The long-suppressed agony of Telangana people is finding expression once again in their aspirations for independent existence and separate identity. After the great betrayal of 1971, they have once again gathered strength to assert themselves; they prepared to stake their all for realization of their dream to be free from the bondage to the people of coastal Andhra.
No movement, no struggle has ever started from the top: from intellectuals, thinkers, political and other leaders, elected representatives and so on. Inevitably, the struggles begin from people - the people give expression to their suffering because it is they who are victims of status quo. The long-dormant hope in the people of Telangana was awakened with the announcement as statehood for Uttarakhand by the Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda. Within a year it has gathered so much strength that politicians, realizing its potential have jumped on to its bandwagon. Such disparate schools of thought as People's War Group and Bharatiya Janata Party have supported statehood for Telangana.
Why Telangana State?
Because successive governments and ruling political parties have not only neglected to develop Telangana but have systematically exploited it, denying its share of funds, grabbing its rich, fertile land, exploiting its mineral riches and impoverishing its people. Telangana people have been looked down upon, their language derided, their customs and traditions scorned at, their land grabbed, their houses snatched away. They have been discriminated against in recruitment and developmental programmes. In short, they were colonized in 1956 even as the country threw off colonial yoke.
Let us see a conscious, deliberate well-thought out and implemented conspiracy has worked against the interests of Telangana in the fields of education, irrigation, employment, industrialization, and allotment of funds and the region's share in income for its development. Even in cropping pattern is changing for the worse in Telangana, its traditional food crops being replaced with commercial crops with disastrous consequences.
Elementary education is recognized as one of the fundamental human rights. And yet this human right has been denied to the people of Telangana: the region has the lowest literacy rate and minimal educational infrastructure in the state.
Andhra Pradesh, with a literacy rate of 44.09 percent ranks among the least literate state. It ranks 26th in the country out of 31 states and Union Territories. It is the most backward in the entire south. As many as eight districts of Telangana out of 10 (including Hyderabad) figure among the most backward educationally. Mahbubnagar has the least literacy rate, both among males(40.8 per cent) and females(18 percent). The entire Telangana, except Hyderabad city and Ranga Reddy Urban areas which are Hyderabad, has lagged behind educationally. Not a single mandal of Telangana has the national literacy rate of 52.19 percent. Coastal Andhra districts account for 33 out of 45 rural mandals which exceeds the national literacy rate (the rest being Rayalaseema). The mandals with lowest literacy rate of less than 20 percent are more in Telangana, as a consequence: 35 such mandals are in Telangana, almost three times those in Coastal Andhra (14). There are only two such mandals in Rayalaseema. District-wise, Adilabad has most of these mandals (14), followed by Mahbubnagar (9), Medak (6), Khammam (3) and Nizamabad, Karimnagar and Nalgonda (one each).
Although Telangana accounts for half of the state's population, less than 25 percent of educational institutions from primary to college level are situated in the region. Only 15 percent of aided junior colleges are in Telangana while it has only two medical colleges. As many as six medical colleges are in the other areas. The region is discriminated in the field of technical education also. Only 26 out of the 72 government ITIs, 20 of the 91 polytechnic colleges are in Telangana. The gross injustice to Telangana can be seen from expenditure on education. Of the total expenditure of Rs 1150.2 crore the state has incurred on the aided degree colleges since 1956, coastal Andhra cornered the loin's share of 73.71 percent while Telangana got a paltry 10.43 percent. The corresponding share of the two regions in the expenditure incurred on the aided junior colleges is 62.71 percent and 9.45 percent, respectively. In this kind of lopsidedness, how can literacy spread? This is no accident; it cannot be especially since it has continued since 1956, and it pervades all type of education - school, college, professional and technical. This discrimination is deliberate, conscious and planned given its spread, the extent, and all-pervasiveness, it cannot be anything but a conspiracy against the people of Telangana.
Of the three regions of the state, Telangana has the largest area, with 11,48,000 sq km, followed by coastal Andhra with 9,28,000 sq km. The cultivable area is estimated at 64,02,358 hectares in Telangana and 46,33,304 hectares in the Coastal Andhra. But 13,12,795 hectares or 28.33 percent of the cultivable land in the Coastal Andhra is being irrigated under canal irrigation system, whereas 2,66,964 hectares or 4.17 percent of the cultivable land in Telangana is receiving canal waters. The entitlement of Telangana of waters of Krishna and Godavari rivers is 975 tmc. ft. In 1974, 800 tmc.ft water was allotted to AP by the Bachawat Award to Andhra Pradesh. A re-distribution of this in 1981 saw coastal Andhra getting the major share with 377.07 tmc, Telangana 266.783 tmc and Rayalaseema 123 tmc. Telangana's share in Godavari waters is 709 tmc.ft of the state's total allotment of 1,495 tmc.ft. Out of its total share 1153.50 tmc (from all sources) barely 380 tmc is used for irrigation.
