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Shun the rhetoric for a cogent case

Shun the rhetoric for a cogent case
Highlights

Shun the rhetoric for a cogent case. The Andhra Pradesh State Reorgansiation Act clearly promises to assist both the successor States.

Even as Andhra Pradesh is mounting demand on the Centre for special status along with special package to help it tide over a piquant situation it landed in post-bifurcation, the Telangana government is stressing on the ‘rich’ tag for the State to juxtapose it with Andhra Pradesh in a bid to play identity politics. However, barring Hyderabad, the rest of Telangana presents no rosy picture as such, and, in fact, lags on several parameters. The State Reorganisation Act has made promises to assist both States. However, political considerations behind claiming a rich and resourceful Telangana may in fact deprive the State of what is due to it. It is time the State government shunned political rhetoric and made a cogent case to extract the maximum from the Centre

As the Andhra Pradesh government is moving heaven and earth to convince the Central government on the need to grant both special status and special package for the State, pressure is mounting on the Telangana government to voice a similar demand to extract the maximum from the Centre. The Andhra Pradesh State Reorgansiation Act clearly promises to assist both the successor States.

These demands by Andhra Pradesh and Telangana can be mutually exclusive rather than internecine. The Section 93 of the State Reorganisation Act says that the Central Government shall take all necessary measures as enumerated in the Thirteenth Schedule for the progress and sustainable development of the successor States within a period of ten years from the appointed day.

The 13th schedule of the Act promises the following things for the State of Telangana:

1. SAIL shall examine, within six months from the appointed day, the feasibility of establishing an integrated steel plant in Khammam district of the successor State of Telangana.

2. NTPC shall establish a 4,000 MW power facility in the successor State of Telangana after establishing necessary coal linkages.

3. NHAI shall take necessary steps to improve road connectivity in the backward regions of the successor State of Telangana.

4. The Indian Railways shall, within six months from the appointed day, examine the feasibility of establishing a Rail Coach Factory in the successor State of Telangana and improve rail connectivity in the State and take an expeditious decision thereon.

5. The Central government shall take measures to establish rapid rail and road connectivity from the new capital of the successor State of Andhra Pradesh to Hyderabad and other important cities of Telangana.

6. The Government of India shall establish a Tribal University each in the State of Andhra Pradesh and in the State of Telangana.

7. A Horticulture University shall be established in the successor State of Telangana.

The Section 94 of the Act further states, “The Central Government shall take appropriate fiscal measures, including offer of tax incentives, to the successor States, to promote industrialisation and economic growth in both the States. The Central Government shall support the programmes for the development of backward areas in the successor States, including expansion of physical and social infrastructure.”

Andhra Pradesh believes that the bifurcation was thrust upon it by the Centre against its wishes. The lopsided manner in which the State was bifurcated has imposed severe economic and fiscal burden on the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh. The bifurcation was therefore predicated on the assurances given to the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh, Some of which are part of the Act while others are in the form of parliamentary and electoral assurances.

The detailed memorandum submitted by the Chief Minister, N Chandrababu Naidu, to Prime Minister Narendra Modi precisely contains these arguments. The Centre cannot ignore these arguments. In fact, the Chandrababu Naidu government came out with a series of white papers on the economic and fiscal woes of the State and the development deficit in the residuary state. Such white papers include one on the impact of bifurcation itself.

The political adversaries of TDP may drub them as strategy to rouse emotions in people. Whatever may be the veracity of such comments, the fact of the matter is the State government has made out a case for liberal central assistance. The Telangana State government has to issue a white paper on the progress in realising the commitments made to the successor State in the State Reorganisation Act, so that a serious political debate is possible on the implementation of the act.

On the contrary, the Telangana government continues to claim that it is a rich state. Any central assistance would be based on the fiscal and development travails faced by a state. The Centre cannot come forward to further help a ‘rich’ State. But, a perusal of the Telangana economy clearly shows that barring the capital city Hyderabad and adjoining areas, the major part of Telangana is socially and economically backward.

In fact, this was the basis for demanding a separate state, though subsequently self-respect and identity politics were advanced as an argument to justify the demand for separate state. The premise referred to justify the demand for a separate state would in fact be the basis for demanding liberal assistance from the Centre. Such a demand can be independent of what the neighboring State of Andhra Pradesh urges and gets. But, for mainly political reasons, the TRS government chose to paint a rosy picture of the State, especially its economy.

The repeated utterance that Telangana is a rich State serves this political purpose only. It’s primarily aimed at promoting Telangana identity juxtaposing it with Andhra Pradesh whose leadership presents the state as a crisis-ridden one. The TRS does not rule out a possibility of joining the NDA. The sullen and low key attitude of BJP leadership towards TRS also indicates some form of a hidden bonhomie. The TRS should either use this ceasefire between the two parties to reap better harvest from the Centre or delink the State’s economic interests from the ruling party’s political strategies.

Telangana has many adversities to refer to. For instance, the social landscape presents a pathetic look. The Socio Economic Outlook-2015, a document of the Government of Telangana, itself acknowledges that a number of health indicators in Telangana need to be addressed for improvement. In six of out of the ten districts of the state, the infant mortality rate (IMR) is found to be much higher than the national average of 40.

The per capita income of Telangana has been persistently higher than the national average for the last decade and a half. But, six out of the ten districts in the State have per capita income lower than the state per capita income. The Telangana is a mineral rich state It is endowed with minerals like coal, lime stone, manganese, iron ore etc. It needs fiscal and tax incentives to achieve higher levels of industrial output by capitalising on its resource base.

The agriculture is passing through a serious crisis, registering high levels of negative growth rates. Indiscriminate exploitation of groundwater due to neglect of irrigation sector over the decades made agriculture in Telangana unsustainable. Despite abundant availability of Godavari waters, the State could not harness it for natural and political reasons. Infrastructure like power, road connectivity need further boost.

Tourism is yet an another sector with immense potential as the State offers opportunities for different kinds of tourism products like religious, heritage, cultural, adventure, eco and infrastructural tourism. Despite an impressive information technology and industrial base, the skill deficit haunts the State.

The Chief Minister, K Chandrashekar Rao, is expected to meet national leadership in the early September. It’s time for the state political leadership to shun the rhetoric and keep the political machinations aside and present a cogent argument before the Centre to get the maximum for the state of Telangana pregnant with possibilities for social and economic growth.

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