Hyderabad, March 06: The agitation for and against the formation of a separate State of Telangana and particularly the events of the last three months have created a state of uncertainty which is to the detriment of the people in all the regions.
The longer this uncertainty persists, the worse it will be.
The suicides by a large number of young people are a poignant indicator.
A setback to Andhra Pradesh will also have an adverse effect on India’s progress. It is, therefore, essential to bring this state of uncertainty to an end, and without loss of time.
While the sentiment for Statehood is very strong among all sections of the people of Telangana, feelings are as strong in Andhra in favour of preservation of the status quo. Statesmanship lies in finding a solution which will harmoniously reconcile the two positions and meet the aspirations of the people of Telangana and at the same time quieten the apprehensions and anxiety of the people of Andhra.
Even if agitations are put down by force or become temporarily quiescent on account of exhaustion, the sentiments, the aspirations, misunderstandings, apprehensions and suspicions will remain and express themselves in a number of ways harmful to the people of the State in all the the regions and to the people of the country as a whole.
The widespread demand for the establishment of Telangana State has met with opposition in the Andhra area on two grounds: (a) The general sentiment against division of the linguistic State of Andhra Pradesh and against the division of the Telugu-speaking people; (b) Apprehension about protection of Andhra interests in Telangana, especially in and around Hyderabad city, and particularly the protection of the large number of people of Andhra origin who came to Hyderabad because it is the capital of their State and made it their home. Leaving aside a handful of big industrialists and realtors, they belong to the middle class, the lower middle class and even unorganized labour who have invested a lifetime’s savings in Hyderabad and Greater Hyderabad over two or three generations. Most of these properties are no more than a house or a residential plot or investments in some small trade or profession.
It is possible to reconcile the sentiments and fulfil the aspirations of both Telangana and Andhra people by adopting the following measures for which a Constitutional framework exists, and to which suitable modifications / adaptations can be made: (i) Establishment of an Autonomous State of Telangana within the State of Andhra Pradesh.
(ii) The Autonomous State of Telangana should have its own Legislature and its own Council of Ministers.
(iii) The Legislature of the Autonomous State should have power to make laws for Telangana in respect of matters enumerated in the State List or in the Concurrent List. Power to make laws includes power to repeal or amend existing laws with prospective effect in the interest of the people.
Whether every item in the State List and Concurrent List should be brought within the purview of the Legislature of the Autonomous State of Telangana or whether a few items of common interest, e.g., law and order in Hyderabad/ Greater Hyderabad, should be kept out is a matter to be settled by detailed negotiations.
In the case of the latter, if it is agreed to by all sides in detailed negotiations, it could be brought into the concurrent list or a new category of concurrent list involving the Autonomous State of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and the Indian Government.
iv) This will also mesh with the larger concern over terrorists targeting major cities of India, including Hyderabad, for which mega policing, aerial surveillance, etc., are being thought of but will be possible only with Central participation.
In that case, what is done for Hyderabad in the present context will become a model in respect of other metropolises of India in the larger context also.
v) A mechanism can be created, maybe an expert commission or some other, for equitable sharing of water resources between the Autonomous State of Telangana and the Andhra area of Andhra Pradesh. In addition to this, there can be, on the basis of negotiations, a permanent expert commission to pursue matters on a continuing basis taking off from the award that will be issued by the commission set up under statute.
vi) Formula for sharing of taxes, especially taxes generated in Hyderabad city, can be evolved on the basis of correct financial principles and available statistics by an expert body and through negotiations. There is the experience of what was done in this regard about 40 years back as part of the budgetary exercise.
vii) Hyderabad, which is embedded within Telangana, should continue to be part of Telangana and capital of the Autonomous State. The futility of any effort to alter this should be evident from the aborted move in the late 50s of the last century to separate Bombay (now Mumbai) from Maharashtra as a Union Territory and the delay this caused in the formation of the linguistic States of Maharashtra and Gujarat and the bitterness that this delay gave rise to and the agitations that it set off for a few years and other events of that period ending with the bifurcation of the bilingual State into Maharashtra (including Mumbai) and Gujarat.
At the same time, since formation of the Autonomous State of Telangana does not require the division of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad can also continue to be the capital of Andhra Pradesh. Thus, the dispute and problem relating to Hyderabad can be avoided.
viii) Andhra interests that have grown in Telangana, especially in Hyderabad city and its surroundings in the last half-century, should have all lawful protection in the Autonomous State. In particular, a system should be created under the proposed Constitutional route to ensure law and order, and security and sense of security, for the people in Greater Hyderabad.
The advantages of the above route are that a) Telangana will get autonomous statehood while preserving the existing Andhra Pradesh State and b) the unfortunate bitterness that has grown between the people of the two regions may also disappear with the emergence of an agreed solution as is possible on the above basis.
This opportunity can also be utilised to provide Constitutional systems for the protection of the people of the Scheduled Tribes (STs) and their lands and other interests and also to provide proper Constitutional, legal, institutional and organizational systems for securing the economic, educational and social advancement of SCs, STs and Socially and Educationally Backward Classes, including BCs of Muslim and Christian communities.
The autonomous State concept was earlier applied in the case of Meghalaya which, of course, later became the State of Meghalaya. But, the situation in Andhra Pradesh is more propitious than it was in the case of Assam. The “ethnic” difference between the Assamese (Ahomiya) plains people of Assam, and the Khasi and Jaintia and Garo tribes of the erstwhile Assam / Meghalaya Autonomous State / Meghalaya State does not exist between the people of Telangana and Andhra. The disturbing external factors experienced in Assam do not exist in Andhra Pradesh. Further, the political experience and maturity of the people of Andhra Pradesh promise longevity for this Constitutional arrangement of autonomous State within a State in the case of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
If it comes about and succeeds it will not only help resolve the present impasse in Andhra Pradesh in a positive way and put the people of the autonomous State of Telangana and of Andhra Pradesh on the path of development, welfare and equality, it will also set up a model for resolving similar aspiration-based movements in regions of other States. This issue cannot be wished away or brushed under the carpet.
Realizing the strong sentiments in favour of linguistic States (which also had a democratic justification), the Constitution- makers provided in Article 3 for formation of new States. This was utilized on several occasions. Also, the Indian leadership showed resilience in the matter of Article 343 and the Eighth Schedule and its expansion from time to time. All these helped meet powerful regional/linguistic sentiments (which also had a democratic content) and simultaneously strengthened India’s federalism and unity.
(The writer, a retired secretary in the Ministry of Welfare, had a long association with Andhra Pradesh from the time he was allotted in 1956 to the then Hyderabad State cadre and later to the Andhra Pradesh cadre. He served in Telangana districts as well as in coastal and Rayalaseema in different capacities.)