Tuesday, October 25, 2011

“Lessons for Leaders from Telangana Movement” – Professor M.S.Rao

"I may not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to my death your right to say it."  - Voltaire

Telangana has become a bone of contention among the people from various regions in Andhra Pradesh and it has become a thorny issue for Central government which is caught between the devil and the deep sea.  It is a fact that for every problem there are multiple solutions.  Similarly for resolving the Telangana issue amicably there are several solutions. But before discussing about the solutions it is essential to find out whether the present Telangana movement is the result of underdevelopment or overdevelopment. 

Underdevelopment vs. Overdevelopment

Usually demands come when some regions are undeveloped to make them developed on par with other regions.  In the case of Telangana movement it appears that it is due to the overdelopment of Hyderabad the leaders are asking for separate State. Historically Telangana, was never part of the present Andhra Pradesh as it was ruled by Nizams for many years.  When States were formed linguistically Telangana joined and Andhra Pradesh was formed on linguistic basis. Although the culture of this region is different that that of other regions creating Telangana State opens Pandora’s Box of demand for more States in India.  For instance, Gorkhaland in West Bengal, Vidharba in Maharastra and many other States may demand for creation of smaller states. Again it is a debatable issue whether smaller States pave the way for rapid growth and development. For a country like India where differences erupt easily in the name of religion, language, caste and region creating smaller States is a problematic one. It is not the creation of smaller States it also involves other sensitive issues such as river water issues, relocation or creation of more capital cities. 

Recently Indian Union Minister, Pranab Mukherjee had made his mind clear and said that the formation of Telangana state could trigger demands for many more new states in country leading to more complications. In fact, the demand for separate State is not possible when the majority of the people in Andhra Pradesh oppose.  Previous leaders especially N Chandrababu Naidu worked hard and branded Hyderabad as an investment destination and built it as a great brand to compete with another great southern city Bangalore.  He did it with good intentions and he did not expect that excessive development in one capital may invite the attention of the leaders of Telangana region to seek separate State.  In fact, people from all regions have contributed their best to develop Hyderabad city. There are regions in Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra that are more underdeveloped than the region of Telangana. It is unfair to seek separation just because the developed city falls in a particular region geographically.  People from all regions migrate to the capital cities of their respective States and other States and also India’s capital like New Delhi for better prospects.  Even the investors will come to capital cities for better business opportunities.  Therefore, it is unjustified to blame and brand people of other regions as looters and exploiters as few mischievous politicians incited people in the name of Telangana movement and it does not go well in democracy.  Law should take stringent action against such leaders who incite and create such ill-feelings among the people for their narrow political gains. Indian judiciary is very powerful as it played a key role in sending corrupt leaders to jails and it should play an active role to punish unscrupulous political leaders who poison the minds of the people and create divisions among the people in the name of caste, religion, region and community.  At the same time address the Telangana issue through dialogue and discussion in the larger interests of nation.  Here are the issues to address.

Issues to Address

  • Address the underdeveloped areas and take remedial measures through special care and attention.
  • Provide equal employment opportunities to the people from all regions based on the population strength although it appears to be tricky one.
  • Form another States Reorganisation Committee (SRC) keeping the present aspirations of the people. Previously states were formed based on linguistic basis and it is essential to take a relook at it in the current context. 
  • Take up developmental activities in all regions equally – Telangana, Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema. There are some districts in Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema that are more underdeveloped than the districts of Telangana.
  • Hyderabad is the capital of not only Telugus but all Indians who settled down there.  Telugus from all regions and non-Telugus and all communities have worked hard to make it as a great city. Nobody can claim this place as their properity based on geographical affiliation. The city belongs to all Indian citizens.  Hence, respect the aspirations of all communities and make Hyderabad as the common capital for all Indians.
  • Send strong signals that regionalism and fundamentalism has no place in a secular country like India where people love to live with peace and harmony.  

Dialogue and Consensus is the Key

It is the time political leaders should set aside their political differences and petty politics and work together for the progress of people from all regions in the State. It is the not problem of AP alone it could be problem for other States in India in future.  Throwing the ball into the Central government is not the solution for this contentious issue. All political parties in the State must sit across the negotiating table and negotiate with a win-win attitude and resolve the issue amicably. John F. Kennedy once remarked, “Never fear to negotiate and never negotiate out of fear.” Hence, leaders from all political parties in Andhra Pradesh must join together cutting across their party ideologies and self-interests to find a lasting solution to this vexed issue where all people can live with fraternity.

Lessons for Leaders

The Telangana movement provides several lessons for leaders not only to the State of Andhra Pradesh but also other States in India. There has to be development in all areas to avoid such movements in India. Previous governments in Andhra Pradesh have paid too much attention on Hyderabad brand building as it is the capital.  Although it was good for all Telugus but it caught the attention of leaders from Telangana to demand creation of Telangana State as Hyderabad is highly developed now. Had the past rulers developed equal cities in other regions of Andhra Pradesh such as in Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema the Telangana problem would not have surfaced.  Intellectuals must note and analyze this issue broadly. This is not the problem of Andhra Pradesh alone and it may become problem for other States in India in future. Hence, to avoid such movements in other parts of India, all regions of each State should have alternate developed cities other than capital cities in their states. It is like diversifying the risk and avoiding putting all eggs in one basket. It does not fuel demand for more states and even if such demands surface people from other regions would easily agree for sweet separation as they had equally developed alternative cities in their regions.  Hereafter, it is essential to develop alternative cities in both the regions of Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra instead of focusing on Hyderabad city alone. Such moves prevent emergence of regional leaders and exploiting regional sentiments to fill their private coffers in the name of regional pride.  Hence, intellectuals, analysts and policy makers must learn lessons from this Telangana movement and plan accordingly for the betterment of all regions equally.  To conclude, the present leaders must learn that the leaders who divided countries on community basis earned temporary fame but ended up with permanent blame. However, the leaders who worked for unity and fraternity like Mahatma Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln not only earned permanent fame but also excelled as legends in history while those who worked for separation went into the dustbins of history.

Professor M.S.Rao
Founder, MSR Leadership Consultants, India
Where Knowledge is Wealth

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