By:C H Hanumantha Rao
A Perspective for Inclusive and Sustainable Development
A new social framework which is participatory and accountable to stakeholders is a prerequisite for inclusive and sustainable development of the new state of Telangana which is to be created soon. The socio-economic challenges are in providing land security to the tribals, expanding surface irrigation, creating power-generating capacity and in providing better state provision of health and education services.
The imminent formation of the new state of Telangana promises to address and fulfil the long cherished hopes and aspirations of over 35 million people. The merger of the former Hyderabad state with the Indian union in 1948 marked the end of feudalism and opened up a vista of opportunities for development for the people of Telangana. But not much time was allowed for social change and transformation in Telangana before it was merged with the Andhra region to constitute the state of Andhra Pradesh in 1956. Telangana’s merger with the more resourceful, educated, skilled and politically dominant Seemandhra, far from releasing local initiative and enterprise, gave rise to new tensions and universal discontent among the people of Telangana consisting largely of weaker or disadvantaged sections, e g, scheduled castes (SCs), scheduled tribes (STs), Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and minorities, who constitute nearly 90% of the total population.
With the creation of Telangana, there would be high expectations from the common people for their economic betterment and for opportunities to participate in shaping their destinies. Nothing short of a new social framework that allows inclusive and participatory development would be able to meet these aspirations. This is desirable as well as workable. A sociopolitical arrangement that allows the common people to share political power and responsibilities at various levels would enable them to articulate their real problems and explore workable solutions in keeping with local resource endowments. Such an arrangement would also enable them to see the possibilities and limitations of development with the available resources and can elicit constructive effort from them, ensuring stability and social harmony.
Inclusiveness could not be achieved in the bigger state of Andhra Pradesh because the voice of the disadvantaged sections was fragmented. Experience shows that the traditionally entrenched interests are perpetuated in bigger and heterogeneous states, because of their access to large resources, power and influence. The weaker sections, on the other hand, can come together, organise themselves and raise their voice effectively in a relatively homogeneous state because of common history and traditions and hence an easy ability to communicate with each other.
Social Composition of Population
The tribal population is the most disadvantaged section socially and economically with a negligible political voice. They live in remote areas and are subjected to land alienation on a large scale. Hardly any initiative was taken in Andhra Pradesh to restore their lands despite the strong recommendations made by a high-level committee headed by Koneru Ranga Rao, a minister, constituted by the government. There, the administration is alienated from the people and so the area has been one where extremist activities have taken root. This has been treated not as a socio-economic issue, but mainly as a “law and order” problem. Because of this, the plight of the girijans (adivasis) has been perpetuated and the extremist activities have been surfacing time and again, notwithstanding the claims of “success” in this regard by the authorities.
According to the 2011 Census, the ST population constituted around 9.3% in Telangana as against 5.3% in the residual state of Andhra Pradesh. Thus, as much as 60% of the ST population of undivided Andhra Pradesh is concentrated in Telangana. Their voice can be expected to be more effective in the state of Telangana, not the least because their representation in the state legislature and other elected bodies at different levels would be proportionately greater. SCs account for about 15.4% of population in Telangana as against 17% in the residual state of Andhra Pradesh.
The population of Muslims was as high as 12.5% according to the 2001 Census in Telangana when compared to 6.9% in Seemandhra. As many as 61% of Muslims of undivided Andhra Pradesh live in Telangana, of whom 60% are spread over different districts other than Hyderabad. They too can be expected to have greater political clout in Telangana state in determining their fortunes as they can more easily relate themselves to the rest of the disadvantaged sections of the society in the struggle for a better and more secure livelihood. Social harmony between people professing different religions and speaking different languages has been proverbial in Telangana because of their shared history and traditions spanning over centuries (Rao 2010).
Radical land reforms were the prime agenda of the peasant movement in Telangana in the 1940s. However, not enough time was available for this process of agrarian reforms and social transformation to run its course. In fact, it was interrupted and there was some retrogression following the integration of Telangana with the Andhra region. In a larger and heterogeneous state like Andhra Pradesh, there was neither adequate perception of this problem nor a willingness to address it by the dominant political leadership which hailed basically from the developed region.
Thus, the weaker sections constituting the large majority of population in Telangana state and, for that matter, in the residual state of Andhra Pradesh would be better able to articulate their problems and politically assert themselves in smaller and relatively homogeneous states. The creation of Telangana state would thus strengthen the forces of social inclusion in both the states.
