Daunting challenges for Telengana
Now that Telengana has become a reality and has become the 29th state of the Indian Union what next? No doubt the political parties which fought for separate Telengana are gloating over their success but the way ahead is not only full of challenges but also of opportunities. Rather than ruminating over the past, Andhra Pradesh and Telengana should work out their future as friendly neighbouring states. The fact that both the chief ministers have won a handsome majority and lead stable governments is a good omen.
The first chief minister of the new state K Chandrashekhar Rao took oath amidst euphoria and celebrations on 2 June and followed it up with a public speech promising implementation of his party’s poll promises. The million-dollar question is will he be able to deliver and meet the huge expectations he had aroused?
While he starts his term with tremendous good will and perhaps a longer honeymoon period, KCR faces stupendous challenges. With a population of over 3.5 crore, the new state comprising mostly the areas of the princely Nizam state has 17 Lok Sabha seats and 119 Assembly seats. Of the ten districts which form Telengana, except Hyderabad almost all others are backward and mostly rural as compared to the Seemandhra region which has ports, a long coastal line, lush green paddy fields, cash crops besides developed cities like Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada where the people are more enterprising than the laid back people of Telengana. Telengana is undergoing the birth pangs accompanying any new state. Hyderabad designated as the common capital poses more problems as there are bound to be frictions between the Andhra and Telengana governments, which would share the secretariat and also the Assembly buildings. The immediate sensitive problem is to sort out that of the government employees. This alone is a huge task and requires special drive to get the machinery going.
The second challenge is the formation of the new Telengana cabinet. Already murmurs are being heard that one fourth of the cabinet is from the chief minister’s family as his son nephew have become ministers. Instead of treating it a family fiefdom, there should be a balancing of caste, communities, religion and other factors.
The third is to get special financial assistance from the centre. KCR’s rival and Andhra chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu has a record of extracting the maximum finances from the centre and he has genuine excuse of building a new capital and lack of revenue. Although Prime Minister Modi has tweeted and assured all assistance, Telengana is a revenue surplus state. Modi has to do the balancing act in allocation of resources to the various demands coming form other states like Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar and Tamil Nadu. The spurning of an alliance with the Congress, eagerness to work with the NDA may go in favor of the TRS with the Modi dispensation.
The fourth is the sharing of water and power between the two states. Though the two perennial rivers – Krishna and Godavari – pass through Telengana water will have to be pumped for irrigation purposes. Most of the agricultural land is rain-fed. Naidu wants the Centre to initiate discussions with the upper riparian states of Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Telengana to create a Polavaram Project Authority and constitute Krishna, Godavari and Tungabhadra River Water Boards. A leader in cotton and maize, Telengana will require large quantity of water in a sustained manner. The problem gets tougher as the water woes may plunge the state into a power deficit situation. Though Telengana gets an allocation of 53 per cent of all power produced, it would still become a power-starved state.
The fifth is developing the other nine districts in the new state. In fact people want all ten to be like Hyderabad and it may take a lot of political will and finances to do this. Sectors like health, power, education, industry and irrigation, which require huge finances, need to be prioritised.
The sixth will be containing Naxalites. Given the lack of development, Telengana has served as a fertile ground for the Naxalism to take root. Some top Naxalite leaders hail from this region including slain Maoist Kishanji. A separate Telengana was opposed on the ground that the new state would become a hot bed for the Naxalites. If the TRS promises on development, jobs, land, water and irrigation are not delivered this might come true.
Seventhly, providing jobs is going to be a major challenge as the students of the Osmania and other universities took an active part in the movement and therefore the expectations are very high. The region was supposed to have six lakh jobs available but only 50 per cent had been provided. While Hyderabad is a major industrial hub, the neighboring areas got no benefit. There should be focus on the manufacturing and small-scale sectors to create employment. Both these sectors have been facing a serious crisis for the past five years. The real estate and infrastructure sectors, which have been in the dumps, too are expecting a fillip.
However, the biggest worry for both KCR and Naidu is to live up to their poll promises. Among the first files they will sign is waiving off farm loans. This works out to whopping figure of Rs1.37 lakh crore of which Andhra accounts for Rs.87, 600 crores and Telengana Rs.49, 564 crore. While Babu has a proven track record the jury is out to judge KCR. IPA