The discrimination against Telangana stands out glaringly in the amounts spent by the state on irrigation. The amount spent in Telangana so far is Rs. 4005 crores while that spent in Coastal Andhra is Rs. 19,693.50 crores, nearly five times higher. In terms of percentage, while Telangana got a mere 15.5 percent, coastal Andhra got 76 percent. If the principle of expenditure proportionate to cultivable area were to be followed (as it should be), Telangana, with 44.28 percent cultivable area should have got an equivalent amount and coastal Andhra 32.04 percent. Instead, coastal Andhra got more than twice its share.
Since 1956 to date, the additional irrigation potential created in Telangana is only 5 percent since none of the planned irrigation projects have been completed although they were planned 30-40 years ago. The 12 projects sanctioned for Telangana at an estimated cost Rs. 5,449.53 crore to provide for 10.08 lakh hectares have been progressing at snail's pace for decades.
The Sriram Sagar Project (SRSP) was started 1n 1963 and is yet to be completed. Even the first phase of the project was not completed after 33 years. The rehabilitation of the displaced people under this project is still pending. The Bheema project, which is older than Andhra Pradesh has remained on paper. Jurala, Icchampally too have languished. While experts and decision makers debate interminably and have still not decided on Srisailam Left Bank Canal (which is to irrigate about 3 lakhs hectares in Telangana), to supply water either through lift or tunnel. The Srisailam Right Bank Canal feeding the coastal districts progresses steadily. Even the 33 medium projects proposed in Telangana which could utilize 80 to 100 tmc of water at a cost Rs 500 crore have been kept pending. Compare this delay with alacrity attending on the Telugu Ganga project: it got funds allocated consistently year after year, within 12 years of its grounding, the project is supplying water to Chennai.
Even budgetary allocation are not fully spent on projects benefiting Telangana. For the Bheema lift irrigation scheme, the budgetary allocation was nine crore rupees in 1996-97, which was pruned to Rs 10 lakhs. Subsequently, only six lakh rupees were spent. On the SRSP, only six crore rupees were spent during 1996-97 against an allocation of Rs 25 crores. In 33 years only Rs 978 crores had been spent on SRSP. And yet Rs 1075 crores were spent on Telugu Ganga in 12 years.
Callous indifference and neglect of maintenance of tanks in Telangana has reduced the area under tank irrigation by half, an unprecedented occurrence. In 1956-57, 4,47 lakh hectares were under tank irrigation which has come down to 2.26 lakh hectares. This increasingly made Telangana farmers resort to exploiting groundwater which is suicidal for a semi-arid region. This dependence on pumpsets saw a great tragedy befall Telangana farmers early this year: as power supply was erratic, irregular and of low quality (low voltage), they incurred huge losses as other region suffered as much due to power scarcity as Telangana.
As irrigation projects for Telangana got bogged down in delays, cost-overruns, controversies, power generation projects too suffered. The Srisailam Left bank canal is one such project. Only 1543 mw of power is generated in this region whereas the generating capacity of the other two regions is 7477 mw. All power situations with the exception Ramagundam and Kothagudem are located outside Telangana, although Telangana accounts for a major share of power consumption and more than three-fourths of catchment area of Krishna and Godavari rivers is in Telangana. That the needs of Telangana are at the bottom of priorities of the government is evident from the fact as many as two lakh applications for new power connection is pending with the government. Yet, there is no plan to increase the power generating capacity in Telangana even as two lakh people wait in vain for a power connection.
Changing Crop Pattern
A dangerous and little-noticed development that threatens Telangana is the changing cropping pattern in the region with food crops giving away to cash crops. The change has been taking place over two decades now with food crops suitable for semi-arid regions giving way to water-intensive cash crops. Staple cereals such as jawar, maize and bajra preferred by local people, serving as food for them and fodder for their cattle have declined significantly in area. The area under jawar has come down from 13,63,169 hectares to 7,97,864 hectares during 1981-84 to 1990-93. Bajra declined from 1,94,981 hectares to 64,398 hectares and maize fell to 2,55,863 hectares from 3,17,098 hectares. Coarse cereals have been the major staple food for millions of people in the area and a shift from these crops needs to be understood in the context of the needs of the people most of whom continue to languish in poverty. Groundnut, castor, sunflower, cotton, chillies and sugarcane have witnessed considerable growth in cropped area. While sunflower registered 500 percent growth, it is more than 100 percent in case of cotton. Except for castor and groundnut, all other crops have entered the region quite recently.
