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Why Telangana makes sense : Abheek Barman జనవరి 2, 2010

Posted by Telangana Utsav in agitation, Andhra, Articles, Congress, corruption, Economy, Hyderabad, Identity, livelihoods, Medak, Nalgonda, politics, Rayalaseema, regionalism, SRC, TDP, Telangana, TRS, Warangal, YSR.
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Folk Theorem

Why Telangana makes sense
Abheek Barman Economic Times December 15, 2009

The din and violence surrounding the government’s announcement that it’ll finally push to carve out the state of Telangana from Andhra Pradesh, has claimed a major victim: reason. Most arguments against carving out Telangana are emotive, charged with hysteria, coloured with political posturing.

The only remotely sensible argument against creating Telangana is that it could set off an avalanche of competing demands for more new states. But even that argument, as we shall see, holds little water and can be dealt with reasonably.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Over the last 60-odd years, successive governments have tinkered with state boundaries and carved out new states from older ones. The last three – Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarkhand – were created less than 10 years ago, in November 2000. India today has 28 states, compared to 14 shortly after it became a republic. So let’s stop behaving as if this is an unprecedented calamity that we’re suddenly faced with.

Folks who argue in favour of Telangana say that the region is backward, something that’s hard to refute. Districts like Nalgonda, Medak and Warangal are among the poorest in India. Glittering Hyderabad is located in Telangana, surrounded by these districts. Drive out from the city and it’ll take you less than an hour to reach some of India’s most backward areas.

Yet, this is also the place where a lot of India’s mineral wealth is concentrated. Miners like the Reddy brothers from the neighbouring state of Karnataka have huge operations in Telangana. One of their mining companies is now being investigated for – this is hard to believe – changing the border between Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh to benefit their mining interests.

Lots of resources, yet very few benefits coming to people on the ground: that’s what proponents of Telangana argue. As a new state, they say, the government of Telangana will have the political and administrative drive to do better for voters. Instead of trying to refute this argument logically, people in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema, both wealthier than Telangana, are on a rampage. Burning state buses is no answer to an economic argument; it only leaves you with fewer buses.

For many years, Jawaharlal Nehru refused to pay heed to any claim for statehood based on linguistic or ethnic factors. His sole criterion was economic: would a new state be better off after independence? Would it be able to support itself better than before? Though Nehru’s blindness to language or ethnicity was, well, a handicap the economic arguments he so loved are very important. And most arguments for Telangana’s statehood are economic.

But are the assumptions of folks who want Telangana state realistic? Do people who live in newly carved out states do better than before? Nine years after the creation of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand, there’s some reason to believe that, indeed, they do.

Among all the newly created states, Uttarkhand is probably an anomaly; it wanted to peel off from Uttar Pradesh because it felt that its parent was more backward than it was. So, it’s probably no surprise to know that by 2006-07, the average person in the hill state made Rs. 27,800, nearly double the Rs. 14,663 made by the average UP-wallah.

Most of the stories coming out of Jharkhand are about Naxalism and the fabulous wealth allegedly salted away by former chief minister Madhu Koda. Yet some of Koda’s prosperity seems to have rubbed off on Jharkhand, where the average person’s income two years ago was Rs. 20,177 again, nearly double the average Bihari’s Rs. 10,570.

It’s the same story in Chhattisgarh, where the average income was nearly Rs. 29,000, much more than the average Madhya Pradesh income of Rs. 18,051 two years ago. People in smaller, newer states are better off than counterparts in their parent states.

Another argument against splitting existing states is that the new ones are slow to mobilise their own funds from taxes or cesses and depend heavily on Central handouts. Ergo, to control New Delhi’s finances, it’s better to go slow on new states.

Sure, a state like Chhattisgarh might take time to get its taxation systems in place and need Central handouts. But even a state like Haryana, carved out of Punjab in 1966, needs funds from New Delhi. Bengal, which has been partitioned several times, and therefore got smaller, is hardly self sufficient.

Indeed many ‘established’ states like Bengal and Bihar are still so slow to collect local revenues that matching funds from New Delhi often go unused. All states, big or small, old or new have similar powers to collect revenues. Their ability to do so doesn’t depend on when they were created or their size, but by the efficiency of their administration and the buoyancy of their economies.

The creation of Telangana might trigger cries to make more new states like Vidarbha and Gorkhaland, or split Uttar Pradesh into three. The best way to figure out what’s feasible, which demand merits attention and which doesn’t, is to set up a group, like the States’ Reorganisation Commission and have it thrash things out with everyone, and then take a call.

Finally, the Congress party which dominates this government, needs to be internally consistent in what it stands for. As long ago as 2001, the Congress Working Committee accepted the report of one of its study teams and decided that it was in favour of creating two new states: Telangana and Vidarbha. Then, the BJP-led NDA government was in power and it mattered little what the Congress thought. But in 2004 after its election victory, the common minimum programme adopted by the first UPA coalition also agreed to work towards statehood for Telangana. In the hurly burly of coalition politics, it soon forgot this promise and lost an ally, the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS) two years later.

Today, instead of dithering, the government should signal clearly that it will work to create Telangana. And set up a group to examine the demands for other new states. Remember, the United Sates, with about one third our population, has 50 states, a number that’s only grown over time.

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1. Why Telangana makes sense : Abheek Barman « Telangana Utsav Committee | Telugu News Station - జనవరి 2, 2010

[…] more here: Why Telangana makes sense : Abheek Barman « Telangana Utsav Committee Share and […]

2. gyan ghosh - ఫిబ్రవరి 21, 2010

Let a poll be held in Telengana and majority decision should be considered

3. VChangeU - ఫిబ్రవరి 24, 2010

The end result of any polls will be United AP.


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