Will India’s Telangana Residents Benefit from Statehood?
August 21, 2013
While the Congress Working Committee’s July 30 resolution in favor of Telangana statehood may have put a light at the end of the tunnel for separatists, the question of whether a brand new state will work effectively enough to actually benefit Telangana residents looms over policymakers.
Calls for statehood in the 10 districts of the former princely state of Hyderabad date back to the 1950s, around the time Andhra Pradesh itself was first formed on the basis of the shared Telugu language. In the past two decades, these demands have picked up steam due in part – according to Vamsi Vakulbharanan in an article on The New York Times‘ blog, India Ink – to claims that the state’s new “business class emerged, almost completely, from the landed and the rich agrarian classes of the Seemandhra through state patronage,” which excluded rural Telangana.
Many in the business community see Andhra Pradesh’s split as potentially unlocking the Telangana’s untapped potential through increased state infrastructure investment, especially in Hyderabad where the IT industry aims to someday compete with Bangalore, India’s traditional tech powerhouse.
But the mere fact that the Congress has given Telangana the green light just before the 2014 elections raises a red flag to many doubtful of the central government’s ability to handle Andhra Pradesh’s break-up. Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s pledge that the process will take less time than the creation of Jharkand or Chhatisgarh (which took about two years) means that many of these complex challenges will need prompt resolution:
- Telangana currently relies on Andhra Pradesh’s Seemandhra region for much of its power and could face shortages if an arrangement between the states is not worked out. Likewise, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy, who is opposed to the split, worries about water shortages in the remaining regions of his state, telling reporters that water projects “are inter-related and inter-connected” between regions. The Times of India reported that the central government is considering creating a “Krishna Control Board” to negotiate water disputes surrounding the vital Krishna and Godavari rivers.
- Hyderabad will remain the capital of both Telangana and the remaining Andhra Pradesh for the next 10 years as Andhra Pradesh establishes a new capital on its own turf. India’s government will likely need to help fund the expensive construction of this new capital –the state of Chhattisgarh is currently spending around $3.125 billion building its new capital of Naya Raipur. For the next 10 years, though, the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh governments will be bumping elbows in Hyderabad, despite the vital negotiations over water, power, and other key interstate issues they must organize. It remains to be seen whether Seemandhra politicos, bitter over the split and potential lost opportunities for their state in growing Hyderabad, will share the city peacefully without allowing competitive patronage to become a real issue and slow growth.
- The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) party, which was the most vocal advocate for statehood, is rumored to have planned either a merger or coalition with the ruling Congress Party once Telangana is established. Just exactly what Telangana-based favoritism or other patronage the party may push for in exchange remains to be seen. The Congress’ expedient decision to support Telangana before 2014 elections underscores their need to regain lost ground in the region.
- The home ministry’s 2011 report on potential Telangana statehood warns that a new state could serve as a home for violent Indian Maoists, known as Naxilites, who were driven out of Andhra Pradesh around a decade ago. Twelve of the 15 Maoist central committee members hail from Telangana, and concerns abound over the ability of a young state to continue tough policing. Cities like Karminagar, Warangal, and Adilabad that fall within Telangana are former hotbeds of Maoist activity. Telangana will need to establish a well-functioning police force from the get-go without succumbing to corruption.
Though Indians hope the new state’s government will be able to create a well-oiled administration to deal with these challenges swiftly, those skeptical of bureaucracy and corruption that plague so many of the country’s states are not holding their breath.
Adam Lerner is a 2013-2014 Luce Scholar working with India’s first and only publication devoted to narrative journalism, The Caravan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and not those of The Asia Foundation.
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