While it may seem strange that the impoverished farmers of Telangana are opting for water-intensive cash crops in the place of rain-fed food crops, the fact is that this change has been brought about the migrant farmers and not the native ones. Settled in tracts irrigated by Nagarjunasagar and Sriransagar canals, these farmers who came to Telangana in 50s and 60s have adopted sugarcane, sunflower, chillies, cotton and groundnut since returns on them are higher than on traditional crops. Liberalization and opening of the market has come as god-sent opportunity to these farmers to make more money at he cost of the people of Telangana.
In Medak, where cotton has been introduced by the Coastal Andhra farmers on a wide scale, the people realized the dangers from it: it introduced new pests to the region and new diseases since the crop requires heavy doses of strong pesticides, and more important, the change in their dietary habits, from jawar and maize to rice had come with high undesirable price: insufficient nutrition to them and shortage of fodder for their cattle. Helped by NGO, the people have gone back to their traditional crops, which have provided them since time immemorial, food and fodder.
Another development as a result of this change is the rise of a merchant class in towns dealing in these inputs, a majority of whom are immigrants from coastal area. The cash-rich migrants beat the local entrepreneurs and farmers out of the market.
Employment in Government
The entire government and its various departments are dominated by people of Coastal Andhra. This pattern has been a blatant violation of agreement to share government jobs between Andhra and Telangana in the ratio of 2:1. Out of 14 lakh jobs in the government today(1997 figures), Telangana's share has been barely two lakhs and these too are in lower levels. Similarly, of the 531 judicial officers, only 92 belong to the region. Of the 22 judges in the state high court, there are only two representing Telangana. Moreover, no one from Telangana could become the advocate-general since the state was formed in 1956. On the educational front, of the 96,031 primary teachers, only 15,921 belong to Telangana. All the top and middle level jobs cornered by Andhra people: there's not a single secretary in the government today belonging to Telangana. Out of 140 heads of department in the government barring a handful, all are from Coastal Andhra. Public and private undertakings, autonomous bodies, corporations and universities have been made the monopoly of Andhras.
Rules have been twisted, manipulated or simply ignored to ensure government jobs went to those from coastal a Andhras and to keep out Telangana people. The present trend is to keep out the Telangana people even from the posts of peons, bus conductors and drivers. The new recruits are all brought over from coastal districts. This strategy has been adopted since 1956 despite agreements entered into, working out the procedure and share. For instance, in 1966, all of the 70,000 vacancies, of which 90 percent went to the people of Andhra.
The latest example is that of recruitment of more than 200 munisif magistrates, the highest post under direct recruitment. In course of time, they will become district and high court judges. Evidently, with an eye on capturing these crucial posts, the procedure has been changed, more centers of examinations opened in coastal Andhra towns, and it was ensured that an overwhelming majority of examiners chosen belong to Coastal Andhra: 50 of 55 judges-examiners were Andhras. The written examination was held on February 23, 1997. The results were predictable: 68 candidates (80 percent of them from Andhra region) passed from Hyderabad; Warangal ( the only center in Telangana) was only 15. Visakapatnam accounted for 85, Vijaywada 75 and Tirupati 47 successful candidates. Only 30 candidates out of 290 called for interview are from Telangana.
Industrialization of Telangana has been restricted to the Hyderabad city and Ranga Reddy district due to their physical proximity to the seat of the government. Industries in other parts of Telangana did not take off other than those set up prior to 1956. Several industries in Telangana have been allowed to become sick with government refusing to help out to restore them. Today, more and more PSUs such as Allwyn Auto and Republic Forge, located in Telangana are being closed down by the government for various reason. Those threatened include Antargoan and Sirpur Sirsilk Mills. Others in the line for closure are Nizams Sugar factory, FCI at Godavarikhani and Miryalguda Sugar Mill.
According to data, a major chunk of the existing medium and major industrial units in Telangana are owned by people from coastal Andhra. Of the 10,0000 odd units located in Telangana, only 1250 units are owned by the native Telanganites. Coastal Andhra industrialists own 6000 units and the rest are owned by outsiders from different parts of the country. With regard to employment in these industrial units, only 23 percent belong to Telangana, the rest hail from the Coastal Andhra region.
