Hyderabad-Karnataka: lagging, seething in anger

Bidar fort. File photo.

The rise of regionalism poses a major challenge for Indian federalism. This has happened due to the growing inequality among and within the regions.

In Karnataka, for instance, the Hyderabad-Karnataka region shows acute development gaps among the districts of the state. It is well evidenced from the Nanjundappa Committee report and the Human Development Index (HDI) report of Karnataka that the H-K region scores very low in all socio-economic and political indicators.

That’s the reason the people of these regions have started demanding for special attention from the Centre and the state government to the regional dimensions of development. And the objective is to get special status in terms of economic assistance, which would be needed to overcome the long spell of stagnation and deprivation.

In this regard, efforts were made by the state government after 1991 to provide financial assistance to Hyderabad-Karnataka region. In 1992, the Hyderabad-Karnataka Area Development Board (HKADB) was established to carry out the development plans for the region.

The objective was to promote holistic development in the region by focusing on irrigation, health, education, agriculture, industries, women’s empowerment, transport and tourism. The High-Power Committee for Redressal of Regional Imbalances (HPCFRRI) also identified H-K region as the extremely backward region of the state.

Even 70 years after being freed from the despotic rule of the Nizam (of Hyderabad) in September 1948, the Hyderabad-Karnataka region has not developed in terms of socio-economic and political factors. However, Article 371(J) alone will not transform the region.

The backwardness of the region was the natural outcome of polices of both the British and the Nizams. The special status might provide reservation to the people of Hyderabad-Karnataka region in recruitment and education. However, the important question is, how will it help the marginalised sections of the region.

Initially, the people of H-K region did not ask for a division of Karnataka, rather it was for special status within Karnataka in terms of financial assistance for the development of the region. The ground realities show that due to lack of access to education, health and employment opportunities, the people of this region are marginalised.

Both the Fact Finding report of 1956 and the Nanjundappa Committee report 46 years later in 2002 pointed out that the H-K region is the most backward region of the state. Unfortunately, the committee’s recommendations have not been implemented at any level.

The role of the HKADB is limited in the process of development due to clashes among the political and economic lobbies. After the implementation of 371-J, there has been a growing conflict between the economic and political institutions. This region is an example of under-development due to the lack of political will, trickle-down economics and historical factors.

Throughout the rule of successive governments, the political support to achieve special status for this region was low. This indicates that there is a lack of political will. In 2013, the Centre passed the Gazette notification to pass the Ordinance of Article 371-J for Hyderabad-Karnataka region.

However, the aspirations of the people of H-K region were not fulfilled fully by the provisions of Article 371-J. There has not been any positive impact on the regional inequalities of the region. There is a growing feeling that the state government maintains a ‘step-motherly attitude’ towards the region. The transfer of resources to the state government for the development of H-K region is not being realised.

The people of H-K region have realised that the assignment of special status by the Indian union was nothing more than a ‘piecemeal approach’ to keeping the people from rising in protest. This caters only to the political interest of the party at the Centre.

It was done in order to silence the movement that was gathering momentum. But practically, there has been no benefit from this provision, there are no signs of development in the region. As a result, the people of Hyderabad-Karnataka began to demand separate statehood for the region.

At present, there is a slight improvement in the education sector, with some facilities given to the students of the region, but still a major part of the development agenda remains unaddressed. The leaders of H-K region hardly raise these issues and are merely followers of leaders from other regions of the state. Even now, the region lags behind the rest of the state in all aspects of development due to the inactive political leadership.

There has hardly been any change in the situation post 371-J. Backwardness still persists due to lack of strong leadership and proper utilisation of funds. Only the proper implementation of policy measures and proper planned development with sufficient funds can bring development to this region, and calm the demand for separate statehood.

(The writer is Assistant Professor, Vijayanagara Sri Krishna­devaraya University, Ballari)

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Hyderabad-Karnataka: lagging, seething in anger

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