The Srikrishna Committee Report: A Waste of Time
Srikrishna Committee report while retaining the status quo has sought to disprove the claims of most Telangana protagonists. It makes no specific recommendations and has thrown the ball back to the politicians to decide
Mohan Guruswamy Delhi
The long awaited Srikrishna Committee report is finally out. It makes no specific recommendations and has thrown the ball squarely back to the politicians to decide. Thus, even though it was completed in time, it has largely been a waste of time. All it did was to keep Telangana tempers bottled up for some months. Now be ready for the explosion.
The Report's tendency is towards retaining the status quo with some palliatives to assuage the sentiment widespread in the Telangana area. To serve this end it has sought to disprove the claim of most Telangana protagonists that the Telangana region remained backward and under-developed even after more than half a century as a part of Andhra Pradesh. It has marshalled numbers and has used data to support its case.
As a professionally qualified economist and policy analyst, I know very well that facts can be used to prove or disprove pretty much any proposition. The Srikrishna Committee has used the economist on board to good effect and he has done a pretty good job of what he obviously was tasked with. But what the good Dr Abusaleh Shariff misses is that the issue is not one of regions as much as it is about people. The essential grouse of the Telangana protagonists is that the Gentlemen's Agreement of 1956 was not adhered to and the people of Telangana were systematically excluded from the development process and were given short shrift in the political process.
Two examples are all it takes to establish this. At the time of integration, it was promised that the Telangana would have a Regional Council that would oversee the development works and most importantly all land transfers. This was to ensure that wealthier migrants from the coastal Andhra region did not buy out the individually poorer people of Telangana. This has happened in every Telangana district where large migrant populations from coastal Andhra have bought up vast tracts of the best canal and tank irrigated lands. All around Hyderabad city people like Ramalinga Raju of Satyam accumulated thousands of acres of land. The migrants will argue that land was bought legally and everything was paid for. That is exactly what the Jewish settlers in occupied Palestine say.
Now if the Srikrishna Committee spent some of its time studying who owned how much, it would have got a pretty good understanding of what the Telangana protagonists are really talking about. Instead it went out of its way to make a case that all was well in Telangana and that the area had done well. An area is about geography and a people's fears and aspirations are the stuff of politics.
It was this fear of being swamped, widespread among Telangana people, which was very apparent to the States Reorganisation Commission (SRC) (1953-55) headed by Justice S Fazal Ali. The SRC's recommendation is as follows: "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.
The SRC also recommended that the residuary state should continue to be known as Hyderabad state and should consist of Telugu-speaking districts of the then princely state of Hyderabad, namely, Mahabubnagar, Nalgonda, Warangal (including Khammam), Karimnagar, Adilabad, Nizamabad, Hyderabad and Medak, along with Bidar district, and the Munagala enclave in the Nalgonda district belonging to the Krishna district of Andhra." This recommendation of the SRC was not heeded and it is the root of today's popular demand.
Statistics are the essential truth. However much we might seek to misinterpret them they show up the reality in pretty stark terms. Water for agriculture has been a big issue for the people of Telangana. The region is home to two of India's greatest rivers, the Godavari and Krishna, yet canal irrigation accounts for little more than 10 per cent of the irrigated acreage. The area irrigated by private sources, such as wells and tube wells account for about 65 per cent of all irrigated acreage. Tanks which used to account for over 60 per cent of Telangana's irrigated acreage in 1956 now account for less than 5 per cent. In terms of state supported irrigation, even semi-arid Rayalaseema with 20 per cent under canal irrigation does much better than Telangana. By contrast over 50 per cent of the irrigated acreage in Coastal Andhra is by canals and another 15 per cent or so from tanks.
Mind you water from canals and tanks comes free to the user, whereas well irrigation entails huge capital costs and recurring expenses. To rub salt into Telangana's wounds, a good part of the water from essentially Telangana projects like the giant Nagarjunasagar project is drawn away into Coastal Andhra.
The Srikrishna Committee was constituted to examine issues that have led to widespread alienation in Telangana. Instead of doing that in an honest and dispassionate manner, it seeks to establish that the claim for a separate Telangana is without any economic or social basis. Its main recommendation is that a single state with some constitutional provision to assuage Telangana sentiments will suffice.
The least the learned Judge should have known is that such constitutional arrangements will inherently be unconstitutional, if they are only applicable to one region. The Constitution is for the whole country, and what's good for the goose must be good for the gander.
The sorry state of our democratic process is illustrated by the fact that despite the demand for a separate Telangana state being supported by all the elected representatives of the region and by every political party except the CPM, it is sought to be fobbed off taking recourse to the specious and nonsensical logic that the Naxalites will somehow take over Telangana in the end. If mal-governance becomes the only reason for the takeover by Naxalites, then it would seem the whole country is ripe for it.