Sunday, March 9, 2014

The painful creation of the State of Telengana

Those of us who have been following the Telengana story for the past few years will have mixed feelings about the creation of the state, particularly about the methods adopted by the ruling dispensation to do so. Sometimes, I wonder if India is really a democracy or not.

There are several pockets in India where the residents feel that their culture, language or way of life is being ridden roughshod over by the majority population. In some cases, it is also a situation of the area being neglected in terms of development or distribution of revenue, despite that area being a positive contributor. I personally feel that anyone who is feeling oppressed enough to seek a separate state should be given an opportunity to state their case, and if practical they must not be denied the right, especially in face of objections by the majority group or oppressors.

This is the analogy that makes sense. I see this as a case of one of the children in a family complaining that he is feeling claustrophobic while sharing a room with a domineering older / bigger / meddling brother and needs a space to call his own. Any parent that would like to see all their kids get the best opportunities to grow and blossom should have no objection to such a request. Why should the people of Seemandhra have any say in this matter? The resolution in the state assembly rejecting the motion of a separate state, is akin to the domineering older brother having a right to veto the separate room request of the oppressed younger brother, is it not?

Ideally, the best solution is a Referendum carried out only in the area that is seeking a separate state, and open only to the residents living there. Unfortunately, India is a poor Democracy and does not have any legal provision for the same, nor does it have a clean record on this issue. To understand the views of a few more people, I recently posted the following Status Update on my Facebook Wall and requested my friends to respond. This turned out to be a very interesting discussion, and I thank my friends for their active contributions. Please see an extract of the same below:

Hemanth Sharma
February 10 near Malleswaram

I'm really perplexed with all this brow beating and dramatics on the Telengana issue. Why should some folks have an objection if some other folks want a separate state? It is after all, going to remain within the Indian Union and unquestioningly bow before the Indian Constitution, right? 

An apt analogy is a parent getting a request from one of their two kids that he wants to have a separate room, because he wants to put up posters of his favorite bands, paint the walls in his happy colors and listen to his kind of music, without having to constantly live according to the dictates of his bossy older brother, with whom he has uncomfortably shared a room for 60 years!

Which parent will object to such a request? Also, why will the 'bossy older brother' in this case, even have a say in this matter? It really beats me!! Anyone sees this the way I do? Please write in!!

Sharath C. Srinivas From what little I have heard from my Telugu friends - it apparently is all about Hyderabad, the crown jewel, as that is where a lot of the wealth and power is. It is like one brother wanting to keep the big screen TV in his room.

Ramnath Venkateshwaran It's more complex all of big brothers friends use and claim the room and younger brother is made to sit outside like ..aatak untu lekhak..illa.. (a Kannada saying that means you can play with us if you want, but your score will not count).

Ramya Ramnath The brother should also learn to share the room if needed. In this case, Telengana wants all the Andhra people to leave that’s not fair!!

Hemanth Sharma Thanks, Ramnath, Ramya & Sharath for continuing to use the ‘separate room’ analogy. If it is about Hyderabad, so what if it is in another State? Seemandhra investors in Hyderabad will continue to own what they already do, and are legally free to invest more in Telengana. So what’s the risk? There’s more to it than meets the eye!

Praveen Paul So let Hyderabad remain a "twin state capital". Chandigarh has benefited so profitably from such bigamy....:0

Sharath C. Srinivas The risk is about losing the clout and the influence, as non Telangana politicians will be outsiders and won't get a piece of the pie. A major portion of the corporate gain in Hyderabad gets shared with those in influential positions, and outsiders won't be welcome to the grand party next (bedroom) door.

Hemanth Sharma Sharath, this is what one hears, but it doesn't make sense. Most of the investors in Bangalore are not Bangalorians and they face no issues in enjoying their properties. Why should an Andhra investor be worried about his investment in Hyderabad? His rights are protected by the rule of law, is it not?

Hemanth Sharma Praveen, actually, the situation is ideal for the development of a new, modern and high tech capital city for Andhra. They should take the opportunity to create more gold plated real estate, more industries and businesses.

