Apparently, the basic reason why the people of Telangana wanted creation of a new state was the economic neglect and comparative backwardness of the region. Let us hope that with the coming into existence of the two new states of Telangana and Seemandhra, both areas will see a new phase of overall development, focusing particularly on the backwardness or neglect factors and will in the next couple of years justify the creation of smaller states.
Seemandhra has about 67 per cent of the area sown and 27.5 per cent is the net irrigated area. In the Telangana area, this is 41 per cent and 17 per cent. While Telangana has power generation capacity of 4,368 Mw, Seemandhra has 7,082 Mw. When it comes to road network density, out of the ten districts of Telangana, one has road length in the lowest category of 0-25 km per hundred sq km, two are in the 25-50 km category and seven in the 50-75 km category. In the case of Seemandhra, there is none in the 0-25 km category, two in the 25-50 km category, and eight in the 50-75 km category, whereas three figure in the 75-100 km category. Seemandhra has a larger share of national and state highways whereas Telangana has more of panchayat roads. Being a coastal state, Seemandhra has the advantage of five ports with ten more planned on a PPP basis, and six districts have airports as well. Telangana has two airports, including Hyderabad. Other than Hyderabad, the two cities with million-plus population are in Seemandhra, whereas there is none in Telangana. Telangana’s 158 towns are newer and part of ribbon development along roads, whereas Seemandhra’s 195 towns are extensive municipalities, many of them very old.
There is a clear general conclusion emerging that though the state of AP was created on a linguistic basis, its journey so far has not been able to ensure overall balanced development in the entire state, and mostly because one region seems to have remained neglected in terms of basic infrastructure and social development, the people there felt that the best way to get their desired level of progress is to be a separate state. A review of the process of creation of the three new states of Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh makes it clear that we have travelled much beyond the linguistic basis of creation of states, and that neglect of parts of states coupled with the adverse effects of being located far from the state capital makes the demands for smaller and manageable states with development as the prioritised agenda stronger and sharper.
Since this could become a trend hereafter, it would be important to consider as to what fundamentals need to be addressed within a state to ensure that each region is fully taken care of. A time has come when people of a state are not prepared to live with lesser development prospects just dictated by technicalities like the state’s boundary or geographic limits of a district.
There are also issues when, on one side of the international border, mobile signals are very strong, roads are well built and maintained and even rail connectivity exists almost up to the border, making the people on the other side wonder why similar facilities cannot be made available there as well. In our development process, cities tend to grow fast, becoming engines of growth and then they grow into million-plus- population cities, confirming that they are the preferred nerve-centres of economic activity.
Gone is the relevance of days of schemes and programmes being worked out on a one-size-fits-all basis and states allocating funds on the basis of the district as a unit. We need to look at regional strategies and outputs and results on a regional basis as well, so that there is more focus on areas where imbalances and deficiencies are the greatest. Like the concept of regional plans in the urban planning context, we need regional approaches cutting across state and district limits. Present regional development authority concepts have to be made stronger and more relevant as well as result-oriented, if the desired faster changes are to take place. National programmes like building national highways, national waterways, rail networks and the like, have to be intertwined with other development programmes, cutting across departmental and subject-specific limits.
Initiatives like the Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor, the Yamuna expressway in UP, river linking projects and so on should not only focus on the specified sector but also take the shape of integrated projects whereby, while building the new townships, the immediate coverage area as well as the adjoining areas derive secondary benefits as well in the social sectors also. The Centre and the states need to evolve strategies whereby two contiguous areas falling in two different states can equally benefit through all the related or subsidiary benefits of national or state programmes taken up.
Also, the Planning Commission and the state planning boards should be mandated to undertake periodic, independent assessment of regional indicators of development annually, as also to account for the regional balance or imbalance, as the case maybe. Once the objective of all-round, balanced development across regions gets served in a steadfast and consistent manner, since that would lead to some sort of satisfaction among the residents of all areas of the state, there may not be any need to agitate for newer and smaller states.
The writer is a former secretary to the government of India