Ever since the Terms of Reference (ToR) of Justice B N Srikrishna Committee were announced on February 12, there has been a lot of debate among those for and against Telangana on how to approach it. Each political party, for that matter, each concerned person, is on record expressing quite contrary opinions about the committee – welcoming and dismissing; wishing to submit a petition and to boycott. It is two weeks since the announcement of the ToR and a week after a public notification was issued and yet things do not seem to have settled. However, according to the notification, the people who wish to submit their memoranda do not have much time to debate, since the committee stipulated only thirty days time to do so.
Even as one discusses whether to participate in or boycott the committee, it is pertinent to go into a brief history to understand the apprehensions of Telangana votaries to participate in the proceedings and call to boycott the committee from some quarters.
The constitution of the committee preceded at least three important developments during December 2009 and January 2010. The first was an announcement by the Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on December 9 about ‘initiating the process of Telangana state formation’. That historic statement was followed by another statement on December 23, wherein the Home Minister recognized the need to have wide-ranging consultations, and almost retracted his earlier statement. As a consequence of this shift, a meeting of recognized political parties in Andhra Pradesh was held in New Delhi on January 5, under the auspices of the Home ministry, and it was decided to set up a committee to go into the matter. The appointment of a five-member committee under the chairmanship of Justice B N Srikrishna on February 3 was the follow-up. If the statement of December 9 talked about the process of state formation and the statement of 23 about consultations without mentioning the process, there was a scope that they can be read differently, if not contradictory to each other. Thus it is widely apprehended that the committee evolved out of the spirit of December 23 and might go against the spirit of December 9.
One might discount the attribution of any ill motive to the appointment of the committee easily, but the delay involved and the drafting of the ToR certainly gave room to valid doubts. The December 9 statement of the Union Home Minister had three distinct announcements and none of them became a reality: i. The initiation of state formation process has not begun and the deliberations cannot be treated as part of the process. ii. The introduction of a resolution in AP legislature as announced by the Home Minister has not taken place till now and the chief minister of AP was on record denying having any such information. iii. The promise of the Home Minister about removing all the cases on students and agitators booked between November 29 and December 9 was also not respected by the AP government till now.
In addition to such crisis of credibility to Home Minister’s own statements, setting up a committee was first moved on January 5 and it took four weeks to announce the names and another ten days to announce the ToR and the committee was given 10 months time to study. In this context it is not surprising to see Telangana votaries terming this as nothing but delaying tactics.
If one goes into the ToR, the scenario is much more confusing and diversionary. While the demand for a Telangana state is being fought on three basic grounds, among others, of denial of rightful share, violation of promises and self-respect of a specific identity, the ToR hasn’t taken all of them into consideration. There is a scope for discussing denial of rightful share under the first item of the ToR, but the other two issues may be just out of its purview.
More over, the drafting of the ToR seems so haphazard that item 4 is redundant (since it seeks “to identify the key issues” while considering items 1, 2 and 3 which already “examine” and “review” the issues. Does it mean to say that “examining” and “reviewing” do not include “identifying key issues”? What do they do then?) and item 5 and 6 are one and the same with list of people to be consulted getting divided into two sections.
Thus, on the whole the ToR boils down to three items only – examining the demands of a separation as well maintaining present status; assessment of development of Andhra Pradesh during the last five decades; and gathering the opinions of various sections of people. Indeed, a committee of such eminent personalities under the chairmanship of a judge with impeccable record will not be required to study these three issues. There are a lot of official and unofficial documents, works by independent scholars and media reports that provide a lot of data on these three issues.
With due respects to the committee and the Home Ministry, it should also be remembered that this is going to be the ninth such authority to study the problem of Telangana and some of the earlier committees or commissions did have much more statutory power than the present one. Justice Fazl Ali Commission (1953-55) suggested that Telangana be made a separate State. K Lalith Committee (1969) assessed that rightful share was not granted to Telangana. Justice Vasishta Bhargava Committee (1969) confirmed Lalith’s findings, differing only on quantum of Telangana surpluses. The Officers’ Committee under the chairmanship of K Jayabharat Reddy (1985) found that the rightful share of Telangana in employment was not accorded. The House Committee on Implementation of G.O. 610 (2001) and J M Girglani Committee (2003) found that the G.O. supposed to redress the grievances of Telangana employees was not implemented even after two decades.
However, none of the recommendations of these official committees and commissions, whenever they were in favor of Telangana, was implemented.
There were also two other semi-official committees – Pranab Mukherjee Committee (2004) and K Rosaiah Committee (2009) – but one does not know whether they have conducted their study and submitted reports at all.
Dishonoring the recommendations of these committees was in addition to violation of the promises given in various agreements, legislations, government orders and formulas.
In such a bleak scenario that has been the fate of Telangana for the last 55 years, can an ordinary Telanganite expect anything different from Justice Srikrishna Committee?