Fast and furious

Print edition : November 01, 2013

THE United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre has accelerated the process of carving out a separate Telangana State. The pace with which the government is going ahead with the process shows that political considerations, rather than public demand, motivated the decision. The Cabinet note approved by the Union Council of Ministers at its October 3 meeting details the issues that will be considered before dividing the State.

Among these are contentious ones, such as the sharing of river water, power and assets and liabilities and, most importantly, the status of Hyderabad.

It has been accordingly decided that Hyderabad will be made the common capital of the two States—Telangana and what will remain of Andhra Pradesh—for 10 years. Legal and administrative measures will be put in place to ensure that both State governments function efficiently from the common capital.

Another important decision was the constitution of a Group of Ministers to address issues arising out of the bifurcation. The GoM will determine the boundaries of the two States with reference to electoral constituencies, judicial and statutory bodies and other administrative units. It will be asked to look into the issues of law and order, safety and security of all residents and long-term internal security implications arising out of the creation of a new State.

The constitution of the GoM has resulted in severe criticism. The Cabinet note mentioned that Ministers with the portfolios of Home, Finance, Law, Human Resources Development, Water Resources, Urban Development, Roads, Transport & Highways, Power and Personnel and the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission would be members of the GoM. But the group has been constituted without Ministries in charge of Water Resources, Power and HRD, the three major areas of concern that have put the State through turmoil for more than two months. Questions are being raised on the efficacy of the GoM’s functioning as not a single Minister from the affected State is taken on board.

The GoM has now been restricted to six members in addition to a special invitee, V. Narayanasamy, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office. The absence of a representative from Andhra Pradesh is attributed to the resignation of four Union Ministers from Seemandhra and the reluctance of those still continuing in their posts to become party to the bifurcation of the State.

Another interesting aspect of the Union Cabinet’s decision is the clear demarcation of the Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies that will form part of the two States. The 18 Rajya Sabha and 42 Lok Sabha seats in Andhra Pradesh will be apportioned between the two States with Telangana getting seven Rajya Sabha and 17 Lok Sabha seats.

The name of the new State and its territorial jurisdiction and the modalities to be followed for the expeditious creation of a capital for residuary Andhra Pradesh are some of the other issues. Though the plan is to retain the existing Assembly constituencies (119 in Telangana and 175 in Seemandhra) until the next delimitation process is taken up, the Cabinet note recommended that the existing High Court may exercise its jurisdiction over both States until arrangements are made, in consultation with the Chief Justice of India, for setting up separate High Courts.

In respect of water resources, the note said the Re-Organisation Bill would contain specific provisions to protect the status quo in respect of water use rights of basin States of inter-State rivers. Not only the water use rights of the two successor States should be protected, but the obligations of the existing State towards other co-basin States will have to be honoured by the two successor States.

The Cabinet suggested that the Re-Organisation Bill include provisions relating to the constitution of water management boards for the river basins and declare the Polavaram project as a national project. It said there was the need for sharing of power and related resources between the two States, which will be decided by the Central government in case of disagreement.

The note said the apportionment of assets and liabilities should be subject to financial adjustment that could ensure just, reasonable and equitable distribution among the successor States, and any dispute regarding the amount of assets and liabilities could be settled through mutual agreement between the two, failing which the Centre would intervene with necessary orders on the advice of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

Finer issues relating to the functioning of statutory corporations, cooperative banks and the Public Service Commission could be worked out between the two States, while another contentious issue, Article 371-D inserted in the Constitution, could be suitably amended or repealed on the basis of the decision of the GoM, the note said.

M. Rajeev

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