A genuine solution needed : G S Vasu జనవరి 4, 2010Posted by Telangana Utsav in 1969, Andhra, Articles, Congress, Culture, Economy, fast, Fazal Ali Commission, Hyderabad, Identity, JAC, Mulki, politics, Rayalaseema, regionalism, SRC, Telangana, TRS.
A genuine solution needed
G S Vasu
New Indian Express : 04 Jan 2010
I had a most unusual task to perform recently: marry off two of my colleagues. Or rather, perform their marriage. They had been in love for more than two years but there were hurdles to their union. The girl’s parents had several reservations, one of which was that the boy was from coastal Andhra, their little girl being from Telangana. “We have no faith you will take care of our Telangana bidda. We don’t trust you,” her father told the boy flatly. Ultimately, the girl walked out on her family and I had to give her away when she wed her beloved at the Arya Samaj mandir.
This happened even as a question mark hung over state of the union of Telangana, Andhra and Rayalaseema in what we know as Andhra Pradesh. The people of Telangana have hit the streets seeking an end to their forced betrothal. In fact, the Telangana divorce petition has been pending for decades. It comes up for hearing once every few years only to be adjourned, much as happens in our courts. A meaningful debate for and against division has never taken place. It’s been no different this time round. What we have seen in the last three weeks — mass resignations by legislators, mudslinging by politicians and rubbish dished out in the name of discussions on TV channels — has left me no wiser. Like Lord Buddha who sought moksha under a Bodhi tree, I decided the only way to enlighten myself was to sit with three young students from the three regions and understand their thoughts, because if there was one section that has conducted itself well in the current scenario, it has been them.
The young man from Telangana opened the hearing, being the petitioner. “In the first place, we never wanted to enter into this wedlock, sir.” Fair enough, but why separate now? He continued: “Everyone knows what has happened in the past 50 years. Jobs meant for us have been usurped. Irrigation projects have not come up in our region so much so that the ayacut has come down by 10 lakh acres while it went up by more than 30 lakh acres in coastal Andhra. Expenditure on education in Telangana is far less than in the coastal region. We are Telugus, no doubt, but there is a cultural divide as the integration of minds never took place.” As he went on, I remembered what Pandit Nehru said at the time of merger: “Ek masoom ladki ko ek natkat ladka se shaadi kare. Jam sake to jamte, nahi to talaq lenge” (we performed the marriage of an innocent girl (Telangana) with a naughty boy (coastal). If they manage to live together, it is fine. Or else, they can take divorce anytime).
I butted in again: “How would things change if a Telangana State were formed now? You’d still be ruled by the same politicians and they have their own interests. In the last 10 years, Andhra Pradesh has grown to be a frontline state and Hyderabad an IT capital. Separating now might lead to a flight of investment stunted growth of Hyderabad. You may even find it difficult to provide free power to farmers in Telangana for the lakhs of pumpsets they use for irrigation.” He was irritated. “The development you speak of has been limited to Hyderabad. It is possible that growth may be stunted for some years and it is also possible that our politicians might not deliver what they are promising now. We are now fighting for freedom; tomorrow we shall fight for development.”
By now, the coastal Andhra student was itching to have his say. “How can you ask us to go now after Hyderabad has been developed so much? You have an international airport, the Indian School of Business, the IIIT, the central university, top notch IT companies, numerous flyovers, so on and so forth?” he asked, unconsciously conveying that he was more bothered about the status of Hyderabad than the rest of Telangana. He is not totally wrong. Unfortunately, AP is still a one-city state. Even today, poor women in the villages of coastal Andhra have to do their morning ablutions on the roadside because there are no toilets.
“So you don’t think a separate coastal Andhra will actually do any good by spurring growth there?” I asked. He fell silent for a while and then said, “Yes, sir. But when a father wants to divide a joint family, he should consult both sons, right? That has not been done and that’s why we feel hurt when Chidambaram made his announcement. However, after the initial emotional stir for a unified State, we are beginning to analyse what it actually means to separate. We have a Golden Quadrilateral highway, 960 km of coastline, four ports and fertile canal-fed agriculture. If the state must be divided, the Centre has to give us a special package. That will spur infrastructure activity in a big way and throw up employment opportunities. It would be a blessing in disguise during this recession. We have nothing to lose, everything to gain. However, we have some worries. We should have access to educational institutions and employment in Hyderabad at least till the new state develops.”
“Why would anyone object to this?” I asked, seeking to know why some MPs who had never had to endure pangs of hunger in their life were now resorting to hunger strikes for a unified State.
“You’ve been long enough in journalism, sir, and you ought to know better,” replied the boy. “But tell me,” I insisted. “Everyone knows it. Most of them have made huge investment in lands in Hyderabad and they are worried real estate prices will fall.” Suddenly, I felt enlightened.
The third participant in this discussion — the student from Rayalaseema — had been silent so far. The young man from coastal Andhra looked at him to as if to ask whether he was convinced by his developmental theory for an Andhra-Rayalaseema state. The Rayalaseema youth knows that for more than 50 per cent of the 53 years that the unified State existed, it was leaders from his region who ruled it and yet his region remained as backward as Telangana. But he had seen through the game with the help of what a Rayalaseema Congress leader from the Reddy community — who went on a fast for a unified state — had told him. “Telangana people are naïve and we managed to rule the state for long periods by taking advantage of that. But in a divided state we will face the music from the equally intelligent leaders from coastal Andhra.”
I deferred the hearing to another date. The three young men left, shouting “Jai Telangana, Jai Andhra and Jai Rayalaseema.” I remain convinced that a genuine dialogue with genuine stakeholders will provide a genuine solution.
About the author: G S Vasu is the resident editor of The New Indian Express, Andhra Pradesh and is based in Hyderabad