How is Telangana doing?

ABOUT 2 YEARS AFTER BIRTH : The most visible change has been in the situation regard-ing power supply but water remains a major problem in much of th

How is Telangana doing?
In a few months time, Telangana will be two years old. The state was formed after a prolonged agitation and popular protest, largely as a fall out of deep agrarian crisis, growing unemployment and cultural denigration. Though the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) won a whopping 99 seats in the recent Municipal elections, we need to ask as to how Telangana is doing now.

The most visible change has been in the situation regarding power supply. Power supply that was not only irregular but also contributed to agrarian crisis has improved dramatically. Today, all villages get uninterrupted power supply to the households and for six hours for the agricultural purposes, which the new government has promised to increase to nine in the next few months.

The government, immediately after assuming power, announced loan waiver up to Rs 1 lakh per family. However, this was waived in installments of 25% every six months.
According to the farmers, this has not really helped them to get rid of the loans and instead, they continue to reel under debts as most of the waiver is being used to pay the interests and the principle amount is being repaid only partially in small amounts. Further, they pointed out that there is no policy for providing support price or subsidies on in-puts such as fertilisers and no compensation being provided for crop failure.

Water continues to be a major problem in much of Telangana. Most of the projects are either contested in water tribunal or many of the pending ones have not been cleared or completed. The government has instead taken up the project called ‘Mission Kakatiya’ under which old lakes, ponds and other water bodies that had dried up are re-dug, hoping that a good monsoon will fill them up.

In a few districts, free borewells are being supplied but the ground water level is too low (in most cases bores go as deep as 800 metre to strike water). Similarly, under ‘Mission Bhagiratha’, the TRS government has promised to tap water for every household.

Labour and wages remain the other major problems in the agrarian sector. While wages have not risen for the landless after the formation of Telangana, farmers holding land continue to complain about the lack of the availability of labour making agriculture untenable.

Many of the farmers now demand that the labour under the rural job scheme (MNREGA) needs to be shifted for agricultural purposes instead of other developmental activities, which they believe in any case, are not of much use.

The policy of Re 1 a kg rice scheme with 6 kg of rice per person is a very effective scheme providing great relief to the BPL families. Along with the rice scheme, the government’s pension scheme is also popular in the rural hinterlands of Telangana. The new government has increased the pension amount from Rs 200 to Rs 1,000. In the last one year, after the formation of Telangana, close to 900 farmers have committed suicides, next only to Maharashtra where 2,568 farmers committed suicide.

Agrarian crisis

The agrarian crisis was the single most important reason why the demand for Telangana erupted. Questions need to be raised if it continues to be of priority for the new government. While it has disbursed a range of welfare oriented policies (much of which are a continuation of the policies formulated by the previous Y S Rajasekhara Reddy’s government) the agrarian crisis is yet to be averted and it needs some pressing and fast paced steps from the government to stop further suicides.

Similarly, alongside the farmers are the Muslims, the other social group that remains marginalised in Telangana. Under the YSR government, Muslims were awarded 4% reservation as part of the OBC reservations. The TRS government has promised to enhance it to 12%.

The Subramanium Committee, instituted in 2007, had identified 28 groups out of which 14 groups were made ineligible for reservation due to their superior social status, including sects such as Sheiks, Sayeeds, Pathans etc. 

These, in a sense, are perhaps the few communities that can afford higher education but having been denied the provision of reservation, we find almost 80% drop outs among Muslims. There is an impending need to provide educational loans and build social welfare hostels, which contributed in a big way towards improving literacy among the SC/STs.

The most popular policy that has struck a chord among the Muslims is ‘Shaadi Mubarak’ where the government offers Rs 50,000 to perform the marriage of girls from the economically weaker sections (the Hindu counterpart ‘Kalyana Laxmi’, with similar grant).
Most of the Muslims continue to be self-employed and without land holding in the rural hinterlands of Telangana. They continue to live under conditions of social segregation, fear and many a time implicated in false cases of crime. Culturally, Telangana had a strong Sufi tradition and even today, besides Muslims, a large number of Hindus visit dargas. Perhaps, political parties such as the MIM are not the best representatives of this tradition. It is a literal everyday tussle between the social and political worlds.

It is in this context that one can read the recent Chandi Yaga that Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao performed at a whopping cost of Rs 7 crore. In order to balance his pro-Muslim policies, he has also appointed a Muslim as the deputy CM. It is also a move to capture the space that the BJP-RSS combine has been laboriously building with manufactured issues of Charminar being built over the destruction of a temple and recalling the memory of Nizam’s rule and role of Razakars in wantonly using physical force against the Hindus.

(The writer is with the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. This write-up is based on a recent field-visit to Telangana)

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