The question of renegotiation of bipartisan projects acquires significance in the context of Telangana government‟s repeated assertion that it does not need to seek fresh permissions for constructing its Palamuru-Dindi irrigation project in Mahabubunagar district as the permits have already been accorded by the Central Agencies during the Andhra rule prior to 2014 in the undivided state of Andhra Pradesh. This is ironical, for, Telanganites achieved their statehood following a venomous campaign, spearheaded by the TRS, of neglect and pillage by Andhras of their region. Indeed, the TRS leader, KCR was so spiteful that he has even gone on record saying that these Andhras won’t leave even if we spit on their face. And on another occasion, he thundered something like, I want my Telangana, I am not bothered if Andhra is splintered into seven fragments following bifurcation, alluding to the simultaneous demand for separate Rayalaseema state.
The irony consists in acknowledging, if indirectly, that the projects, conceived by the ‘Andhra rulers’ are after all greatly beneficial to Telangana! The point however is hate-Andhra has been the glue for Telangana unity, or at least, that’s how the TRS molded the Telangana psyche through its relentless campaign.The real political gains are thus plain: Show Andhras as reneging on their own words (policy) and render their intentions suspect in the eyes of common Telangana electorate! With the Telangana TDP down, Congress constrained to take contradictory stands in the respective states, BJP measuring its words, given its alliance with TDP in AP, the field is left completely free for TRS to play its political game: Deepening the divide between the states and consolidating further its already strong political clout. The political atmospherics do not end there. Factors in BJP’s ambitious drive to replace both TTDP and Congress as the main opposition in Telangana.
Indeed, some analysts see this as one of the strong reasons for BJP’s less-than-lukewarm assistance to tiding over myriad problems faced by the residual Andhra Pradesh, glaringly the most ruined party in the bifurcation process. After all, longer the development of Andhra is retarded better are the chances of economic and financial consolidation of Telangana! It both prevents flight of industry and businesses to Andhra Pradesh (especially those in which Andhras invested), and leaves Hyderabad, that is Telangana, as the unchallenged destination, within the Telugu states, to attract new big-ticket (including foreign) investments. For, it is not inconceivable that BJP be at work strangulating the TDP (and Andhra Pradesh) with velvet gloves, so that a hotchpotch coalition takes over in 2019 further retarding the state‟s development. Otherwise, it is difficult to fathom why India’s ruling party – oozing sympathy in tons when in opposition – is, after 2 years in power, still in the process of promising and assuring, sifting oral and written, and finding out the lowest possible denomination for the implementation of the bifurcation promises.
This macro political scenario apart, it is sheer political decency that when a state takes up a project that affects the interests of a neighboring state, it does it in a proper official way both to allay fears as well as to ensure that the state abides by an official instrument to respect the neighboring state‟s legitimate rights. Moreover, the status of permissions given to a combined state does not remain the same when the combined state is divided into to two autonomous states. The simple reason is that in the combined state, the project and the affected area come under one political administration whereas in a divided scenario they fall under different state administrations each having responsibility to one or the other (project or the affected area). This means status of combined state’s government and the present Telangana government are not the same! Their jurisdictions, their political mandates are different.
The Telangana government, for example, is not legally or politically concerned with what happens to irrigated agriculture in Rayalaseema. They may have tons of sympathy for Rayalaseema but it is not their mandate to ensure water to irrigate parched Rayalaseema lands. For them, it is their lofty ideal and their electoral promise of irrigating one crore acres of Telangana land is the mandated priority. Such is not the case with the combined state. It has the responsibility for both the project and the affected area together. It therefore has the flexibility, not just in designing the project, but also to ensure, one way or the other, water to Rayalaseema lands. This is the reason why it is ethically and administratively wrong to launch irrigation projects that affect interests of one of the divided entities on the basis of the permissions accorded to the combined entity.
But why has Telangana failed to act with grace? It is true going through all the administrative formalities, once again, would delay the start of the controversial Palamuru-Dindi project in the Mahabubunagar district. After all, TRS and the Telangana government have no time to lose, for, their goal is to irrigate one crore acres of land within 3 years! Thus, the Rs 84,000/- crore Kaleswaram project with a dozen or more barrages as well as the projects like Palamuru-Dindi need to be executed on a war footing! Could this then be one of the reasons for resisting re-initiating the entire administrative process and falling back on the easy option of the „Andhra-secured‟ permissions even if it entails a bit of compromise on Telangana self-respect?
Yet, the Telangana minister, T.Hareesh Rao did call his Andhra counterpart, Devineni Uma Maheswara Rao for talks in an apparent bid to wrap up the project through a bilateral assent. But the Andhra irrigation minister quietly pointed to the need for discussing the matter in the Krishna River Management Board (KRMB). That is where the controversy erupted, Telangana claiming that KRMB has no role as well as alleging its Andhra-bias and the Andhra CM writing to Centre citing provisions in the AP Reorganization Act that empower KRMB to adjudicate the matter.Yet, the Telangana fear of falling behind schedule does not provide a convincing explanation. After all, if such mammoth projects are delayed by an year or two the electorate would not disown a party that relieved them from the clutches of monstrously oppressive Andhra regime.
