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What Can Telangana Do Differently?

What Can Telangana Do Differently?
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What Can Telangana Do Differently, Problem on Centre-State Issues. It is not enough to blame the problem on centre-state issues. There is so much that...

The book ‘The Fall and Rise of Telangana’ by Gautam Pingle will release on March 6. In addition to looking back into past, it has suggestions for the T state’s future course of action that are worth reflecting upon.

It would not be worthy of the long-drawn struggle and the great sacrifice of human lives that has been made in its name to be just like other states.

It is not enough to blame the problem on centre-state issues. There is so much that even a state can do, which is not being done. What is required above all is an application of mind and effort to solve problems that are simple and important to people-law and order, clean water, safe roads, good schools and hospitals. To do this generally across the country states will have to be small and manageable, as Rajaji had envisaged.

If Telangana can, in this manner, show the way forward-then it will be an example for the rest of the country. It would not be worthy of the long-drawn struggle and the great sacrifice of human lives that has been made in its name to be just to be like other states. Otherwise, simply achieving a new state might mean nothing particularly worthwhile in terms of policies for the benefit of the people of the region.

The need for a separate state is to build a defensive barrier within the limits of the Constitution to assist people to develop themselves and create more potential for development. There is no better way for a people deprived of development both historically and recently to advance. Yet, what will be the governance pattern? Will it only repeat the old model, i.e. more development for the relatively developed and politically important districts?

The need of the hour is to develop the state quickly and uniformly across all districts. The allocation of funds and collection of revenue is likely to be decided by power alignments even in a state with only 10 districts. The Telangana leadership should not discriminate against any district, but must take political and bureaucratic administration closer to the people.

However, the cabinet model as practised may need rethinking. The minister is supposed to formulate the policy and the bureaucrat to implement it. What happens in reality is that the bureaucrat is asked to make policies and the minister implements it in her or his own way after ensuring that the policy is favourable to the interests s/ he represents. The tensions between the minister and bureaucrat, and between policy and implementation, make for poor and inefficient governance. The problem is apparently with the current cabinet structure. The competition by ministers and bureaucrats for ‘good’ posts is often only a euphemism for their intentions to derive illegal gains from administering a particular portfolio.

What does the Constitution say about the cabinet or, more formally, the Council of Ministers? Article 163 says, ‘(1) There shall be a Council of Ministers with the Chief Minister at the head to aid and advise the Governor in the exercise of his functions, except in so far as he is by or under this Constitution required to exercise his functions or any of them in his discretion.’ No more, no less. It does not say there should be a minister of Finance or Revenue or Tourism, etc. It, therefore, gives scope for the Council of Ministers (15 per cent of the assembly strength) to be reshaped by appointing ministers who are assigned to a district portfolio.

In other words, there can be a minister for Warangal, one for Nizamabad, etc. and at the state capital, there will be a chief minister who will have the sole responsibility for law and order and justice and can be assisted by three core ministers for finance, expenditure and administration. The rest of the portfolios can remain with the bureaucracy, and the district ministers, assisted by a devolved bureaucracy, will implement the policy decided by the cabinet. They will be responsible for all the functions of government within the district, subject to the overall guidance of the chief minister. They will have an annual district budget-revenue and expenditure and targets for achievement in all fields which then will be re-allocated on the basis of assembly constituencies. The district minister will be an elected representative from the same district and a small district committee consisting of all the district MLAs will assist him or her regularly.

Perhaps a wider district council, including the Panchayat Raj elected representatives, can meet at longer intervals. This will ensure that the elected representatives will have full responsibility for managing the development and administration of the district and their own constituencies in direct view of their constituents who will be able to interact with them and secure the satisfaction of their needs.

The ministers and MLAs will be more interested in staying in their constituencies where ‘action’ will be concentrated rather than remaining in the state capital and around the chief minister’s ‘court’.

Similarly, most of the IAS and state bureaucracy will be transferred to the districts to carry out the business of government in their respective domains and portfolios, rather than being concentrated at the state capital manoeuvring for better posts. They will campaign for posts in ‘better’ districts-but that is not something to worry about at this stage.

Cabinet meetings will be held once a month in the state capital to review progress and performance. Assembly sessions will go on as usual with the chief minister and core ministers answering all questions. The district ministers will offer inputs for specific district-level issues. In this schema, the assembly session will be business like with nothing much to agitate about. If opposition MLAs have any matter to take up for their constituencies, they will do it more effectively in their district committee.

The assembly will play a vital role only with the state-level policy and budget. This can be systematised by a more transparent policy-making process. Thus, policy will be largely considered by a State Planning and Policy Board consisting of ministers, bureaucrats and subject specialists. Once it is drafted and discussed at public hearings, it will be redrafted, taken to the cabinet, and then to the assembly for discussion and approval or rejection.

The main problem envisaged will be finding MLAs prepared to be chief minister and core ministers, as their constituencies will feel their absence and this may reflect in an adverse vote at the next election.

(From: The Fall and Rise of Telangana 1st Edition, Author: Gautam Pingle, Publisher: Orient BlackSwan Private Limited, ` 375)

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