In 1953, Andhra, India’s first linguistic state was carved out for the Telugu-speaking people of the erstwhile Madras Presidency. Now, 60 years later, the state is being split up to create a separate state of Telangana.
The constitutional framework for creating a new state might not have changed much since the days of the First State Reorganization Commission headed by Justice Fazal Ali, but logistical challenges and vote bank dynamics have certainly made the task more complex. Before Telangana sees the light of the day, there are a host of legal and administrative challenges.
The first step has to be taken by the Union Cabinet to approve the creation of India’s 29th state. The cabinet will form a Group of Ministers (GoM) to draft proposals detailing the bifurcation process which will be eventually drafted into a bill.
Under Article 3(e) of the Constitution of India, the draft bill will be sent by the President to the legislature of the concerned state to seek its approval within a time frame “specified in the reference or within such further period as the President may allow.”
Since the state of Andhra Pradesh (AP) has a bicameral legislature, both the legislative assembly and the legislative council will express their views on this draft bill. However, all this is a mere formality since the President is not obliged to consider the views of the AP legislature.
The draft bill for a formation of a separate state can then be introduced in either house of Parliament. Each house has to pass the bill by a simple majority, which in Parliamentary parlance is defined as half the members of each of the houses ‘present and voting’.
After passing muster in both houses of Parliament, the bill would go to Rashtrapati Bhavan for the President’s seal, specifying the date on which Telangana will be formed. This will be published in the respective gazettes of the Union government and the Andhra Pradesh government signifying the birth of Telangana.
However, in this case there might be an additional Constitutional roadblock. Digvijaya Singh, the general secretary of the All India Congress Committee, has pointed out to the relevance of Article 371D of the Constitution and the need for a constitutional amendment to facilitate the smooth formation of Telangana. Article 371D was inserted by the Constitution (Thirty Second Amendment) Act, 1973 to promote balanced development of Andhra Pradesh by providing equitable opportunities in education and employment in public services to the people of the backward region of Telangana.
This was to give legal sanctity to the ‘Six-Point Formula’ agreed upon by the warring leaders of the ‘Jai Andhra movement’ of 1972 and the Telangana agitation carrying on since 1969. Constitutional experts believe that Clause 10 of Article 371D clearly states that no other provision made subsequently shall disturb the special rules of this amendment. The solution, then, for the government would be to delete Article 371D from the Constitution altogether since the formation of a separate Telangana would no longer require special provisions of Article 371D for the people of this backward region.
However, a constitutional amendment to clear the final hurdle in the formation of Telangana would require a bill to that affect being passed by a majority of the total membership of both houses of Parliament and not less than two-thirds of the members present and voting.
Given the current consensus across the political spectrum over the formation of Telangana, this seems to be a minor roadblock.
While the BJP has demanded that the bill for the formation of a separate Telangana should be introduced in the Monsoon session of Parliament beginning on August 5, Congress leaders are strategizing about maximizing the electoral dividends of the much-anticipated move.
Either way, be it the monsoon session or the winter session, the Congress seems to be the clear winner in the game of reaping the benefits of granting statehood to Telangana.
The real challenge for Telangana will start after the gazette announcement of its formation. That is when the entire state machinery has to be mobilized to kickstart the functioning of the state.
The administrative apparatus existing in Telangana is quite robust. Functioning district courts, 15,000 square kilometers of national highways, 51 percent irrigation density, a per capita income higher than the national average, regional transport offices, modernized police stations and everything else in between required for the functioning of a new state already exist. All that would be required is a new state secretariat.
With the government deciding to keep Hyderabad as a common capital of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh for the next 10 years, the Pearl City is likely to house a new Telangana assembly quite like how the city of Chandigarh hosts the legislative assemblies of both Punjab and Haryana.
But Hyderabad is more than just an administrative capital for the two new states. The city will be the cash cow that will generate the money required to get Telangana on its feet. For Telangana to function, it will need to generate revenue in addition to assistance from the Central government.
However, 75 percent of Andhra Pradesh’s sales tax accrual of Rs 22,000 crore comes from Hyderabad. Telangana’s 10 districts with a poor population of 35 million generate a measly 8 percent of that amount. One of the first things any government would do is to aggregate its revenue collection sources for the state to function smoothly.
That explains why Telangana leaders shudder at the prospect of giving up Hyderabad. That is where the money is. Hyderabad contributes 44 percent of the registered manufacturing, 39 percent of the construction activity and 54 percent of the services GDP in the Telangana region.
While there are 75 notified Special Economic Zones (SEZs) around Hyderabad and adjoining Rangareddy district, the rest of Telangana has just three such clusters. More than half of Andhra Pradesh’s Rs 12,421 crore Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) comes from Telangana, mostly Hyderabad. The face of modern Hyderabad has been sculpted by coastal Andhra money.
Many believe that the enterprising and real estate-loving coastal Andhra businessmen will channel back some their money into cities like Vijayawada, Vishakapatnam, Guntur and Rajahmundry by the time Hyderabad’s fate as Telangana’s capital is finalized in 2023.
But the bigger question everyone is asking is: How much of this investment can be spread out across the other nine districts of Telangana in a bid to promote equitable development and assuage the feelings of discrimination of the people of Telangana?
While the businessmen of Hyderabad want the city to be Telangana’s umbilical cord that can be severed when the baby is ready to face the world, the people of Telangana consider the city to be inseparable to their movement for a separate state.
What will, however, be the biggest challenge for a separate Telangana is something that is not being debated. The so called missing ‘Chapter 8’ of the Justice Sri Krishna report dealing with the internal security challenges of a new state submitted in 2010 was given to the Home Ministry in a separate envelope along with the report.
The internal security challenge is what would separate a successful new state of Telangana from the strife-ridden states of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh created by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime in 2000. The common thread between Telangana, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand is the overlapping of the ‘Red Corridor’ – an area of heightened Naxal activity presenting serious security challenges to economic development and political stability.
Although Chapter 8 is still a secret, the fears of the Justice Sri Krishna Commission for a separate Telangana can be borne out by the observations made about the other two states. The report notes: “Chhattisgarh, although, it has seen political stability and decent economic growth, has continued to face serious internal security problems particularly from the Maoists. The state has not been able to control and even contain successfully the violence and extortions perpetrated by the Naxalites thereby causing a huge demand and burden on the resources of both the state and Central exchequer. Jharkhand, unfortunately, despite initial signs of better economic performance, has failed to impress in most areas of governance. In ten years, the state has had eight Chief Ministers, besides being under President’s Rule twice. Its economic performance has been dipping steadily and the internal security problems created by the Naxals continue to exist. The unemployment in the state presently is also among the highest in the country.”
To put things in perspective, Telangana’s situation on this front is no different. Five districts of Telangana – Nizamabad, Medak, Khammam, Karimnagar and Nalgonda – are in the red corridor of heightened Naxal activity. These Naxal-affected districts comprise 46 percent of Telangana’s population, all of them poor and receiving grants under the Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF). That is a scary scenario for any government taking over the reins of a new state.
A separate Telangana might be finally on the verge of becoming a ground reality. But for India’s yet-to-be-born 29th state, the reality of existence might be prove to be as hard as the road to its parturition.
Sai Manish is a journalist based in New Delhi.
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