Telangana, Telangana council best options: Srikrishna panel (Intro Roundup)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

NEW DELHI/HYDERABAD - The much-awaited Srikrishna Committee report unveiled Thursday said the demand for a separate Telangana was “not entirely unjustified” and ruled that the best options in the present circumstances were giving the region that includes Hyderabad an autonomous council or breaking up Andhra Pradesh for good.

The committee’s findings were made public by Home Minister P. Chidambaram in New Delhi at a meeting of political parties from the state that was boycotted by the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP).

While Chidambaram urged political parties to consider the 461-page report “with an open mind” and said a second all-party meeting would be held soon, TRS chief K. Chandrasekhara Rao declared that people would not agree to anything short of a Telangana state with Hyderabad as its capital.

“I am requesting the prime minister to abide by the statement he made in parliament and the assurance given by the government” promising a separate Telangana, he said in Hyderabad.

The BJP also pressed for formation of the new state.

“The state should be formed at the earliest… Delay is not in the interest of the country,” party spokesman Shahnawaz Hussain told reporters in New Delhi.

The Congress had a varying response at the meeting. While party legislator from Telangana region Uttam Kumar Reddy favoured option five in the summary of the report which talks of carving out a separate state of Telangana with its capital as Hyderabad, the other party representative, MP K.S. Rao said the panel had gone into a number of issues including river sharing, education and development and all parties should consider the report before giving their opinion.

Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy did not speak during the meeting.

Andhra Pradesh, where emotions were running high in the run up to the unveiling of the report, received the suggestions of the Srikrishna panel more or less with calm barring some violence on Osmania University campus in Hyderabad and sporadic protests in some other parts of Telangana.

The issue of a Telangana state, raised many times in the past too, has divided Andhra Pradesh. Even leaders of TDP and Congress from the backward region of 10 districts have come out in its support.

The report has given six options but laid thrust on the last two.

The most favoured way out, listed sixth in the report, talks about keeping the state united and taking constitutional and statutory measures for the socio-economic development and political empowerment of Telangana region.

This, it said, could be done by setting up a statutory and empowered Telangana Regional Council with adequate transfer of funds, functions and functionaries.

It said the “second best option” - listed fifth in the report - was to bifurcate the state into Telangana and Seemandhra with existing boundaries with Hyderabad as the former’s capital.

Seemandhra would have a new capital.

This option, the committee feels, had to be given consideration. In a major fillip to the advocates of Telangana, it said the demand for a separate state was “not entirely unjustified”.

The committee “least favoured” the option of maintaining status quo. It, however, said that the option of breaking up the state into Seemandhra and Telangana with Hyderabad as a union territory may not be “practicable”.

The choice of splitting the state into Rayala-Telangana and coastal Andhra regions with Hyderabad as an integral part of Rayala-Telangana may not be acceptable to all three regions, it said.

It said its fourth option of creating a Seemandhra and Telangana with an enlarged Hyderabad as union territory by including Nalgonda district in the southeast to Guntur in coastal Andhra and via Mahabubnagar in the south was likely to be stiffly opposed by Telangana protagonists.

Telangana was part of the erstwhile princely state of Hyderabad. It was merged with Andhra state in 1956 to form Andhra Pradesh. Telangana leaders say the region is discriminated in comparison to the rest of the state.

The report of the Srikrishna Committee, constituted in February last year, comprises two volumes and nine chapters.

Chidambaram urged political parties to consider the report “with an open mind”. He said the committee had given six options but “rejected the first three choices as not practical”.

He asked parties, groups and individuals to “show adequate respect to the labour of the committee” and told them not to reach “instant conclusions”.

Chidambaram said another meeting of political parties from Andhra Pradesh would be held by the end of this month.

He said the parties which met Thursday had agreed to discuss the report within their parties and “form their final view”.

Chidambaram “deeply regretted” the boycott by some political parties.

Among the eight parties invited, only five — the Congress, Communist Party of India-Marxist, Communist Party of India, Majilis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen and Praja Rajyam Party — attended Thursday’s meeting.

TRS chief Rao urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh not to dilly-dally on the Telangana issue but table a bill in parliament in the budget session to carve out a separate state.

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