledged agitation in ’69.
Since then, we have all read about several rounds of talks, hunger strikes, students setting themselves on fire, contradicting viewpoints, fear of creating small states and the very important, Justice Srikrishna Committee Report (2011) to look into the much desired demand of a separate statehood.
The reasons for such a demand are many that spread over wide range of both social and economic factors. These include the denial of economic opportunities and resources, inequality of wealth and entitlements, disparity in revenue collection and expenditure, greater domination of one state over another and other regional imbalances that grew too difficult to ignore. Most importantly, the diverse nature of Telangana makes it culturally more different from the rest of the state than alike where social discrimination acted as the final blow. So, the common logic of bringing two states together across cultural, linguistic or ethnic lines did not turn out to be effective here and was necessary to be flood back.
At last, the UPA government took the decision to give Telangana a green signal which, by the way, continues to prickle the commonsense of many. Much of this move can be attributed to the nearing elections in 2014. After all, the new state makes for 17 seats in all.
Presently, we can witness scores of varied opinions doing the rounds. Evidently, there are two sets of views that emerge within the state of Andhra Pradesh from those believing that a separate Telangana makes sense and others who are hesitant to challenge the basis of unification that took place in 1956.
Across different political parties, the issue of small states offers a different set of calculations, which would choose to utilise the move the way it suits their electoral interests. Other dimension includes the strategic, economic and corporate interests. Amidst many positives regarding Telangana getting its share of resources, rightful share in Krishna and Godavari rivers and employment upsurge, fears of the post division scenario refuse to settle. For a local residing outside the new state, loss of investments and revenue generation is a matter of grave concern. For now, Hyderabad maybe the joint capital but only till Andhra state builds itself a new one.
The very prominent outcome of this decision is the rise in demands for smaller/separate states. In the row we now have, Gorkhaland, Vidarbha, Bundelkhand, Bodoland and many others. Considering that each of these states including Telangana have distinctive history behind their demand and may be valid but are not necessarily the best way forward for the trend they would legitimise.
For an average citizen like me, who is still struggling with names like Poschim Bongo, Odisha and Puducherry, gulping down the idea of carving out smaller states within states unless the only way ahead, does not seem desirous for the future it will lead us to.
Yet, it’s time we rejoice the birth of Telangana and hope to shed the convenience with which we look at our foundations!