Sharath C. Srinivas Rule of law? , and it will take a few generations to create another city equivalent to Hyderabad. The same issue exists all over, even here in the state of New York, the vast majority of the tax revenue comes from NYC, and the rest of the state is actually poor, even by US standards. 75% of the state of Georgia's tax revenue comes from Metro Atlanta, and the rest of the state is very poor, by global standards.

Anand Srinivasan Agree with you. Looks like both sides want Hyderabad as part of their state, as it is the largest cash cow.

Hemanth Sharma Anand and Sharath, The protests are apparently not anything about the revenue that Hyderabad that generates for the state, as the Central Government will handhold the new state for 10 years. It actually seems like a more self-centered objection as considerable personal wealth seems to be at stake. Where is the national interest in that?

Praveen Paul Show me the money...Or as they say in Tamil...kai le kasai...wai le dosai.. (one eats well if one has soiled ones’ hands by working hard).

Hemanth Sharma Thanks, Praveen. If all the Seemandhra protesters stop trying to be holier than thou (“we want our homeland to be united” farce) and admit that they are actually protecting their own personal wealth, they would be so much more believable.

Raghuveer Rao Let the people decide ...have a referendum.

Hemanth Sharma Raghuveer, there's a catch to this, unfortunately. India being a Representative Democracy, the people are expected to leave all the decision making to their elected leaders, and there is no genuine precedent for a referendum. However, in this case, I agree that it may be the best tool to gauge public sentiment and must be tried.

Of course, a referendum must be carried out only in the districts that make up Telengana and not across the state. To return to my original analogy, it will not be fair if the bossy older sibling is given a right to veto the request of the younger for a separate room!

Hemanth Sharma Praveen, Sharath, Anand and Raghuveer I shortly would be writing a blog article using this discussion. Thanks for your views.

Chris Anand We have enough division in the name of diversity. This stereotyping is handed down through generations and I can tell u that some have been passed down from my late grandparents to me as well. Hopefully education and a world view will break that chain and we can expect a more unified India one or two generations from now.

Hemanth Sharma Chris, going back to my original analogy, how do you address the claustrophobia that the younger sibling feels? Should a parent not ensure that his personality also gets as much chance to shine as the older sibling?

The central issue here is that one bunch of people feel that their culture and their opportunities are being overshadowed by the dominant bunch. Is a common language a sufficient bond? Apparently, not.

Raghava Gopi Krishna See, it is more a political game to mislead people. People of AP have seen their worst government in last 10 years, and AP which is known as the Food Bowl of India, but during this government, which claims to be farmer friendly, farmers have even declared a ‘crop holiday’, which is unprecedented. Lack of governance takes a big toll on job creation and Hyderabad is suffering.

The only one thing that happened well is the loot, at a never before scale, where an Ex. CM’s son is implicated in scams of 50k Crores. This is a record in itself. Now just as it did in 2009, the ruling party and its cronies are out to fool the People by getting some new flags (political parties) that will eventually merge with some or other party for their personal gain.

Things will change only when people became more rational than emotional, besides creating state will only increase non plan expenditure for both states as it will have 2 Governments and all their usual excesses, which the poor people have to foot.

Raghuveer Rao In 1948, Junagarh joined India based on a plebiscite. So there is precedence.

The problem with representative democracy is that elected representatives from other states, who may or may not have any sense of sentiments on the ground effectively get to decide the fate of the people.

Hemanth Sharma Raghava and Raghuveer, excellent points. However, what I meant was that there is no legislation that mandates referendums and also, India has not covered itself in glory while using this route. 99% of the residents of Nagaland apparently voted for independence, but India overruled them and annexed the state. A referendum carried out in Dadra and Nagar Haveli, which were Portuguese colonies, on the question of whether they want to join India was apparently never even published, and other such inconsistencies.

Perhaps a genuine referendum, that is carried out only in Telengana will accurately measure the mood of the people. I’m fully supportive of such a move.

A similar exercise is being carried out for the grant of possible independence to Scotland from the UK. If the referendum is extended to all UK residents instead of just Scotland, I wouldn't be surprised if the independence motion is defeated. Since it would be confined to the people of Scotland alone, I'm expecting a new nation to be born soon.

It would be ideal if we did the same here. But as Raghava says, perhaps we are too corrupt and politically sleazy as a nation to do the right thing. We definitely need to learn a thing or two from our former colonial masters!

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