Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The pangs of separation..

The following article was written for Niti Central. Pasting it here for reference:
When the Andhra Pradesh Re-organisation Bill was first approved by the UPA Cabinet and sent to the Andhar Pradesh Assembly for its views, I wrote in Niti Central on why this Bill is a contentious one. The Bill provided for a common capital, common High Court, common Governor, and common entrance exam pattern. If everything substantial remained common for a period of 10 years, I wondered what exact purpose is this bifurcation achieving? Some of these are basic contentious issues that were supposed to be resolved ‘before’ the State split.
As has been predicted, the issue of common Governor and common exam pattern has kicked up a storm between the two new States – Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Let’s examine these issues now.
Who is a “Student of Telangana”?
One of the biggest reasons for YSR winning in 2009 and YSRCP garnering 67 seats in 2014 is the Fee Reimbursement programme introduced by YSR. Under this programme, economically backward families will be fully reimbursed with the fee they have incurred on their child’s education in degree colleges. Needless to say, even well-to-do families utilised this scheme by producing fake certificates. Since this heaped good electoral dividends, it was expected the new Governments of Telangana and Andhar Pradesh will continue with the programme.
The Telangana Government re-christened the programme to FAST (Financial Assistance to Students of Telangana). Who is a “student of Telangana”? According to the Government, anyone who traces back his ancestry to Telangana before 1956! Let me give you a couple of examples (most plausible ones):
1. If I was born in Hyderabad in 1991; if my dad was born in Hyderabad in 1961; if my grandad was born in Tirupati (or Chennai or Delhi) in 1931 and moved to Hyderabad in 1957 – then I am ‘not’ a “Student of Telangana”.
2. If my dad moved to Hyderabad anytime after 1956 (say as early as 1958), and I was born and bought up in Nizamabad from 1993, then I am ‘not’ a Student of Telangana”.
Essentially, students now will have to face hardships because their grandfathers have not settled in Telangana region before 1956! One argument being put forth is that this is for “economically backward” students, who form a miniscule portion anyway. The counter argument is that why should even a minuscule portion suffer because of the whims of the party in power? The second most important point is this – will the Government extend the concept of “Student of Telangana” to the admission process too?
For example: Osmania University guidelines suggest that if a student has studied for four continuous years prior to admission into degree colleges, in Hyderabad, he/she automatically qualifies to be a “local” for admission purposes. What does the new rule imply now? The Government has refused to give any clarity on this so far.
The Reorganisation Act calls for continuation of the existing pattern of common entrance exams. The Telangana Government is seeking more time to come up with the guidelines for admission process. The engineering, agricultural and medicine entrance test got over in May itself. While the AP Government is insisting on speedy counselling process, KCR wants time till October 30, so that the “process of bifurcation” is fully complete! The Act is very clear, but the Telangana Government insists on wanting more time. There is fear that his Government is contemplating such hare-brained rules for domicile status, as the one decided above.
UPA, in its haste, has left open the question of domicile. The pangs of separation are beginning to hurt students who will suffer for no fault of theirs, but for a decision of their grandfather or great-grand fathers! Quite obviously, the AP Government is taking up the issue. The sad part is that KCR continues to fan the “our children” versus “other children” rivalry.
Who controls Law and Order in Hyderabad?
The Act is very clear – “The Governor shall, after consulting the Council of Ministers of Telangana, exercise his individual judgement” with respect to issues of law and order in Hyderabad; and “The decision….shall not be called into question”.
One of the first things the Government of Telangana did after coming to power was to demolish illegal buildings in certain areas of Hyderabad. The TDP took up this issue saying that KCR is purposely destroying properties of people belonging to Andhra regions! They immediately called for handing over of law and order in Hyderabad to the Governor because the properties of people from Andhra are at stake! While the Act clearly states that the Governor exercises control, it is yet to be seen to be happening on the field. The Telangana Government is insisting that the control should lie with them and not the Governor.
For the record, it is a welcome move to demolish illegal buildings – so please don’t see this article as supporting the argument of TDP! The key issue is that the issues mentioned in the Act are not being implemented on the ground.
What about power?
The Act stipulates that all existing Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) shall stay – power distribution will be according to usage and not according to population. This essentially means there will be little or no change in the power distribution process too! However, one of the first things that the AP Government has asked is to cancel these PPAs and enter into new ones! AP will be a power surplus State if they get to use all the power generated in AP. To avoid such a situation, the Act basically stipulated a status quo argument. However, AP is not happy with it and is insisting on new agreements. The Modi Government has rejected this move by AP Government, but this issue continues to be a bone of contention.
It’s been just about 50 days since the new States have come into being. A clarity is yet to emerge on various issues – something that both the Chief Ministers make at every available opportunity. Both CMs are trying to instill confidence in their respective States by speaking of a glorious future. The day-day functioning though inspires little. It remains to be seen how the States will cope up with the pangs of separation.


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