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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The final call on Telangana: Is it time to listen to Andhra Pradesh?

The terms of reference of the Justice BN Srikrishna Committee on Telangana may be wide enough to satisfy all, but so wide that they may satisfy none. In constituting the committee the Central government seems to have been guided by the principle that no one with any knowledge of the problems of the state should be involved in seeking a solution. It is an interesting, and perhaps even a laudable, principle.

The committee members cannot be accused of being biased in favour or against the break-up of Andhra Pradesh. None of them is either for or against a separate Telangana. Their professional credentials are impeccable, even if some of them are not known to a wider national audience beyond their relevant disciplines. However, critics may wonder if 10 months are enough for a group comprising professionals with their normal duties at work to unravel a 50-year-old problem. The committee has been tasked to review the developments in the state since its formation and their impact on the progress and development of different regions of the state. Further, it has been asked to examine the impact of recent developments on different sections of people such as women, children, students, the minorities, Other Backward Classes, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. Finally, after consulting all sections of people, including political leaders, on the aforesaid matters, the panel has to "elicit their views; to seek from the political parties and other organisations (including industry, trade, trade unions, farmers' organisations, women's organisations and students' organisations) a range of solutions that would resolve the present difficult situation and promote the welfare of all sections of the people; to identify the optimal solutions for this purpose; and to recommend a plan of action and a road map."

This is more than a mouthful and the committee is likely to get more than an earful! In the interim, one can expect sporadic violence to continue given that extremist elements in the state have already rejected the terms of reference of the committee. If the idea is to buy time, then such time may come at a price. The longer the uncertainty about the future of the state, the greater the damage it would do to the state's economy. Hyderabad, India's fifth-largest metropolitan centre and one of the most cosmopolitan cities that has witnessed unprecedented economic development in the past decade, has already suffered for no fault of its own citizens.

The members of the Justice Srikrishna Committee must understand the enormity of the task at hand and the burden on their shoulders. The committee must adhere to the highest standards of professionalism if its final report is to be taken seriously and not be mocked and condemned by one section or the other. The people of Andhra Pradesh, including the advocates of a separate Telangana, owe it to themselves to allow the committee to function properly and complete its work in an environment of peace and professional integrity.

(Source - Business Standard)

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