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More questions than answers

More questions than answers
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More questions than answers. While the decks have been cleared for a new state of Telangana, resulting in a 60-year-old dream coming true, the questions this division of Andhra Pradesh outstrip than the answers. Sixty five days ago, i.e. on July 30, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) decided in principle to divide Andhra Pradesh and create a new state of Telangana.

While the decks have been cleared for a new state of Telangana, resulting in a 60-year-old dream coming true, the questions this division of Andhra Pradesh outstrip than the answers. Sixty five days ago, i.e. on July 30, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) decided in principle to divide Andhra Pradesh and create a new state of Telangana. The CWC had decided that Hyderabad will become a joint capital for 10 years and a Group of Ministers (GoM) will decide the modalities of bifurcation. As always, the Congress did not give any clarifications on the modalities of the bifurcation then. The party is known for taking decisions first and then trying to find solutions. We were then told that a Cabinet Note prepared by the Home Ministry would go into the nitty-gritty of bifurcation.

For 65 days Seemandhra has been burning; ever since the CWC resolved to ask the government to form a separate state. Yet, the Note prepared by Shinde on the burning issue merely says in officialese, “A Group of Ministers (GoM) to be formed. The GoM to recommend on various modalities, including how Hyderabad will be governed as a common capital, financial resources for new capital, sharing of various resources etc.” There is nothing new in the Cabinet Note, except this, “The new state will be named Telangana.”

There are also discrepancies with regard to the time frame. Shinde told the media that the GoM would prepare its report within six weeks (so as to be ready for the Winter Session of parliament), whereas the 10-page Note suggests that the GoM has been asked to submit the report in 90 days. When Shinde took 65 days to reproduce what the CWC had decided, is it possible for the GoM to work out the modalities in six weeks or even 90 days to the satisfaction of both sides?

After the CWC decision, a three-member committee, headed by Defence Minister A K Antony, was constituted to study the issues that might come up after the bifurcation. The committee had just only one sitting in Delhi after which Antony fell ill and was hospitalised. No one knows the raison d’etre of the committee, considering that we are now told that it had nothing to do with the bifurcation of the state which had been already decided.

Now that a 10-member GoM has been constituted, another pertinent question is that whether all these senior ministers will find time to sit together and resolve a complex situation like this in six weeks. Perhaps not, going by the experience of the Antony Committee. Chances are that the members will be under pressure from both sides and they will not be able to take a dispassionate decision on which the final shape of bifurcation hinges.

After the formation of Telangana, as and when it comes, the City of Pearls and Minarets will not be physically connected to the state of Andhra Pradesh. In this scenario, making it a common capital sounds foolish. The point of reference for making Hyderabad a common capital has been drawn from Chandigarh, which had been the shared capital for Punjab and Haryana. But what makes the Chandigarh case completely different is that it is contiguous to both the states. The city is also governed by a separate authority (Union Territory). The case of Hyderabad cannot be much different from how Chandigarh is governed.

As per the Cabinet Note, Hyderabad becomes a common capital for 10 years, which means the present government buildings like State Assembly, Secretariat, CM Camp Office, police headquarters, MLAs Colony and administrative buildings would be property of the emerging Government of Telangana and would accommodate babus of the new ministry. That means the current officials managing Andhra Pradesh will have to move their work stations to separate buildings allocated to them. New buildings rented in Telangana will result in wastage of tax-payers’ money; and, since we are looking at a 10-year time frame, the eventual remodelling of these buildings to suit administrative purposes will add to the wastage. The new state of Andhra Pradesh could easily look at using the same money to create infrastructure for a new capital city and move out as early as possible.

The Cabinet Note is not clear whether law & order will be under the Centre. Unless law and order is brought under its control, the police will be with the Telangana government. That means the movement of elected representatives of the other State, including the Chief Minister, will be under the control of the Telangana police. It would be total chaos, if things such as these were not properly defined before the bifurcation. Shinde says such issues will be taken care of by the GoM! This amounts to prescribing a potion as a cure-all much before diagnosing the problem.

Extraordinary situations call for extraordinary responses. For example, why doesn’t Sushil Kumar Shinde as Home Minister find time to visit AP and try to assuage the fears of various people? Why hasn’t the Antony Committee visited the undivided State as yet? Or why doesn’t the Prime Minister or even Sonia Gandhi find time to visit the State which is in turmoil? Or Rahul Gandhi, the prime minister-in-waiting, could not come? The clear lack of will is costing the people of Andhra Pradesh.

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