By Kamlendra Kanwar
08th October 2012 11:14 PM
Two southern states — Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh — are in deep turmoil as much due to the follies of the Centre as of the respective states, and a third — Tamil Nadu — could well join that category. Bengaluru has just passed through a virtually total bandh on October 6 on the release of Cauvery waters to Tamil Nadu. Who the bandh was directed against is unclear because the Karnataka government was forced to order release of river waters to Tamil Nadu by a Supreme Court fiat. Likewise, life in Hyderabad was paralysed last week by pro-Telangana protesters, torching vehicles and pelting stones at the police even as the Telangana Joint Action Committee was busy organising silent protests and hunger strikes. The perpetuation of this chaos masterminded by the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) has been going on sporadically since 2009 and there has been not an iota of progress towards resolving it.
Nobody is concerned about the huge price the respective states are paying in terms of inflation and production loss. The common man continues to groan but there is no one to hear. Political parties are busy scoring brownie points.
The Cauvery waters issue has been a bone of contention between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and there can be little doubt that the current round of agitations in Karnataka on release of waters to Tamil Nadu at the behest of the Cauvery River Authority (CRA) and on a warning by the Supreme Court is primarily the result of procrastination by the Centre on the issue. The turmoil in Hyderabad is also attributable to a deliberate policy to tire out the agitators by not acting on the issue for a prolonged period — a misplaced way of looking at things.
It is regrettable that the CRA in Karnataka did not meet for 10 years and when it met on September 19 last, it was at the instance of the Supreme Court. The Centre’s attitude was casual. Before that, despite Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s letter to the prime minister in May asking for a meeting of the CRA and repeating the request three months later, Manmohan Singh was apparently unmoved. She then approached the apex court which advised the CRA to meet.
It is doubtful if the CRA, which met under the chairmanship of the PM, deliberated adequately on the quantum of water that it was to allocate. Did its directive to the Karnataka government to release 9,000 cusecs of water a day to Tamil Nadu under the distress sharing formula from September 20 to October 15 have a sound technical basis?
Considering that the monsoon has been 30 to 35 per cent deficient in the four Karnataka districts that are part of the Cauvery basin, the CRA needed to factor that in while deciding the allocation to Tamil Nadu. It is shocking that there is no distress sharing formula in place in all these years that the CRA has been around. This is an index of the indifference of the Centre to the issue.
It is appalling how much water is wasted in inter-state river water disputes. The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government had a plan to link all major rivers in the country—the Brahmaputra, Ganges, Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, Cauvery and Vaigi. It would not have been easy and would in any case have required a massive commitment of resources. However, there was no justification for the Manmohan Singh government to bring the whole project to a grinding halt after it came to power in 2004 without a proper explanation of why it was doing so. All the groundwork that had been done by a task force went down the drain.
Coupled with this abandonment of the interlinking plan and that the UPA government refrained from calling a single meeting of the CRA for 10 long years before the Supreme Court gave it a nudge, it has failed in its duty to facilitate a settlement of the long-pending issue.
If this procrastination was motivated by a feeling that the problem would be forgotten gradually and that Karnataka and Tamil Nadu would stop playing politics on it, it was naivety at its worst. Politicians of various hues have always thrived in fuelling regional chauvinism and political parties in these states were no different. The same level of naivety was evident in the Centre’s attitude towards the long-simmering Telangana issue.
At the heart of the matter is the demand for separate statehood for Telangana carved out of Andhra Pradesh. The matter was hanging fire for long but when then Union home minister P Chidambaram told Parliament on December 9, 2009 that the government was ready to start the process of setting up a Telangana state it was presumed that the Centre had done its homework.
When the waning spirit of the agitators got rejuvenated, Chidambaram realised that he had erred in jumping the gun because leaders in coastal Andhra Pradesh and Rayalaseema regions were up in arms against the Centre’s professed intentions. His efforts to backtrack made matters worse. Here was a classic case of over-reach.
It was to find a way out that the Srikrishna Commission was set up. It presented its report in 2011 in which it gave several options, not recommendations. Some touched on the bifurcation of the state with union territory status for Hyderabad, some advocated that Hyderabad be the capital of a Telangana state and the one which the commission itself proffered as most suitable was to keep the state united and give the Telangana region a socio-economic leg-up and create a Telangana Regional Council. Nothing at all has been done on the commission’s recommendations.
Recently, Justice B N Srikrishna cleared the confusion over why the commission had suggested six options, rather than one, on the Telangana question. Contradicting the claim by Chidambaram that the commission failed to recommend a single solution to the separate state issue, the retired Supreme Court judge said it was the Centre that wanted the commission to recommend a set of options.
The result of the Centre’s politics of procrastination has been that Hyderabad, which was emerging as a prestigious centre of software and biotechnology, is today in a shambles. Investors are now shying away and there is a general climate of fear and suspicion. The government is in a virtual state of paralysis.
Yet, the Centre, having messed things up is now devoid of ideas to resolve the issue. The longer it is taking to find a solution, the more is there a hardening of attitudes on the part of the people of the Telangana region on one hand and of those in the coastal Andhra Pradesh and Rayalaseema regions on the other.
Kamlendra Kanwar is a veteran journalist and
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