Indira Gandhi stood for United Andhra
by Sai Prasan on 12 Oct 2013 3 Comments
Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi’s decision to divide Andhra Pradesh and form a separate Telengana state contradicts the firm stand of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Andhra Pradesh, as is well known, is the first linguistic state of India.


The Congress party’s decision in July this year, to divide Andhra Pradesh, led to a public uproar in the non-Telengana region. Following that, the Antony Committee was formed to look into the grievances of both sides. But the committee never visited the non-Telengana region. Worse, instead of making the report of the Antony Committee public, the Union Cabinet simply passed a note last week on the division of Andhra Pradesh. Indeed, it is not even known if the Committee submitted a report or not.


Interestingly, Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh promptly released two letters of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and YSR Congress Party expressing support for a separate Telengana. He said both parties are opposing the division of Andhra Pradesh now, though they had extended their support to the UPA government on the formation of Telengana in October 2008 and December 2012.


What is pertinent for the public, however, is the status of the Antony Committee. It should be made clear if it took the views of both the Telengana and non-Telengana region regarding the division of Andhra Pradesh; if the Committee has submitted its report or not; and if the report has been submitted, what are its recommendations.


The Congress president, vice president, and their subordinates should understand the culture, language and pre and post-independence history of Andhra Pradesh. Above all, they must learn about India Gandhi’s stand on Telengana. Addressing Parliament on December 21, 1972, she said, “I stand very firmly for an integrated state, thinking that just because you are separated, you can get rid of these people or we have got rid this problem is a very facile way of thinking. Our experience has not shown that this comes true”.


She added, “There is no state in India which does not have backward areas. Relatively backward and advanced areas exist not only in all states but in different regions of the same state. In Andhra region many members have drawn attention to areas such as Rayalaseema and Srikakulam. The Telengana region may be a backward region but it does have better-off areas”.


Indira Gandhi said that only backwardness cannot be the reason for the formation of small states. She observed, “Merely because an area is comparatively backward is not reason enough for taking drastic or irreversible decisions. Where will this process end? … where does anyone draw the line? Will each district want to be separate? … Do you go back to the old, very small states, princely states; do you go back to that? … You cannot just say that because of backwardness there should be division.”


The recent report of the Raghuram Committee Panel has proved the wisdom of Indira Gandhi’s assertions. The list of 28 Indian states on backwardness empirically demonstrates that the theory that smaller states are developed and bigger states are backward is wrong. Smaller states like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh still fall in the least developed category in spite of ten years of their formation while bigger states like Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu are relatively better developed.   


The different regions of Andhra Pradesh have been integrated economically and socially since the formation of the state in 1953. Its integration has become stronger in the post-globalised economy. Both Telengana and non-Telengana regions are inter-dependent on many fronts. Indira Gandhi had rightly said, “In fact, as I said on an earlier occasion, merely talking of separation is not an end of the problem. It is the beginning of another very big problem, not for other states but also for that area; that state itself”.


This is proving to be true. The decision of power sector employees of the non-Telengana region to go on an indefinite strike has crippled electricity supply not only in Seema Andhra and Rayalaseema regions, but has also hit the electricity supply to Telengana region and the State capital, Hyderabad. Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy has been saying from the beginning that farmers in Telengana will face a major problem of power deficit if the separate state is formed.


Even the Justice Srikrishna Committee report on mentioned the area-wise consumption of electricity in the agriculture sector of the State, according to which it is highest in Telengana compared to Seema Andhra, North Andhra and Rayalaseema. Besides Telengana, neighbouring states like Odisha and the entire southern grid are affected with the deficit of more than 4,000 MW caused due to the employees strike.


The current agitation in Seema Andhra shows the importance of the region in supplying essential commodities to Telengana, Hyderabad, and neighboring Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and other parts of the country. The disruption in the supply of essential commodities including eggs, onion, milk and rice has led to abnormal price rise which is hurting one and all.


Indira Gandhi had said, “There are some things which are part of our national life. It is true that the question of linguistic states was very much a part of the national movement. There was no getting away from it. The units of every part which was in existence at a time were formed on the basis of language in spite of the British provinces having different areas. There is an overall rationality in the formation of our various states and we should be very careful not to break this foundation of rationality in momentary passions. As I said at the beginning we should consider the feelings of people but it would be very wrong for the government to be swept away by feelings.”


All Congress leaders who are vehemently pushing for the division of Andhra Pradesh to reap political dividends should review and reconsider their decision. They should read the cultural and political history of Andhra Pradesh along with the recommendations of the Srikrishna Committee report in the right perspective. The formation of Telengana will have a far reaching impact in India. Hence, a nation-wide debate is the need of the hour to resolve the problem of Telengana.    


The author is a columnist; he can be reached at

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