Where’s the Centre?https://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/wheres-the-centre/

Where’s the Centre?

Delhi must step in to address violence and paralysis in Andhra,stop playing remote control

Delhi must step in to address violence and paralysis in Andhra,stop playing remote control

The decision to sever Telangana from Andhra Pradesh has awakened anxieties on both sides and,to an extent,the turbulence was foretold. All major players are mobilising sentiment as well as positioning themselves for the political reconfiguration. Fasts have been undertaken by Jaganmohan Reddy and Chandrababu Naidu for the united Andhra cause,and several Andhra Pradesh leaders have resigned from the Congress. Protests have taken a violent turn and a strike by electricity employees impacted generation and transmission,leaving districts of coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema without power,disrupting emergency services,threatening the entire southern grid. A large part of the responsibility — and blame — for this disruption,however,must be owned by the Centre. The Union cabinet has provided only a bare sketch of the plan to divide the state,leaving crucial details to be announced by a group of ministers later. This opacity and stalling on detail has characterised the Telangana story in the four years since the division was first announced. Instead of evolving a pact that is mutually acceptable,to the extent possible,by consulting all those with stakes in the matter,the Centre simply announces its plan.

The group of ministers has been tasked with working out the specifics of a complicated and painful division — the sharing of water,revenue,power and Hyderabad. Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema worry that the water from the Krishna and Godavari passes through Telangana territory,now a rival state,and their claim over it may be contested. While it has the largest catchment areas of the two rivers,Telangana lacks the irrigation facilities to use it,and will need massive power inputs to do so. Hyderabad,accounting for over 70 per cent of the state’s revenues,is not only the seat of government,but also the commercial,educational and cultural hub,and a site on which industrialists and realtors have staked their fortunes. There are large insecurities about the fate of those investments. Sorting out these contentions will require great administrative and political skill,on par with the surgical precision needed to separate conjoined twins. But instead of listening to the clashing perspectives and trying to reconcile them,the Centre is seen to be imposing answers from afar.

In the run-up to the statehood announcement and after it too,the Centre has merely issued lofty proclamations. The UPA has looked arbitrary,not only in the declaration of a separate Telangana,but also in conceptualising it.