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http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/bsanjaya-barub-in-searchthe-soultelugus/421255/

Sanjaya Baru: In search of the soul of Telugus
Sri Krishna Committee’s heart goes to Telangana, mind stays with Andhra Pradesh
Sanjaya Baru / New Delhi January 10, 2011, 0:37 IST

In seeking the soul of the Telugu-speaking people, the heart and mind of the Sri Krishna Committee are conflicted. The Committee for Consultation on the Situation in Andhra Pradesh, chaired by Justice Sri Krishna (Report at: http://www.mha.nic.in/pdfs/CCSAP-REPORT-060111.pdf), has prepared a balanced and wise report. In a short ten months, the members of the committee have been able to secure a grasp on the pulse of the people of Andhra Pradesh, but their soul remains elusive.

The academic basis of the report is of high quality. So is the range of consultations that have been made. Almost every prevailing viewpoint and fact has been taken in account. No one can say that their voice has not been heard. The research into the sociological and cultural basis of the split personality of the Telugus, the historical background to the controversy and the demand for a separate Telangana state, the economic basis, or lack of it, for the grievances pertaining to the region’s backwardness, political and administrative pre-history of the present crisis, have all been adequately examined and documented in this 505-page report.

What is the upshot of the effort? The heart of the Sri Krishna Committee is with the people of Telangana and empathises with their sense of alienation and neglect. The mind, however, comes down firmly on the side of a united Andhra Pradesh, with constitutional guarantees for Telangana’s personality and development. It remains to be seen if the soul of the Telugu people will be stirred by this mature and wise balancing act.

The six options listed by the committee have been widely reported. These are: (a) status quo; (b) bifurcation into Telangana and Seema-Andhra with Hyderabad as a Union Territory (UT) and new state capitals for each; (c) bifurcation into Rayala-Telangana and Coastal Andhra, with Hyderabad as capital of the former; (d) bifurcation into Seema-Andhra and Telangana, with Greater Hyderabad as an independent UT; (e) bifurcation with Hyderabad as capital of Telangana and a new capital for Seema-Andhra; and, (f) united Andhra Pradesh with a statutorily empowered Telangana Regional Council and financial and other guarantees for Telangana’s development.

In addition to these six options, the committee has also recommended setting up of a Water Management Board and an Irrigation Project Development Corporation, thereby recognising how important the issue of river water sharing is to the entire problem of regional development within the state. Indeed, many analysts have long argued that the two developments that revived the dormant pro-separation feelings in the Telangana region were the late N T Rama Rao’s decision to build the Telugu Ganga project and allow Krishna waters to go to Chennai, and the late Rajashekhara Reddy’s projects that seek to take Godavari and Krishna waters away from the Telangana region to the Rayalaseema region.

Indeed, if the first separatist agitation of 1968-69 was triggered by a resentment in Telangana that coastal Andhra was gaining more from the state’s development, this time round there was as much resentment against the politicians of the Rayalaseema region (both Chandrababu Naidu and late Rajashekhara Reddy being from there).

Most observers have already discounted options (a), (b) and (c), and regard even (d) as impractical. The final solution will have to be either (e) or (f). Option (e) is what the separatists of the Telangana region seek and option (f) is what all those who seek status quo but recognise Telangana’s sense of alienation want.

The Sri Krishna Committee has cast its own vote in favour of the last option and has hastened to add that if, in fact, the bifurcation of the state is to be considered, this must be examined as part of a national review of statehood. A second States Re-organisation Commission (SRC) may have to be set up to undertake a more comprehensive review of all aspects of the problem.

The committee must also be commended for giving due weight to the importance of the future of Hyderabad. The report recognises the contribution made to the city’s development by the people of Coastal Andhra, and Hyderabad’s evolving national and global importance.

That the committee’s heart is with the people of Telangana is doubly established by the fact that the impressive statistical work done shows that, in fact, the state’s more backward region today is Rayalaseema and not Telangana. On most parameters of development, the Telangana region, even excluding Hyderabad, has done better than Rayalaseema despite the fact that for the past decade or so the state’s two powerful chief ministers, Mr Naidu and Dr Reddy, hailed from the Rayalaseema region!

The report, in fact, knocks the bottom out of the economic grievance of Telangana. Coastal Andhra economists like R Radhakrishna and Mahendra Dev had long punctured a hole in the views of Telangana’s economists like C H Hanumantha Rao. While rubbishing the backwardness argument, the committee empathises with Telangana’s sense of cultural alienation and political disempowerment. Nothing captures the former better than the way in which Telugu cinema, produced mostly by the Kammas of coastal Andhra, portrays Telangana Telugu and its people, and nothing captures the latter better than the fact that after Chenna Reddy, no Telangana leader has been made the state’s chief minister.

If the heart rules the politics of the state in the coming weeks, there may be no getting away from the state’s eventual bifurcation, whether now or after a second SRC submits its report. If the mind takes precedence, then the people of Telangana and the state as a whole would opt for the sixth option. The final outcome will depend on how the Sri Krishna report touches the soul of the Telugu-speaking people.

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