The Justice Srikrishna Committee, which is looking into the feasibility of a separate Telangana State, is expected to submit its report by tomorrow. It might be useful at this point in time to revisit the recommendations of the 1953 States Reorganization Commission (SRC) – the Commission that had first examined the Telangana issue in detail. However, it must be kept in mind that some of those arguments and recommendations may not be applicable today.
Before independence, Telangana was a part of the Nizam’s Hyderabad State and Andhra a part of the erstwhile Madras Province of British India.
In 1953, owing to agitation by leaders like Potti Sreeramulu, Telugu-speaking areas were carved out of the Madras Province. This lead to the formation of Andhra Pradesh, the first State formed on the basis of language.
Immediately afterward, in 1953, the States Reorganization Commission (SRC) was appointed. SRC was not in favour of an immediate merger of Telangana with Andhra and proposed that a separate State be constituted with a provision for unification after the 1961/ 62 general elections, if a resolution could be passed in the Telangana assembly by 2/3rd majority.
However, a ‘Gentlemen’s agreement’ was subsequently signed between the leaders of the two regions and this lead to a merger. The agreement provided for some safeguards for Telangana – for instance, a ‘Regional Council’ for all round development of Telangana. Thus, a unified Andhra Pradesh was created in 1956.
In the years that followed, Telangana continued to see on-and-off protests; major instances of unrest were recorded in 1969 and in the 2000s.
The SRC 1953 report
The full SRC report can be accessed here. Summarized below are its main arguments and recommendations related to Telangana.
Arguments in favour of ‘Vishalandhra’
- The merger would bring into existence a large State with ample agricultural land, large water and power potential, and adequate mineral wealth.
- Fewer independent political jurisdictions would help accelerate important projects related to the development of Krishna and Godavari rivers.
- The two regions would complement each other in resources – Telangana was not self-sufficient in food supplies but Andhra was; Andhra did not have coal mines but Telangana did.
- Substantial savings could be realized through elimination of redundant expenditure on general administration.
- Hyderabad could serve as a suitable capital for the entire region.
Arguments in favour of a separate Telangana State
- Andhra had been facing financial problems and had lower per capita revenue than Telangana. Resources raised through land and excise revenues in Telangana were higher.
- Telangana claimed to be progressive in administration and hence did not foresee any benefits from a merger. In addition, people feared that the region might not receive adequate development focus in a large ‘Vishalandhra’.
- Telangana did not wish to lose its independent rights – for instance, the rights to utilization of waters of Krishna and Godavari.
- The educationally backward people of Telangana feared losing out to people from the more developed coastal regions, especially in matters of employment.
The Commission agreed that there were significant advantages in the formation of ‘Vishalandhra’. However, it noted that while opinion in Andhra was overwhelmingly in favour of a larger unit, public opinion in Telangana had still to crystallize.
Even though Andhra leaders were willing to provide guarantees ensuring development focus on Telangana, the SRC felt that any guarantee, short of Central Government supervision, could not be effective. In addition, it noted that Andhra, being a relatively new State, was still in the midst of developing policies related to issues like land reform. Thus, a hurried merger could likely create administrative difficulties both for both units.
The SRC thus recommended the creation of a separate Telangana State with provision for unification after the 1961/62 general elections.