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Who is afraid of the 29th State?

Who is afraid of the 29th State?
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Watching the NDTV programme compered by Uma Sudhir et al on Telangana, I was amused to listen to some youngsters say “they [Telanganites] make...

Watching the NDTV programme compered by Uma Sudhir et al on Telangana, I was amused to listen to some youngsters say “they [Telanganites] make fun of our Telugu, we feel humiliated.” How many of them realize or know about the humiliations suffered by Telangana people?

Once a vegetable vendor told me that I speak good Telugu, that is, like they, people from Andhra speak. In schools, children were made fun of if they spoke Telangana Telugu. Today practically all, at least most, school-going children speak Telugu of Andhra. Language has been just one of the issues in the Telangana movement. After all, language spoken by, imitated by most people, is the language promoted by the dominant ruling class.

It was interesting to read in a newspaper a few days back about the lack of senior Telangana officers in the administration, in the police department now to be posted to the new Telangana State. One need not do any research to find the reasons for this.
The Telangana officers, NGOs have been denied promotions to senior positions, an issue over which they have continuously made appeals, demands, and agitated. Today the fears expressed by Andhra officers, cadres, about their positions is somewhat bizarre. If they have to lose their illegitimate positions, they must learn to accept what legitimately belong to them, gracefully. Those poor farmers who fear that they will be denied water must be assured by the new State that they will get their legitimate share of water.

Those who fear that conceding Telangana will open the Pandora’s box, create more and more identities are oblivious of history of the nation-state and subsuming of language, cultures of the marginalized people, centralization of power and resources in the hands of a few for accumulation of wealth. Demands for Vidarbha, Bodoland etc. have not been provoked, much less created by Telangana movement. They have a history of their own and their demands are legitimate. Identities need to be addressed, negotiated, but not denied.

Those who fear the 29th State the most are those with ill-gotten wealth. The last three decades of history of the State in general and that of Hyderabad city in particular, points out to the nexus between accumulation of wealth by a few by dispossessing a large number of the poor of their land and livelihoods. The identification of IT and allied sectors as priority sectors for providing employment and income generation by the then chief minister Chandrababu Naidu, his fascination for crafting the city of Hyderabad as a ‘global city’, the establishment of Hyderabad Information Technology and Engineering Consultancy [HITEC], a joint venture between Government of Andhra Pradesh and Larsen and Toubro Ltd with 12.5 and 87.5 percent shares respectively, initiated an aggressive process of rapid growth, large migration of people from rural and other parts of the State as well as country to the city.

Loans and grants by financial institutions like the World Bank, the Department for International development [DFID] and so on increased inflow of global capital creating a “class of realtors, traders, local venture capitalists and politicians who have gained a lot in the process by way of accumulating land for themselves or for the external investors.”

The succeeding governments under a powerful chief minister and innocent bureaucrats have given further impetus to the process. The major loser is the general population that has lost in terms of its restricted access to land for housing, for open lands like parks, lakes and conservation land like forests. The story of displacement of farmers, of the urban poor in the name of urbanization, [in the name of outer ring road, international airport, modernization of Musi river, the making of the Master Plan etc] creating new spaces for the select few, dispossessing a large number of populations and communities has already begun to unfold itself.

It is the section of people with ill-gotten wealth and privilege who are afraid of the 29th State. They need to learn to abide by the law, conform to the constitutional principles and, of course, pay taxes to the new State of Telangana.

(The author is retired Professor of Political Science, Osmania University, Hyderabad)

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