Ministry readies Telangana alternatives

New Delhi, Jan. 22: The Union home ministry has studied four models of autonomous bodies in as many states to keep a possible alternative on the table if Telangana is not granted full statehood.

Facing a self-imposed deadline to announce a decision on Telangana before January 28, the home ministry has studied options available in Jammu and Kashmir, Bengal, Maharashtra and Assam. These are states where statehood demands have been active but problems have been somewhat addressed through autonomous councils or development boards.

"We have studied four models of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), the Vidarbha Development Board, the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) and the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA)," said a senior government official.

A report based on the study is with Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde who had announced on December 28 that a decision on Telangana would be declared within a month. "It will be a political call," said a government official.

Government sources said that in Telangana, there is disparity in development compared to other parts of Andhra Pradesh. So, the development question is big, an official said.

The stand-by alternative is based on one of the six options mooted in the report of the Justice Srikrishna Committee, which went into the issue in 2011. The panel had suggested a statutory body.

The option said Andhra could be kept united by simultaneously providing "certain definite constitutional/statutory measures for socio-economic development and political empowerment to the Telangana region ' creation of a statutorily empowered Telangana Regional Council".

By suggesting a GTA- or BTC-like mechanism for Telangana, the Centre may hope to calm tempers not only in Telangana but also the expectant mood in the Darjeeling hills in Bengal and the Bodoland council-administered areas in Assam. This month, outfits from the Northeast have iterated their statehood demands, expecting a decision on Telangana.

But the big question is if the Telangana campaigners would accept anything short of statehood.

The sources said if a council-like mechanism is put on the table and eventually accepted, it would require changes in the Constitution. Article 371 (D) of the Constitution already provides giving special attention to 10 districts in Telangana.

The Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council was formed in 1995 through an act of Parliament to decentralise the planning and development processes by 30 councillors, including four nominated ones.

A year earlier, in 1994, socio-economic disparities in Marathwada and Vidarbha with rest of Maharashtra led to the formation of the statutory development boards. The boards, which serve as advisory bodies to the governor, assess disparity in development, advise on interventions needed and suggest levels of expenditure required for the area covered under the board.

In Assam, the Bodo agitation led to the formation of the BTC, a development that many considered to be an "interim" solution before full statehood. The BTC does not control law and order, which is a state subject, but covers several other subjects.

Similarly, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has got a GTA that enjoys autonomy in terms of managing its own affairs.

The councils provide a model of governance to decentralise both power and administration. The reasons for the formation are, however, different. In the first two cases (Ladakh and Maharashtra), disparities in development played a decisive part. But in Assam and north Bengal, the identity question was addressed with political empowerment. The BTC has a legislative Assembly with 24 elected members.

The Srikrishna committee report had laid out six alternatives to resolve the Telangana problem. The first two alternatives were of maintaining status quo or bifurcation of the state into Telangana and Seemandhra. Both will develop separate capitals while Hyderabad will become a Union territory.

The bifurcation of Andhra into Rayala-Telangana and coastal Andhra regions with Hyderabad going to Rayala-Telangana was the third alternative.

The Telangana activists chose the fifth option: formation of Telangana and Seemandhra with Hyderabad as capital of the former.

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