Telangana region accounts for huge chunk of natural resources of undivided Andhra Pradesh. Will creation of new state intensify existing regional disputes over these resources?
The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) ruling at the Centre is expected to take a final call on the demand for a separate Telangana state at the meeting of its coordination committee on Tuesday. The meeting will be followed by a discussion in the Congress Working Committtee, the policy making body of the Congress, after which a formal declaration is expected.
The Congress party in Andhra Pradesh is opposing the move to carve out Telangana from the state, but the top leadership of the party in Delhi has almost agreed to bifurcate the state during its core group meeting last week. With the main opposition party, Bharatiya Janata Party, extending its support, the formation of Telangana state now seems inevitable. However, if formed, the new state will have to face huge challenges in terms of managing its natural resources and fulfilling its energy requirements.
Water: the most contentious of all disputes
Telangana region accounts for huge chunk of natural resources of the current Andhra Pradesh. For instance, the 10 districts in this region account for 45 per cent of Andhra’s forest cover. The region comprises 68 per cent of the catchment area of the Krishna river and 79 per cent catchment area of Godavari river. Utilising these resources for the development of the region will be a big challenge for the state. Most crucial among these will be making water available to the drought-prone districts of the region.
When Andhra Pradesh is divided, the existing disputes over the Krishna and Godavari waters between Telangana and other regions will become even more serious.
Since 2005, the Andhra Pradesh government has already spent Rs 30,000 crore on irrigation projects. The annual allocation for irrigation has been around Rs 15,000 crore for the last three fiscals. Fulfilling the irrigation dreams is going to be a real headache for the new state. It will not be in a position to either abandon or take forward the projects.
While the issue of irrigation can well be a big challenge for the new state once it is formed, the immediate bone of contention between the Coastal Andhra, Rayalseena and Telangana is the division of Hyderabad. “Hyderabad accounts for 70-72 per cent of the state’s revenue. The status of Hyderabad will decide how the revenue is shared between the two states. This is going to be crucial for the development and roadmap for both Andhra and Telangana. The correct picture of the true challenges will emerge then,” says eminent economist and former Planning Commission member C H Hanumantha Rao.
A B K Prasad, senior journalist who has worked as editor of many Telugu newspapers and former chairperson of Official Language Commission had a different perspective. He described the demand for a separate Telengana state as “games played by unemployed politicians trying to gain power and position”.
“Backwardness of Telangana is false campaign. The Srikrishna Commission which probed the Telangana matter had in its report said that Telangana is not backward. In fact, the real backward region is Rayalaseema and the north coastal Andhra. There are very few backward pockets in coastal Andhra, at that. Separation is not a solution for development. The government should focus on real development of the backward regions,” said Prasad.
If Telangana is separated, it's going to be a real noose around the neck of the Central government, he said. Vidarbha, Gorkhaland, Bodoland are in queue with their demands for separate statehood. Tribal areas in Andhra Pradesh have demanded a separate state with Bhadrachalam as the capital, he pointed out.
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