Enterprise Telangana

Statehood for Telangana is an idea whose time has come.

By Jaideep Mishra in The Economic Times

The report of the Committee for Consultations on the Situation in Andhra Pradesh, or the Justice Srikrishna committee , is clearly economical with the truth when it avers that there is no real regional disparity vis-à-vis Telangana and coastal Andhra.

As a matter of fact, entrepreneurship is highly developed in the coastal region of the state, and it is this skewed tradition of profit-earning that seems to have coagulated into a sense of grievance and continuing resentment in Telangana.

It is a celebrated fact that in the last couple of decades, star entrepreneurs from coastal Andhra have made it big on the national stage. In recent years, big airports, large power plants and other infrastructure, such as highways, have come up pan-India thanks to the business savvy and entrepreneurship emanating from coastal Andhra.

The committee has suggested a regional council to address the imagined sense of backwardness in Telangana, but it’s a moot point whether the move would boost entrepreneurship in the region.

In business, nothing succeeds like success , and is it predictable that entrepreneurs , contractors and suppliers from coastal Andhra — albeit now based in Hyderabad and elsewhere — are much more likely to prosper and thrive in the state and well beyond . Also, how regions and whole societies become enterprising and entrepreneurial , across time and space, is well worth study and follow-through .

But in the Indian context, the experience of the last several decades is that statehood can give rise to, sustain and actually boost entrepreneurship. Hence the rationale for a separate Telangana state, bifurcated from Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra, or Seema-Andhra . It ought to rev up entrepreneurship across the board in Telangana, and benefit the region and the nation.

The committee report has an entire chapter (No. 2) on why Telangana is not economically or otherwise backward compared to coastal Andhra. But to begin with, a historical perspective would be relevant. The demand for Telangana state, and a lack of thriving entrepreneurship, has much to do with proactive water policy or otherwise, going back over a century and more.

The fact of the matter is that the Godavari Barrage, built circa 1850, veritably transformed the famine-prone districts of coastal Andhra into a huge granary.

Sir Arthur Cotton , who designed the barrage and oversaw its construction in the high noon of the colonial era, was a remarkable technocrat with rare vision. The annals record that he engineered the ‘magnificent project’ making the best use of local material such as lime, quarry and excellent teak.

The dam across the river Krishna followed next. And after completing the Krishna and Godavari anicuts, Sir Arthur did envisage a port and harbour at what is now Visakhapatnam. The point is that proactive policy on irrigation then did lead to surpluses, and when the economy opened up in the path-breaking 1990s, it meant a flowering of entrepreneurship from coastal Andhra.

It is plain that in adjoining Telangana, the Nizam, whose writ prevailed, lacked the foresight to build canals and waterways, as in coastal Andhra during the days of the Raj. And despite the fact that both the Godavari and the Krishna also flow through Telangana .

Note that because of the historical lack of modern irrigation systems in Telangana, there has been reliance on traditional tank and well irrigation. However, in recent decades , we have witnessed a neglect of policy focus and funding for tank irrigation nationally , Telangana being no exception.

The report mentions that there are over 13,000 industrial establishments registered under the Factories Act in coastal Andhra — a large number of which are rice mills — compared with over 12,000 such units in Telangana area, including Hyderabad.

Also, per factory, the number of workers is 33 in Telangana, 44 in Hyderabad city and 25 in coastal Andhra. The report then jumps to the conclusion that there is a ‘degree of comparability’ between Telangana and coastal Andhra. But one will still need to factor in entrepreneurship or the lack of it to analyse the sense of misgiving in Telangana.

In a similar vein, the greater drawal of power in Telangana, which the report takes note of, may simply point at the lack of irrigation supply on the ground. On employment , the report calls for better implementation of the Presidential Order of 1975, which divided Andhra Pradesh into six zones for recruiting ‘local’ candidates for government jobs, mainly non-gazetted categories . A better solution would be greater scope for entrepreneurship in Telangana.

It is only towards the end, in chapter 6, that information technology-led business development of Hyderabad is stressed, and how entrepreneurs from coastal Andhra have been much involved in the field.

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