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TELENGANA-ANDHRA PRADESH TENSIONS OVER POWER SHARE

By S. Sethuraman

Entering the sixth month post-bifurcation, Telengana and the truncated Andhra Pradesh are still in such unsettled conditions that governance and credibility are at a discount in the new State of Telengana while Seemandhra, battered recently by a super-cyclone, faces baffling problems of land acquisition for capital-building and fiscal management.

 

Both states are in massive budget deficits and have vainly looked to the Centre for assistance for the immediate but have to contend with the Prime Minister Modi’s mantra of “all possible assistance” to all seeing help. That remains the Centre’s holding line for the present, apart from Mr Modi’s announcements of disaster relief – Rs.1000 crore for the cyclone-devastated port city of Visakhapatnam and Rs.745 crore for flood-ravaged Jammu and Kashmir.

 

The two states are now eagerly looking for a special dispensation from the 14th Finance Commission, whose report on Centre-State fiscal devolution in 2015-20, is due to be presented any time now. The Commission chaired by Dr Y V Reddy, former Governor of RBI, rounded off their states’ visits in September with discussions in Hyderabad, where  the two Chief Ministers Mr K Chandrasekhar Rao (Telengana) and Mr Chandrababu Naidu (AP) enumerated their problems and special needs.

 

Meanwhile, the ongoing tensions between the two states over Telengana’s power crisis heightened lately with Mr Rao squarely blaming AP Chief Minister Mr Naidu for all the ills and woes of the new state, and firmly rejecting the latter’s stand that Telengana should not draw power from Srisailam hydel project “in violation of the GOs (Government Orders)” of the undivided Government.

 

Even though the Krishna River Management Board (KRMB) belatedly came into the picture for an effort to broker a temporary truce between the two quarrelling States, the Telangana government is preparing a note on moving the apex court on sharing of Krishna waters and power generation from Srisailam reservoir. Official view, both at the Centre and state levels, was that the matter was one which could be “politically settled” by the two CMs by mutual accommodation.

 

Governor Mr. E.S.L. Narasimhan stepped in on October 26 in a bid to initiate a dialogue between irrigation ministers and officials of both sides to settle inter-state differences but Mr Rao, who also met the Governor, complained that the Krishna River Management Board had also not acted and that without the apex court’s intervention, Telengana would find it difficult to meet its future power and water demands.

 

Whatever the current tensions over power-sharing, against the background of plain warning by  Mr Rao to his people that Telengana would take three years to solve the power crisis, the Government has been unable to persuade investors to set up new businesses, even with the attractions of the high-tech city in Hyderabad.

 

Both states have found it extremely difficult to implement election-eve promises by the Telugu Desam (TD) of Mr Naidu and Telengana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) on waiver of debts of farmers. With a fraction of the dues deposited, the two Governments are desperately trying to persuade banks not to hold up fresh crop loans. Farmers did not get adequate kharif crop loans this year.

 

Undaunted by the fiscal gap, Mr Rao goes about announcing new welfare schemes in order to keep up the morale of different sections but these lack credibility as to funding or implementation. 250 farmers have reportedly committed suicide in Telengana due to water and power shortages and debts. BJP and Congress opposition in the State have attacked the Rao Government for its failures to fulfil election promises and for not calling the budget session of the Assembly, though the vote-on-account expired by end-September..

 

While both the states are reaping the destabilising consequences of UPA Government’s abrupt move on bifurcation of the vibrant integrated state, the ongoing process of redistribution of assets and liabilities has proved too clumsy, and Telengana has suffered the most in the matter of power generation and availability.

 

The two Chief Ministers have taken their post-bifurcation problems to the Centre and both sides have faulted the AP Reoganisation Act or its fair implementation. Mr Naidu is at a relative advantage with a fairly comfortable power generation so as to hold out a promise of supply 24 hours a day in the near future.  Also, politically he stands on a better footing vis-a-vis the Centre as TD-BJP alliance shares power in the State.

 

But so far, the Centre is non-committal on the question of “special category” status for AP, promised by the UPA Government while getting the Parliamentary enactment on reorganisation. Mr Naidu is banking on that promise but he is exploring several ways of raising resources through bonds and other instruments for land acquisition and capital building.

 

Mr Chandrasekhar Rao in his meetings with Prime Minister Modi urged that Telengana should also be provided special category status with all the facilities and incentives the Centre was planning for Andhra Pradesh. The Telengana Budget now expected in the first week of November, with only five months left in the current year, should hopefully throw some light on how Mr Rao intends to carry out his never-ending promises of new welfare schemes.

 

Mr Naidu had drawn up an elaborate plan for the future development of Andhra Pradesh with a new capital in the Vijayawada-Guntur region along with over a dozen smart cities and industrial and food parks. The Centre has agreed to include an Outer Ring Road (ORR) for the capital region, which could be 180 kms, in the Centre’s Highway Development Programmes if AP Government acquired and provided the land.

 

Land acquisition is the most challenging problem for Mr Naidu and he is exploring the system of ‘land pooling’ – sharing a part of developed land with the farmer-owner – as well as acquisitions by private parties through negotiated prices with farmers in the process of capital development. Mr Naidu is also, building on past experience, planning to attract foreign investors and international development banks for investments in the construction and in industrial clusters proposed.

 

For all his ambitious plans, the rude shock for Mr Naidu came with the “Hudhud” Cyclone on October 12 which devastated the port city of Visakhapatnam and adjoining districts,disrupting all communications and causing extensive damage to the vital infrastructure and installations including the airport, the steel plant and the naval yard.  For the new AP, it is the largest city and one of pride for its greenery and other unique features. Within a week, the city revived itself with all essential services restored and people taking the initiative to re-green their city.

 

The AP Government having organized relief on a mass scale and restored power and other communications is now embarking on plans to rebuild the port city and revive agriculture and other livelihoods in the North coastal districts of Vizianagaram and Srikakulam. Mr Naidu also hopes to mobilize expertise from leading Indian expatriates in making Vizag the new IT hub of Andhra Pradesh and for software development in other centres. (IPA Service)

 

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