Feasibility of Inclusive Governance
The population of Telangana is over 35 million now – much more than 30 million for the whole of Andhra Pradesh, including Telangana, at the time of its formation in 1956. The demands on governance have multiplied over this half a century. Apart from commitment to the development of the region, a smaller state being more easily accessible to the common people can intelligently and speedily grapple with their problems.
Moreover, governance at the grass roots can be improved by ensuring greater accountability of performance through the panchayati raj institutions. But the devolution of functions, finances and functionaries to these institutions in the undivided state was far from adequate. A devolution index, constructed by including the above parameters, was much lower for Andhra Pradesh (50.1) when compared to the other southern states, e g, Kerala (75), Karnataka (69.5) and Tamil Nadu (67.1) (Reddy 2012). It is indeed ironical that in the undivided Andhra Pradesh, those in power owing allegiance to Rajiv Gandhi, who visualised the 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution, did not take any initiative to strengthen these institutions. On the contrary, attempts were made to undermine them by floating several top-down schemes and parallel implementation structures, even naming some of these schemes after Rajiv Gandhi! In smaller and relatively homogeneous states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, the empowerment of these local elected institutions can be expected to be high on the agenda, not the least because of the greater pressures these elected representatives can bring to bear on the new establishments.
The above social framework is a pre-requisite for setting up an appropriate agenda for inclusive development and for the effective implementation of programmes by ensuring accountability to stakeholders at different levels (Dawra 2012). The key areas of development which suffered neglect and severe policy distortions so far and hence need to be accorded high priority in the state of Telangana are: land issues, irrigation and power, and education and health.
The primary objective of the first round of land reform legislation in the 1950s and even of the second round in the 1970s was to “secure” land to the tiller. The issue now is to “restore” to the original owner-tillers the land alienated illegally, apart from distribution of land to the landless poor, to the extent feasible. Conserving the available public land and augmenting it further for essential public purposes such as schools, hospitals, house sites for the poor, etc, in the wake of rapid urbanisation is another issue.
On land issues, the recommendations of the Koneru Ranga Rao Committee, which are quite moderate and concerned basically with the more effective implementation of the existing laws (Rao 2007), can be made the basis of reform. These include restoring lands to tribals, checking further alienation of their land by reopening and re-examining orders in favour of non-tribals, and review of large number of cases of illegal occupation by non-tribals. In non-tribal areas these should include restoration of “assigned” land to the original assignees, or, where it is not possible, its resumption by the government for making fresh assignments to the landless poor; and issuing loan eligibility cards to the tenants to enable them to access institutional credit.
In the recent period, there has been a massive sale of government land to private parties and corporations in Andhra Pradesh. The data on the public land still available in Telangana needs to be brought out and an assessment made regarding the extent to which the government would be in a position to secure land for public purposes.
Irrigation and Power
In the last 50 years, there has been a major shift in the pattern of irrigation in Telangana making it more costly for the farmers, highly uncertain and unsustainable. There was a steep decline in the area under tank irrigation and a slow increase in irrigation under major and medium irrigation projects, leading to the sharp rise in area irrigated through private wells (TDF 2010).
This process needs to be reversed through a big drive for the repair and renovation of tanks by involving the local people as well as by stepping up public investment for tapping river water for irrigation, especially from the Godavari, for which there is considerable potential (Rao 2006). As far back as in the 1960s, the Techno-Economic Survey of Andhra Pradesh conducted by the National Council of Applied Economic Research pointed out that “the scope for large scale exploitation of groundwater is absent in Telangana as the substrata are trap or granite, incapable of yielding prolific groundwater supplies”, and that “Godavari water can very well be tapped in future to benefit the region” (Rao 2010).
Rejuvenation of tanks, wherever possible, can have an immediate beneficial impact on the livelihoods of the common people without much investment (Pingle 2011). Although the tapping of Godavari water in Telangana may entail substantial use of power for lifting water from the river, there would, at the same time, be a significant saving of power presently used for well irrigation because of the availability of irrigation water from canals (Vedire and Vedire 2008).
Telangana is now deficit in power, whereas Seemandhra has a surplus. This happened despite the existence of huge unexploited coal resources in Telangana suited to power generation. Some power plants in Seemandhra get the coal transported from Telangana, whereas it is far more economical to locate the power plants near the pitheads. The present supply-demand gap for power in Telangana, arising from long-standing neglect and discrimination in the creation of capacity in the region, can be met, in the short-run, only through special measures from the centre.
