Integrated development, politics and social empowerment in India and beyond

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Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

The idea of carving out Hyderabad as a union territory has fortunately been abandoned but it is to be the joint capital for ten years until Seemandhra (a new nomenclature for the residual stare) has time to build a new capital.

How Not To Do It

Telengana is announced, but clumsily. Small is not necessary beautiful or efficient by itself, but size does constitute a very relevant factor in good governance.

By B G Verghese

Deccan Herald, 4 August, 2013

The formation of Telengana has been announced at last after repeated failed promises, but in a most clumsy manner. Many would-be states are expectedly up in arms in the heartland and the Northeast. Telengana has not been clearly defined. Will it be limited to the 10 districts of Telengana proper or will possibly two other districts of Rayalseema, Kurnool and Anatapur, be added on to create Rayala-Telengana in order to balance the number of Assembly seats in the two new States? Why?

The idea of carving out Hyderabad as a union territory has fortunately been abandoned but it is to be the joint capital for ten years until Seemandhra (a new nomenclature for the residual stare) has time to build a new capital. A make-shift capital could be readied in six months. Ten years gives time for vested interests to dig in. Recall Chandigarh. Equally absurd is the Home Minister’s unwise statement that the (district) boundaries of Telengana will have to be settled. This is inviting trouble. Further, Telengana will move forward, he said, whether the united Andhra Assembly resolves accordingly or otherwise.

Seemandhra is already up in arms, with many Congress MPs and MLAs handing in their resignations in protest. Nothing daunted, the Home Minister has said the legislative and administrative processes to bring Telengana into being will take six to eight months to complete. This is to hand out an IOU on a shaky bank. The ham-handedness of Operation Telengana is a supreme example of how not to do it. The TRS President, Chandrashekhara Rao’s has added fuel to the fire by his incendiary statement that once Telengana is formed all Seemandhra-born Government employees will have to leave Hyderabad.

Numerous fallacies are being cheerfully touted. One is that Coastal Andhras have invested heavily in the growth and prosperity of Hyderabad city. So what? They can continue to enjoy property and corporate control in and dividends from the city. Another red-herring is the cost of building a new capital and finding the land for it – an estimated Rs 3 lakh crore and at least 15,000 acres just for the Raj Bhavan, Assembly, Secretariat and associated housing alone, according to some estimates, plus compensation for land acquisition. These are bogeys.

India is steadily urbanising and is building cities to accommodate the numbers that would otherwise crowd noisome shanty towns. Rohini or Vasant Kunj in Delhi are bigger than the projected Andhra, or some-day Haryana, capital. The land and the money were found.

Just 10 days ago, Delhi was host to an All-Bodo Student’s Union-sponsored National Convention on New States presided over by P.A Sangma in which delegates from Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao, the Gorkhaland Task Force, Kamatapur, the Tripura Hills, Bundelkhand, Harit Pradesh, Vidarbha and Telengana participated. The demand was for new states as these people felt marginalised and felt interim solutions had failed. The Bodo and Gorkha representatives in particular said that if Telengana was granted Bodoland and Gorkaland must be simultaneously conceded else there would be trouble. The Bodoland Territorial Council was dubbed unsatisfactory as real powers had not been devolved and even after a decade the Territorial Council had been unable to get the Assam Governor to assent to a single Bill passed by it or to approve rules and regulations for 14 other enactments. This sorry record demands an explanation and offers legitimate cause for frustration. The temper of the Convention was unmistakable – there had been too much dithering and patchwork approaches.

Vidarbha has been hanging fire for long while the UP Assembly under Mayawati approved a resolution to divide that giant state of 200 million into four further units. Other demands for Coorg, Saurashtra-Kutch, Mithila, etcetera, are incipient.

The controversy over Telengana has revived the debate on the merits of smaller (not small) versus larger states. Indian states and districts are by and large huge in terms of population and even area by world standards. So with a growing population, 1.25 bn today and 1.7-1.8 bn by 2060 (a fifth of mankind), India could rationally do with maybe 50-60 states, 1200 districts (or double the present number) and a corresponding increase in the number of (national extension service) blocks and nagar palika wards for better and more participative and accountable governance. Governance is becoming ever more complex and technical and there are limits to size for efficient management and administration.

Small, however, is not necessary beautiful or efficient by itself, but size does constitute a very relevant factor in good governance, viability and coherence. The Northeast has seven tiny states and further division could be problematic on grounds of economy, scale, coordination, strategic considerations and so forth. Identity formation could be rationally encouraged in the immediate aftermath of Independence when former “wholly and partially excluded areas” were plunged into the vast, turbulent ocean of Indian humanity and needed time to find a place in this new commonwealth in the making. Identity was an obvious organising principle for state formation, regional and local autonomy. The situation is different today and identity, culture, language and development in confined areas and for small, scattered communities may no longer be workable answers. Real decentralisation (panchayati raj, PESA, active gram sabhas, non-territorial councils) may offer superior solutions and greater “autonomy”, with simultaneous aggregation or consolidation at other levels to achieve scale, coordination, and a critical mass of human and natural resources.

It would need a second states reorganisation commission to define the new parameters, critical issues and pitfalls in any such exercise and to chart the way forward in a phased process of nation building. Education, development and employment are the real engines of progress and hope rather than futile lamentation over loss of land and forests that can no longer support rising aspirations. One sees nothing of this larger framework, vision and imagination in the current official discourse on Telengana or new state formation. The political parties mouth partisan inanities and much media discourse is riveted on trivia.

Meanwhile, one can only lament the cosy corruption and chicanery being practised by the BCCI in which so many leading politicians are involved. That saga has not ended with a bogus report produced, astonishingly, by two retired High Court judges who served on an illegally constituted committee. Matching this is Gopinath Munde, the BJP leader’s assertion that his defiant boast of having spent Rs 8 crore on his last election was only a “figure of speech” and not a criminal violation of the election code!

And then we have the scandalous conduct of the UP Samajwadi Party leadership under the Mulayam and Akilesh Yadav father and son duo, in concert with the sand-mining mafia and known party thugs, to penalise and silence a young IAS officer, Durga Shakti Nagpal, for doing her duty. They have flouted every rule in the book, sought to terrorise officials through penal transfers and suspensions and played the communal and caste card to cover their nefarious designs and loot the state. Their only defence, as usual, is that others do likewise. The country is up in arms. None can be silent. When moral authority is lost, everything is lost.

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