National interest should override sectional interest

Fri 29 Nov 2013

Serious national policies need serious, critical and rational thinking. Crowds and political pressure, ad hoc gains and myopia can destroy carefully nurtured systems. The unseemly haste in trying to push through a division process of Andhra Pradesh hides more than it reveals. This was not how States were formed earlier. As for the States Reorganisation Commission, clear guidelines were laid out for the formation of states. Yes, the issue has been hanging fire for a few years. Yet, the way it has been handled smacks of Machiavellian manoeuvrings. When Andhra Pradesh was formed, leaders from different regions sat down to discuss and solve disputes. This has not been properly attempted now. Supposedly open agreements have not been openly arrived at. A centrally brokered opinion was sought to be created. It was like growing an artificial organ around a pre-designed matrix. Free suppression of opinion was not tolerated in some places. People talked under duress. Intellectuals were silenced by threats. This was the case in the 1969 Telangana and the 1972 Andhra agitations. This is usually the aetiology of any hysterical mass movement. So, fake saints prod on people, calling for unleashing ‘the dogs of war’.

The problem has become a tangled web; will the decision be unnecessarily hastened? It moved on to a fast track without serious thought or expert deliberations. It looked as if the Group of Ministers was given a tailoring job to be finished in a month’s time. Even stitching a coat to a design takes longer. Water disputes, for example, require specified study by experts, engineers, hydrologists, environmentalists, etc. The division of the High Court implies redistribution of lakhs of pending civil and criminal cases, which definitely is bound to delay justice. Pension problems are dime a dozen with several government and autonomous government organisations requiring division too. The general populace is bound to suffer. Service problems would mutate into court cases requiring legal solution. The recent Supreme Court directive to Bihar and Jharkhand on salaries of some employees not being paid for several years is a pointer. While politicians and partisan interests can brush aside these things, they are definitely not minor issues. If these are not addressed properly, what is governance for? If waters get divided, revenue goes down, politically, both probable States get weaker and the riverine deltas get damaged threatening food security and pushing up food prices, why opt for it? If new states increase insecurity and threaten national security and integration, what is the rationale for creating them without a serious parliamentary debate on the requirement or without a new States Reorganisation Commission? You have to work out abscissio infiniti for a solution. The present exercise is hopelessly inadequate.

The peculiarity of the situation emanates from the almost callous, ad hoc and visionless short-sightedness of the Congress think tank. They have landed themselves in the proverbial “monkey’s tail in the wedge” situation of their own making. The party has to rethink its national policies — whether to go in for more states or not. It is time that all national parties rework their policies on the issue of new states and the process to be adopted. A nation cannot be kept in a labour room to deliver states on demand, long past its age of conception. Developmental and human aspects of progress need attention and nurturing. India cannot and should not remain a stone pelting, hate-mongering, petty politicking nation, if it has to move forward. That kinetic energy cannot be wasted; it should address the bigger issue of hunger, poverty and illiteracy and gender discrimination among other such pressing human problems.

It is morally and electorally improper and wrong to divide a state before elections. It goes against all tenets of a free and fair election. The Srikrishna Report should have been elaborately discussed in Parliament. It should be at some point of time. Demonstrations and crowds should not be the deciders of policy in a democratic system. Electoral outcomes or provisions for constitutional procedures like a referendum alone should decide policy on crucial issues like a state’s division.

The way the entire process was handled looks synthetic and artificial, almost a mockery of all democratic procedures. It is evident that a lot of hectoring was involved. The so-called core committee has none who represent the two disputants or protagonists. It does not even have the semblance of an honest broker. The members are drawn from all the other South Indian States, competing for industry, investment and river waters. Some represent the upper-riparian river areas with vested interests. Since the talk of division, thousands of crores of rupees of investment has moved out from Andhra Pradesh to Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. Andhra Pradesh Ministers queue up before New Delhi to present their cases. The Antony Committee has turned into a farce. None of the members ever visited the different regions of the State. It looks like a Hamletian mock play; like a royal court with the defendant absent. This is in stark contrast to the Prime Minister’s decision to not visit Sri Lanka, when Mr. Chidambaram protested. It hurts you bad and hurts you deep.

Legal hurdles

The court battle has not yet started. But it will. There are legal hurdles, not just Article 371D and E. There are procedural hurdles. Even if they can be overcome, the division cannot happen before the elections. There is absolutely no need for such a hurried caesarean. People on both sides are fed up. Fed up with politics and politicians. The 2014 election may throw up a strange mix of results. The Congress may or may not remain divided. Some parties may fade away. Some leaders will vanish too. In an undivided state, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) may turn into a Shiv Sena lookalike. The scenario is unpredictable now. But elections are the only democratic way to solve this issue. You either accept the Constitution and democracy, or you stay out of it.

Only through another States Reorganisation Commission constituted by Parliament should States be divided. National interests should override sectional and subregional interests. India can ill-afford expenditures on bureaucratic infrastructure and new capitals, as against the intense requirements of increasing food production and increasing water storage through environment-friendly methodologies. Creating new states is an ad hoc way of tackling unemployment or hunger or improving education or science and technology. There have been apprehensions whether all this is to weaken the quasi-federal nature of the Constitution and whether this is to ensure that only some States have an edge over who rules from New Delhi. It is time that these misgivings and doubts were dispelled and democratic procedures and national integrity upheld.

(Ravi Komarraju is emeritus professor, Andhra University.)


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