In terms of budget allocations, the pattern is the same: denial, deprivation and diversion. Based on area and population, Telangana should get 39-44 percent of the state's budget allocations. But at no point did its allocation exceed 30 percent. Yet Telangana contributes 42 percent of revenue to the state exchequer. Besides, according to some reports, as much as Rs 5000 crores allocated to Telangana under various heads by successive state governments have been diverted to the coastal Andhra region in the past two decades. This is hardly unbelievable since diversion of all kinds of wealth and resources including Telangana's share of water, has become a regular practice. The plunder and exploitation of Telangana to benefit the coastal Andhra region and its people has been planned, constant and systematic.
The utter indifference of the officials toward Telangana can be seen from a recent occurrence. The Nizamsagar dam on Manjira river, built in 1931 was designed to irrigate 1.1 lakh hectares but enormous siltation over the years has reduced its ayacut by half. A satellite mapping has shown that all its major distributaries (83 in number) and minor distributaries (243) have been silted up as the canal bunds eroded. Nine gates of the dam meant for letting silt escape from the reservoir has been jammed for the past 20 years, reducing the capacity of the reservoir. Nothing has been done to rectify them. In 1992-93, the World bank lent Rs 30 crores for Nizamsagr through its Natural Water Program for remodeling the project. The government utilized only six crores rupees and the rest of the amount lapsed. The state government failed to get the loan revived. A high-powered committee went into question of finding funds for the project and submitted its recommendations in 1994. They have remained on the paper.
Similar is the situation of all major and minor irrigation sources all over Telangana. Breached bunds siltation, infestation by water hyacinth have slowly killed them in places, reduced their ayacut, forcing farmers to drill borewells and open wells as in Toopran mandal of Medak district. This has affected the water table in the region. Medak has as many as 1.2 lakh borewells, all dug in the last few years.
Diversion of resources from an area to another to benefit the latter is feature of colonizer. And this has been going for several decades. Water from Krishana and Godavari, coal from Singareni, limestone for cement factories owned by Andhra entrepreneurs, revenue from Telangana are all diverted to Coastal Andhra region, or Andhra businessmen and entrepreneurs of Andhra settlers in Telangana. The result has been the impoverishment of the people of Telangana, slow and tardy development of the region, oppression of the people by unemployment, discrimination and lack of opportunities.
Statehood is the only Answer to Telangana's Suffering
For hundreds of years, people from various parts of India made Telangana their home. There have never been any instance of intolerance of Telangana people towards them. To the credit of the immigrants, they too adopted the local culture, and contributed some their own to Telangana culture. However, the Andhras were a different category. They came, made their home and life in Telangana, and in a few years, assumed a superior, arrogant posture, looking down upon the Telangana people. Gradually, people who had come looking for opportunities, displaced the local people from every field. This brings to mind the pattern followed by European immigrants to the Americas and the English in India, in fact colonizers everywhere: they come as guests, stay as friends, turn occupiers, and overtime, shunt out the local people to reservations refusing them a place of respect in their dispensation, treating as a lower class citizens.
Case for Smaller States
Whether it is a case of state of Jharkhand or Telangana, the demand for a separate state is opposed mainly by those who have benefited from the exploitation of the disaffected people, just as colonizers everywhere. Several arguments have been put forth against the need, viability and purpose of Telangana. Most important, will Telangana become reality? And if it does, will it eradicate the problems of backwardness, poverty, illiteracy and unemployment?
Need for Telangana
For all the above reasons discussed above, Telangana has to separate. Another important reason is that the merger of the two regions in 1956 did not result in the merger of their hearts, nor have the last 40 years led to emotional integration. Quite to the contrary, in fact, because the economic inequality has grown, the developmental divide has become a chasm and the cultural differences have moved the two people further away. This is because over the last four decades, the relationship of two unequal partners deteriorated into one of oppressor - oppressed, exploiter - exploited. colonizer - colonized. The division has so greatly deepened that there's no going back.. history, attitudes, prejudices cannot be undone easily.
The common language, Telugu, has been devisive rather than unifying factor because that has been the major, most visible and universally experienced by Telangana people. They have been discriminated against, humiliated and ridiculed for the language they speak. If English language is the one dividing factor between English and American people, it is even more so between the people of Telangana and Coastal Andhra: they have been divided by a common language. This one factor rejects the premise of the state reorganization committee that language binds.
Can a backward region develop economically independently? Or does its future lie in a larger state? Experience of larger states like UP, MP and Bihar has shown that size impedes rather than promotes development - the backward remain backward; the administration is unwieldy, and the growth concentrated in pockets. The answer lies in smaller states where decentralization of administration is possible; developmental activities can be more focused in smaller areas; and people can be involved in the process of development, which is a major factor in giving a push to development. An example of how smaller, backward region can come into its own after separating from the more developed region can be seen in Harayana after breaking away from Punjab, and Himachal Pradesh.