However, given adequate investment by the state government as well as the central government, ample power can be generated in Telangana without much of a time lag. This would generate large-scale employment locally, including in coal mining, power plants and ancillary activities.
Education and Health
There is a growing demand for education in Telangana, particularly at secondary and higher levels, as a means for obtaining better quality employment (GOI 2010). This is attributable mainly to low and uncertain incomes from agriculture when compared to the prosperous south coastal Andhra. Surprisingly, this phenomenon was first noticed way back in the 1960s (Rao 2010) and continues to the present. But the cost of education in Telangana has been rising because of increasing privatisation consequent to inadequate public provision. This is reflected in a rise of annual household consumer expenditure on education as a proportion to total annual household consumer expenditure (TDF 2010).
What is worse, the rise in the cost of education has been accompanied by deterioration in its quality. The dropout rate for students at the primary level is quite high in Telangana. Indeed, the increasing demand for education through private institutions is explained basically by the deterioration in the quality of education in government schools and colleges (CESS 2008). The major victims of this process of privatisation are students from low income groups, especially the SCs and STs, many of whom cannot afford costly education. It has adversely affected their competitive position in the job market (GOI 2010). This is reinforced by high spatial inequality, as, except in Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy districts, the provision of education is inadequate in the rest of Telangana, which continues to lag behind Seemandhra.
The major challenge, therefore, is to ensure affordable and quality education to students at all levels in large parts of Telangana. This requires a significant rise in public expenditure on education. It also calls for greater accountability of school management to the stakeholders through the local elected institutions for the provision of essential services like sanitation, ensuring proper attendance of teachers as well as their periodic training.
Telangana, including Hyderabad, had inherited good health infrastructure from the former Hyderabad state, so that it was ahead of Seemandhra at the time of the formation of Andhra Pradesh. But, as in education, there has been a concentration of facilities in Hyderabad, leaving the rest of Telangana far behind Seemandhra. In terms of hospital beds per lakh population, the gap between Telangana, excluding Hyderabad and Seemandhra has been increasing. In respect of the number of doctors per lakh population too, it falls behind Seemandhra.
As in the case of education, there has been a neglect of health services on the public account, while the private sector gained ascendance. Public expenditure on the health sector whether as a proportion of total public expenditure or of the gross state domestic product has been declining in Andhra Pradesh. Annual per capita government expenditure on healthcare is now well below per capita household expenditure on health services which accounts for a little over 70% of total per capita expenditure on medical care (CESS 2008; GOI 2010).
The growth of the private and corporate sector in healthcare has been encouraged by the government in various ways, and lack of government regulation on minimum standards has worsened the situation, especially for the poorer sections of population. Therefore, one of the major tasks confronting the new state of Telangana will be to substantially step up public expenditure on health services, especially on primary healthcare in rural areas, by making them accountable to the stakeholders. At the same time, there is a need for the regulation of the private corporate sector with a view to ensuring minimum standards and for preventing questionable practices.
A new social framework that is participatory and accountable to stakeholders is a prerequisite for inclusive and sustainable development. Sorting out the pending land issues will provide security for rural livelihoods and the necessary means for raising the incomes of the tribal population – the most marginalised section of rural society.
Reducing excessive dependence on well irrigation by expanding surface irrigation through the renovation of tanks and harnessing river waters will contribute immensely to sustainability, apart from reducing farm costs and uncertainty. The development of power on a priority basis will be indispensable in the new state of Telangana for overcoming inherited shortages, for lifting river waters for irrigation and to facilitate the growth of manufacturing as well as rural industrialisation in general.
The government should shoulder much greater responsibility towards providing primary and secondary education as well as primary healthcare by making them accountable to the stakeholders through the elected local institutions and by regulating the private players in these fields.
Restoring land to the tiller, especially in tribal areas, decentralising development by empowering elected local institutions, and stepping up public investment for essential physical and social infrastructure are the three major challenges in the new Telangana state.
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GoI (2010): Report of the Committee for Consultations on the Situation in Andhra Pradesh (New Delhi: Government of India).
Pingle, Gautam (2011): “Irrigation in Telangana: Rise and Fall of Tanks”, Economic & Political Weekly, Vol XLVI, Nos 26 and 27, 25 June.
Rao, C H H (2007): “Land Reforms in Andhra Pradesh: Major Issues”, The Hindu, 13 September.
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