Monday, June 22, 2015

One year after Bifurcation - Part1

The following article was written for Niti Central. Pasting it here for reference:

When the AP-reorganization bill was first released to the public many wondered why the Congress party was bothering to split the state if they are proposing a common capital, common High Court, common Governor, and a common Entrance exam! Events in the past one year since the birth of Telangana (TS) and Andhra Pradesh (AP) prove that these points have been areas of serious concerns between both the states. In the past one year, apart from these controversies, both states have taken some major policy decisions and have focused on implementation of a few. This two-part series will explore the controversies post-bifurcation; and also how both the states have fared so far on governance and policy fronts:
The first part will discuss the contentious issues between the two states.
Common High Court
Within months of the new states being born, Advocates belonging to both the states have upped the ante in demanding that the High Court be split as soon as possible. One of the key points in Telangana CM’s many discussions with the central ministers and also the CJI has been to speed up the process of bifurcating the High Court. There is major pressure from the Telangana advocates on this front – so much that they even blocked a Judge’s car by holding placards that say “Andhra Judges, Go Back”! The acrimony was so bad that a farewell planned for outgoing CJI by the advocates, had to be cancelled because both (AP and TS) groups wanted to own the organising of the farewell party!!
A PIL was filed asking for an establishment of AP High Court in Hyderabad itself, till the time AP government decides on the premises in its state. The argument was that if two secretariats and two Assembly buildings are possible, why not two High Courts? The Hyderabad High Court rejected this argument and has ruled that the premises for AP HC must be in AP only. The center has begun to take baby steps towards splitting, but no concrete proposal has come forward yet – primarily because the AP government is yet to respond on where the HC will be located. Whilst the TS government wants a speedy resolution, keeping in mind the aspirations of Telangana people and lawyers, the AP government is in no hurry to establish a High Court within its geographical region. Till then – people suffer.
Common Entrance Exams
Right from the word go – this had the word “controversy” written all over it. The act said the entrance exams shall be common. It did not tell us who will conduct this exam! So quite naturally, both AP and TS vied for the honours. Almost immediately after the states were born, TS government asked for postponement of counselling for students who passed the 2014 EAMCET (Engineering, Agriculture, and Medical Common Entrance Test) exam. The matter had to be taken to Supreme Court, which ruled that the counselling cannot be postponed and has to completed by August and will be conducted by the AP government (common for both TS and AP).
After the uneasy truce over counselling, the next impediment was the Intermediate (+2) exams and the 2015 EAMCET. TS took a step forward and announced that it will go ahead and conduct its own entrance exam. The Governor tried to bring about a truce by meeting both the HRD ministers from the states, but to no avail. AP was arguing that the provision of the Reorg act were clear that AP must conduct the common exam. TS argued the reverse. The High Court ruled that AP did not have the exclusive right to conduct the common exam. Eventually both the governments took separate routes – and conducted all exams on their own. Students wanting admissions into colleges in and around Hyderabad now had to write two entrance exams. However, a noteworthy point is that it is good that this clarity has emerged in the first year. This would have been even more acrimonious had it been allowed to be postponed.
Bifurcation of Employees
Believe it or not, the bifurcation of employees is not yet complete! So much that none of the governments were not able to announce new positions – because they are still not sure of the available number of positions. The bifurcation of All India Services itself took more than 4-5 months, with the Prime Minister sending back the file twice for reconsiderations! Once that was accomplished, the governments have now focused on splitting up of the employees. Just about a couple of weeks back, various employee unions in TS have rued that the bifurcation of the employees is not fully complete and is causing many hardships to them!
Water and power sharing issues
In February this year, there was a major flareup at the Nagarjuna Sagar Dam. The major flareup resulted in policemen from both the states clashing with lathis! The flare up was regarding the amount of water to be released from the dam, and who had the final say on the decision! It required the Chief Ministers of the two states to meet in the presence of the Governor and resolve the issue. The commendable aspect being that both CMs resolved this issue within 24 hours. There have been major problems with respect to sharing of power too. The first salvo was fired by AP government when it wanted to scrap PPAs. . Earlier in the year, TRS government blamed AP partially for the power crisis in the state. They accused AP of deliberately producing less power so that they share less with Telangana. AP put forth its share of arguments as to why production went down. Later, KCR went a step ahead and announced that he will never buy power from AP because they are selling it a very high rateHowever, the current situation with respect to power supply and distribution is quite good in both the states – so there is little conflict now.
Common Governor
The only sensible arrangement in the bill was to have a common governor, till a time the President decides to have separate governor. E. Narasimhan has conducted himself with dignity. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Congress spokesperson, however once wondered why there is no governor for Telangana. How does one respond to such meaningless questions?
Political Scenario
One of the biggest advantages in both the states was the clear mandate the TRS and the TDP got. Quite expectedly, there have been exodus into these parties.
In Telangana, 5 TDP MLAs moved over to TRS. Two of them have been given ministerial positions. 2 MLAs who won on BSP ticket have moved over to TRS. TRS suffered a minor setback when their candidate lost the BJP+TDP candidate in the MLC Graduate constituency elections from three districts (that included Hyderabad). Otherwise, the opposition parties have pretty much been lame duck – not showing any aggression in countering the government.
In AP, a couple of MPs who have been elected from the YSRCP have now sided with TDP. No MLAs from YSRCP have officially jumped into the TDP (because they would invite disqualification, as YSRCP has 67 seats in a 175 seat assembly). However land acquisition issues in AP have grabbed some headlines, thereby creating some space for the opposition. Film star Pawan Kalyan made a fleeting appearance in support of the farmers who were not willing to part with their land for the capital region.


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