Thus, the TRS party, lead by the deified KCR, is at no risk whatsoever of losing the 2019 elections on this count. And it is unthinkable that a fresh application by Telangana for permissions would in any way be looked upon unfavorably by various water authorities such as KRMB, CWC, Union Ministry of Irrigation… etc. Why then, the Telangana picks up a quarrel with Andhra for something that could be totally avoided, at the cost of say 6 to 12 months delay in launching the project? And chose even to downgrade sublime Telangana pride? Equally, why did Andhra object to such simple thing as expedient use of past permissions for an ambitious irrigation project which after all, its leaders themselves intended a few years ago as „rulers‟ of the combined state? Answers to these questions show how political leaders covertly package the realpolitik, that is, the underlying motives, within the spectacularly presented public interest projects.
One of the highly emotional catch-words of the agitational TRS was water-pilferage by the Andhra rulers. Their charge was that “Telangana water” was being diverted to “illegal projects” in Rayalaseema. While it is not known how authentic both the source and interpretation behind these leaders‟ calculations, it is only bargaining for rigidity in governance to pre-allocate water (any resource for that matter) region-wise. Moreover, such allocations would result in wastage for they may be idling for years before projects for their use are in place. Even if the state shows a region- wise or district-wise requirement for the purpose of obtaining maximum possible allocation from the national pool, internal usage depends upon the policy matters and materially available infrastructure. And when cultivation in Andhra region is several time cheaper than the lift-irrigated cultivation in Telangana, sheer commonsense dictates that the government concentrate on the former both to feed the hungry millions whichever region they may belong and to strengthen economy quickly.
Worse, the TRS leaders conveniently forget that Telangana has got one and half to two times more industrial development than what it should have in terms of population ratio. The Hyderabad region itself counts for 60 to 70% revenue in the combined state and strangely the TRS leaders never considered this to be a highly satisfactory compensation for their “water loss”. It did not occur to them that such a loss also counts equally as gross injustice done to Andhras on the development front. Better, today‟s surplus Telangana state is largely sustained by Hyderabad‟s revenue – estimated to be anything between Rs 35,000/- to Rs 40,000/- crores largely coming from Andhra investments – that Sonia Gandhi‟s perfidy legalized in favor of Telangana. To cap it, the political class, which must surely include Sonia Gandhi‟s preponderant clout as well, has seen to it that the two dozen admitted petitions on AP Reorganization Act did not come up for hearing in the Supreme Court, thereby ensuring Telangana‟s economic viability through questionable means.
The contentious now is clear. Telangana wants to somehow extract an official endorsement of their claim on water-pilferage and Andhra Pradesh wanting to prevent it. So the clever strategy the TRS government devised is to corner Andhra government by invoking the 2013 permissions granted, at the behest of the “Andhra Rulers” in the combined state, for what is now christened as Palamuru-Dindi project and redesign the same to include the quantity of water that the TRS leaders felt were diverted illegally, thereby exposing Andhra leaders to the dilemma of either to surrendering (that is, accepting that Telangana waters were illegally diverted and restoring the same) or to facing charges of contradiction and non-cooperation. Indeed, Telangana ministers went to the extent of threatening and black-mailing saying that Andhra would be the loser if it does not cooperate (euphemism for „surrender‟) which they are well-placed to carry out, being an upper riparian state.
In contrast, if Telangana seeks fresh permissions, it will be answerable to provision of water to the projects to which allocations are already in place. Whatever may be the arguments in favor and against, this is going to be a ticklish issue and not easy to clinch. This explains why Telangana is reluctant to go to the KRMB or other Water /Irrigation authority. Notice also that the political fall-out in favor of TRS is also not negligible for the simplistic message would go into gullible public, who has unbounded love for their hard-fought state and unbridled faith in the leadership that won them the state, that Andhra‟s adamancy is preventing Telangana‟s development as in the past.
To conclude, a word about Telangana’s water-thirst. Telangana seems to have asked for a compensation of 45 TMC of water for Pattiseema and another 45 TMC for Polavaram. It is not known under what rationale Telangana makes such demands. For, Pattiseema, a temporary project, designed to lift water out of Godavari flood water or the excess rain water. It does not in any manner impinge upon Telangana’s water claims. And if it is known that around an estimated 3,000 TMC of Godavari water flows into sea every year, one realizes how ridiculous Telangana demand for compensation on diversion of excess rain and flood water is. Polavaram project is part of the AP Reorganization act meant to alleviate, on a permanent basis, the water woes of Andhra Pradesh, the lowest riparian state under both Godavari and Krishna.
Just as Telanagana is not under any obligation whatsoever to part with a single rupee of revenue from Hyderabad, despite vast investments by the Andhras, Andhra Pradesh is under no obligation whatsoever to compensate even 1 cusec of water to Telangana from Polavaram. The silver-lining comes from the exhortations of KCR, sometime ago while laying foundation stone for some Godavari barrage in Khammam, when he, doning the mantle of a philanthroper, called upon Andhra to build a second reservoir at Polavaram to cater to Telangana in the interest of feeding the hungry millions! There is perhaps no parallel in the history of independent India of an upper riparian state laying such open (and unabashed?) claims on the lower riparian state‟s water!
The bottom line of Telangana’s irrigation policy seems to be one of hydrologically strangulating Andhra Pradesh and impose its terms. This is not inconceivable for TRS has always seen the internal corruption, endemic in political system, as over-lordship and willful discrimination against Telangna and perhaps now, flush with political power, wants to pay Andhras in the same (perceived) coin. The political astuteness of Sonia Gandhi precisely consists in creating conditions of self-destruction vis-à-vis a target, through remote handling – a typical Western character trait intended to debunk judicial cognizance.
By Dr. Codadu Pratap
Suggested Index tag: AP-TS relations viewed in the context of the current water disputes between these states while tracing their evolution with reference to recent macro-political developments revolving around the state bifurcation.