Today in India, almost every large state is facing the demand from its backward, neglected, culturally different people to be recognized as different and given independent status and separate identity. Apart from Telangana, 11 regions are seeking statehood, and these are: Vidarbha (Maharastra), Saurastra(Gujarat), Chattisgarh(Madya Pradesh), Malwa, Bundelkhand( both comprising parts of MP and UP), Pancahl Pradesh (Western UP), Poorvanchal (Eastern UP), Uttarkhand (UP), Bodoland (Assam) Gorkhaland( West Bengal) and Jharkhand ( Bihar).
The size of the state cannot be a factor for its viability, as it is being argued by some. If that factor were top be applied, then Telangana should be considered first since there are at least five existing states that are smaller than Telangana. Telangana with 11.48 lakh square kilometers area, 107 Assembly and 14 Parliament constituencies with three crore population is larger than the states of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Hoimachal Pradesh, and Kerala. Another 49 assembly constituencies and nine parliament constituencies will be added to the present 107 assembly and 14 loka Sabha seats once the constituencies reorganized.
There is nothing sacrosanct about the 1956 merger that it has to be retained at the cost of the people of Telangana. The demand for separate state is neither undemocratic nor unconstitutional. In fact, by refusing to heed the genuine aspirations of the people, the rulers are being undemocratic. They are trying to supress the movement only to protect their own interests and hegemony over Telangana. The ceded districts of Madras Presidency - the Costal Andhra districts - put forth several reasons justfying their demand for separate state in the 1950s.They are extremely similar to those put forward by the people of Tlanga today: political and cultural domination by the Tamils; economic exploitation, discrimination in employment and education, uneven development of the land of the Telugus and jeopardy to the individuality and self-respect of the Telugu people.
The late K .Kaleshwara Rao, the first Speaker of the AP Legislative Assembly in his autobiography expanded on the perception of Andhras under Tamilians, that the latter had greater influence in the legislature, executive and judiciary and the Andhra district were neglected in industries, power, employment, education and economic development. "There are nine bridges across Cauvery but not even one on Krishna and Godavari…the pace of development of towns in Andhra area is no comparison to that of Tamil districts," he said. Supporting the movement for a separate Andhra state, an editorial in Andhra Patrika said, "If a separate state is formed, the very reason for Telugus' backwardness will disappear." If a separate state was an answer to Andhras' development in 1953, why can't a similar solution be adopted for Telangana in 1997?
Agenda for a Separate Telangana State
It is extremely important that if our efforts for a separate state are to succeed we have a clear vision of the future of its people. An agenda needs to be developed through a pooling of ideas, tasks prioritized, and plans outlined to tackle the major problems facing the people.
Blueprints would have to be drawn up for a social and economic development of the people. An action plan is necessary for the immediate tasks on hand, such as land reforms. This could be worked out to be completed within a time-frame to avoid the pitfalls of earlier well-meaning intentions that were hijacked by vested interests in free India.
Universal educational should be the first priority; special efforts should be made make access to education available to the Dalits, women and minorities. This task too should be achieved within a specific time-frame.
Other priorities should be safe drinking water in all villages, electricity and health for all. The rich mineral resources of Telangana, the fertile soil, massive irrigation potential and the hard-working nature of its people will help them to realize their dreams.
A word about the support PWG has extended to Telangana state.: it is welcome, as is all support, from within Telangana and outside. Given the political dominance and brute majority enjoyed by ruling Telugu Desam Party in the Assembly, given the control of the mass media by Coastal Andhra people, and given the threat a separate Telangana poses to the entrenched economic interests that have grown at the cost of Telangana people, any and all support is necessary to carry the struggle forward.
The statement of PWG that it will only support and not lead the agitation should lay to rest apprehensions of break out of violence, or that the struggle for Telangana would be hijacked by PWG. Solidarity and unity of all people, of all ideologies, of all persuasions is the need of the hour.
Another fear, perfectly justified, is that the support of PWG might be used by the state to suppress the Telangana movement. The government has found it convenient to blame PWG for the continuing backwardness of the region, for the agitation of the farmers against low voltage, and for many struggles taking place all over Telangana for justice. There is every danger of the government using the excuse of PWG support to Telangana to crackdown on the movement to suppress it. That is why the movement has to be democratic, peaceful and non-violent.