Keeping Andhra Pradesh intact, while taking steps to address the socio-economic concerns of the Telangana region, is the “most workable,” option for the people of the state, the Srikrishna Committee has said.
The report of the committee, which had been submitted on December 30, but was made public on Thursday, said separation should be considered only if “unavoidable”. But it added that not doing anything at all about the Telangana demand was also not an option.
HT was the first to report, as early as December 6, that the panel — appointed by the Centre 11 months ago to examine the feasibility of carving a separate state of Telangana out of Andhra — would neither support nor oppose the separate Telangana proposal unreservedly, but would instead sketch six possible alternatives, giving the pros and cons in each case. Six options in search of a solution
“I would urge you to read the report and the recommendations with an open mind and be prepared to persuade, and to be persuaded by people who hold another point of view,” union home minister P Chidambaram told a meeting of representatives of political parties from Andhra he held in the morning. Another meeting is planned later this month.
A number of parties, however, including the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), which is spearheading the demand for a separate Telangana, the BJP and the Telugu Desam Party, boycotted the meeting.
The six decade old demand for Telangana had flared up once more towards the end of 2009, after TRS chief K Chandrashekhar Rao started a fast unto death seeking a separate state, leading to large scale violence in the region.
Parties and people belonging to the other two major regions of Andhra —Rayalseema and Coastal Andhra — opposed the separate state demand, equally strongly. By appointing the committee, the Centre bought time, but the report’s release of Thursday showed that emotions in favour and against the creation of Telangana have not subsided.
The TRS, TDP and BJP rejected the report. “Nothing short of Telangana is acceptable,” said Rao, while the Congress that is ruling at the Centre and AP, is evidently caught in a bind. Though six options have been outlined by the report, it is only the last two the committee considers feasible. The Centre will have to build political consensus on either having a separate Telangana or keeping Andhra Pradesh united.
The Srikrishna panel noted that the demand for Telangana had “some merit” but pointed to several other “serious problems” agreeing to the demand would create. But it believed that a mix of constitutional, statutory and administrative measures to empower and promote the Telangana region within a united Andhra could continue the development momentum of the state.
After an 11-month work, over one-lakh mails, hundreds of meetings, the five-member committee gave a 461-page report (and 178 page appendices) with nine chapters.
The last chapter The Way Forward lists out the options, first three, which the committee itself termed as not practical … as divergent the options are, legal and sociology experts opinions differ.
1 Maintain status quo – Implies treating issue basically a law and public order challenge to be handled by the state government, not requiring any major intervention by Union Government.
2 Bifurcation of the State into Seemandhra and Telangana; with Hyderabad as a Union Territory and the two states developing their own capitals in due course - Underscores the pivotal position of Hyderabad historically and economically at regional, national and international.
3 Bifurcation of State into Rayala-Telangana and coastal Andhra regions with Hyderabad an integral part of Rayala-Telangana – On consideration greater homogeneity and dependence of Rayalaseema on Hyderabad, also more backwardness in Rayalaseema than other two regions.
4 Bifurcation of AP into Seemandhra and Telangana with enlarged Hyderabad Metropolis as a separate Union Territory. UT will have contiguity via Nalgonda district to Guntur in coastal Andhra and via Mahboobnagar district to Kurnool in Rayalaseema – drawing from Delhi and Chandigarh example. Would allow Seema-Andhra access to Hyderabad – which they do not want to part with.
“For people outside AP, it might look good but practically cannot be acceptable as almost 50 per cent of Telangana has to be ceded for the UT,” Madabhushi Sridhar, professor at NALSAR, a Central Law University says.
5 Bifurcation into Telangana and Seemandhra as per existing boundaries with Hyderabad as the capital of Telangana Seemandhra to have a new capital - with Union support. Implies demand of a large majority of Telangana people, but also mentions serious backlash from Seemandhra. Adds caution – “whether a region be allowed to decide for itself its political status as that would only create a demand for a great number of small states resulting in problems of coordination and management”.
“Wonderful for Telangana and practically more appropriate, as it will allow Hyderabad as common capital till creation of new one,” Sridhar says. But Sociologists differ. “Seema and costal Andhra are divergent both culture and ambition wise. Would not be compatible and would trigger trouble within them,” R Siva Prasad, south regional director, Council for Social Development says.
6 Keep the State united – Provide definite Constitutional measures for socio-economic, political development of Telangana region – creation of a statutorily empowered Telangana Regional Councils.
On conviction that development is of utmost importance for all three regions, best addressed through a model of deeper, extensive economic and political decentralization.
Views that duplication or multiplication of capitals, assemblies, ministries, courts, institutions is unnecessary. “Considers that unity is in the best interest of all the three regions of the state as internal partitions would not be conducive to providing sustainable solutions to the issues at hand,” the report says.
Both Sridhar and Prasad give thumbs down to the last option terming it repittion of 1973 Gentlemen’s agreement, following 1969 T agitation. “Nothing but old wine in new bottle. Everyone in State knows the so called councils failed which is why the agitation now.”
“The committee seem to be swayed by larger opinion already present than starting afresh from ground. It cannot be a hard choice for anyone, would trigger more fire. Reminds of Ayodhya judgment,” Prasad says.