The goal to create Telangana has been achieved but to what extent can the aspirations of the people in the State be met?
The euphoria over the creation of the new State is now wearing off in Telangana as a political slugfest between different parties is reaching a crescendo. The people of Telangana, who passionately aspired and agitated for the creation of the 29th State, are now being forced to watch endless rounds of arguments among politicians over refusal to merge parties, seat allocations, defections, and the launch of at least two new political parties.
Amid this cacophony, what the politicians who claim to be the architects of the new State seem to be forgetting are the real concerns of Telangana, which is set to come into existence on June 2. The six-decade long agitation for a separate State, which was intensified after the formation of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi in 2001, has understandably increased the aspirations of the common man.
People from all walks of life became willing partners in this agitation, spearheaded by different Joint Action Committees (JACs) and political parties, especially by the TRS, as there was a palpable sense of injustice being meted out to Telangana by successive governments on various fronts — be it employment, power generation, or the allocation of water. People believed that the formation of Telangana was the panacea for all their problems.
Now that the goal has been achieved, we must examine to what extent people’s aspirations can be met. Time has now come for the change-seekers to metamorphose into change-makers. The people of the State and their chosen leaders can no longer play the victim card, now that their demand has been met.
Telangana has many concerns. The first and foremost is the creation of employment opportunities. The active participation of the students community in the agitation and the spate of suicides for the cause of a separate State were out of a belief that once Telangana is formed, there will be jobs for everyone.
But a realistic look at recruitments in the government sector shows that it will be nearly impossible to absorb all the educated unemployed people into the government sector. Providing jobs in private sector can almost be ruled out, as a majority of the educated youth lack employable skills. “The new government must start skill development centres so that these youngsters can hone their skills and get jobs. Else, this same segment will get disillusioned and will begin agitating again,” says N. Venugopal, editor of Veekshanam, a Telugu daily.
The other major issue that will confront the new State will be the ambiguity in the Bill that was passed by Parliament. The State has been divided but there is no clarity on the division of its apparatus. With many important sectors being kept in the “common list,” there is ambiguity over how water bodies, educational institutions and corporations will be divided. Gaining some clarity in these areas shared by Telangana and Andhra Pradesh will be the biggest task for the political party that will form the government in the newly created State.
With politicians squabbling over issues of mergers and seat-sharing in the ensuing electoral battle, the focus of the political leadership has shifted awayfrom the vision for Telangana or what could be the road map for reconstructing the State. Though different parties have been making grand statements of having prepared the plan for reconstruction, none of them has, so far, placed a blueprint in the public domain.
“What we need is a vision to translate the raised aspirations and the promises made to an actionable plan. But are these politicians ready to come out with such plans?” asks Gautam Pingle, former Director of Public Policy and Governance at the Administrative Staff College of India and author of the book “The fall and rise of Telangana.”
One of the biggest concerns of the people is the creation of irrigation facilities. With river water boards being made common for the two States, there are bound to be disputes. Even as the two States make claims for their share of water, what Telangana can do is revive tank irrigation, argues Dr. Pingle.
Issues like land distribution and water sharing may see no immediate solution, but the new government can provide equal opportunities to the people of the new State or correct injustice — both perceived and real.
The biggest problem that Telangana will face will be meeting expectations in the areas of employment, housing, uninterrupted power supply, and irrigation facilities for all. These are aspirations that soared during the fag end of the agitation, as politicians, through their repeated assertions, created an impression that the formation of Telangana will solve all these problems immediately.
Nevertheless, the formation of a new State will indeed provide a golden opportunity for political leaders and administrators to take a fresh look at the systems of administration. This opportunity must be utilised to introduce innovative and effective systems of governance rather than merely improve the existing ones.
>>In “Looking beyond the boundaries” (March 19, 2014, Comment page), there was a reference to Veekshanam, a Malayalam daily. Actually the reference here was to Veekshanam, a Telugu monthly. It was an editing error.