After dithering for many years, the Union Cabinet has made an announcement recently that Andhra Pradesh will be split into two—Telangana and Seemandhra. Andhra was created in the early 1950s and soon thereafter the States Reorganisation Commission (SRC) had proposed a formula, formally accepted by the then government, specifying language as the criterion for future division of states.
Telugu is the language of about 14 crore Indian citizens; Andhra Pradesh could be termed the 14th largest ‘country’ in the world. When such a large part of India is to be split, and when the separation is to be between people who speak the same language and share the same culture, one would expect a much greater degree of preparation, prior consultation among all interests, and a broad agreement on the major contours of the implementation. It is astonishing that the final decision clearly was the result of a sudden spurt of ‘inspiration’—there was as much preparation as in cutting a large birthday cake. Indeed, the conclusion is inescapable that the main consideration related to a crude and cynical assessment of the number of MPs that the ruling party in Delhi could garner from the bifurcation. Ultimately, such a major decision, affecting crores of Indians, is triggered by prospects of minor parliamentary benefit to the ruling party—the concerns, impact, and consequences for such a large state, sharing the same language, clearly were callously not taken into account.
A child would have predicted that the question of the capital of Telangana and Seemandhra would loom large as one requiring a broad prior consensus. We note that Hyderabad is more than 150 km north of the proposed Seemandhra border; most of Seemandhra/Rayalaseema citizens would have to go through a long road ‘corridor’ to go to the state capital—the implications of this had not been thought through. As an alternative, a new capital at Vijayawada or elsewhere in Seemandhra was not mooted in advance to build a consensus. Indeed, even the contours of the proposed Seemandhra, in effect bifurcating Rayalaseema (part to join Telangana and the rest to be with Andhra), was finalised after some changes —not based on any local population parameters or other requirements, but simply on a crude electoral estimation of potential benefit in the form of MP seats to the ruling party in Delhi—how much more callous and cruel can the administration be?
Even now it is not clear whether the Andhra Assembly will approve of the proposal to divide the Pradesh; it is not clear whether the Centre will overrule any adverse decision. Is it fair and proper to leave such major issues hanging in the air, while announcing the dismemberment of a large state, breaking up the Telugu peoples, based on short-term considerations of the Centre? Note that the creation of Uttarakhand (from Uttar Pradesh), Jharkhand (from Bihar) and Chhattisgarh (from Madhya Pradesh) was done after considering all aspects, getting the opinion of the people concerned in the proposed new states (as well as the ‘rump’), with a clear picture of where the new capital will be. Would Uttarakhand have accepted Lucknow as its capital? Or Jharkhand agreed to split Patna as joint capital with Bihar—likewise in Madhya Pradesh? It is astonishing how the issue of respective capitals of proposed Telangana and Seemandhra could be dealt with in such a cavalier manner.
Empirically, there is no evidence that smaller or bigger states are more conducive for better administration; much like the productivity of large or small farms is size-neutral—the decisive factor is the quality of management. Besides it is not the wisest thing to embark on divisions of states without pre-specifying the principles; in this case, the cart has been placed before the horse, in the sense that a second SRC could have been established to delineate the parameters. The present decision will sooner or later trigger new demands in West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra among others, with equal or greater logic—one presumes that with the crass momentary-benefit approach by the Centre, these also will get decided based on the perceived benefits (i.e. one or two MPs this way or the other) to the ruling party. How unprincipled can governance be?
The Indo-Pak (now Bangladesh) border was settled in the course of two days by a surveyor, who essentially took a map and drew a line across it. That was the time when this issue had to be settled in a terrible hurry, as the Indian independence had been agreed upon. In the Andhra case, the Centre fiddled its thumb for 15 years before delineating the border in the course of two days, much like the British surveyor did during Partition in 1947— clearly, the emergency this time related to the impending 2014 elections. Imagine if there were a scramble at that time as to whether the East Pakistan capital should also have been located at Kolkata, then known as Calcutta—the dispute for Hyderabad as capital is of a similar nature. This piece is not expressing an opinion on whether Andhra should be divided or not; it is only a lament that expediency, short-term political interest of Delhi are the decisive factors—the Telugu-speaking peoples’ interests are not relevant.