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Andhra, Telangana: An intellectual challenge

Friday, 2 August 2013 - 6:34am IST | Agency: dna

A blinkered approach will pose obstacles to growth.

It will take about 10 years for the people of Andhra and Telangana to find their feet, to set their own course and reconstruct their social and economic lives. The administrative nitty-gritty of dividing the state and creating the structures of governance will be challenging but they should not blind one to the real challenge that the two states face.

The political brickbats will continue to fly from all sides. The Congress will be, and, of course, there is enough reason to do it as well, forever accused of giving in to Telangana for narrow, selfish electoral motives. K Chandrasekhar Rao of Telugu Rashtra Samithi (TRS) will be blamed of raking up the issue of a separate Telangana because he wants to be the chief minister. N Chandrababu Naidu of Telugu Desam Party (TDP), who is on the verge of slipping into political oblivion, will be slammed by his party men for fumbling on the Telangana question and losing foothold across the state. YS Jaganmohan Reddy of the YSR Congress is left without a strategy because he will have to fight his political battle on a small front full of pitfalls.

The serious challenges that face the two new states — yes, they are not there as yet — go beyond the petty politics of parties and leaders and factions. They have remained after more than a half-a-century of independence and planning agricultural states without an industrial base. Telangana, with its mineral resources, should have generated enough industrial activity, but it has not. The Andhra region with its flourishing agriculture and surplus capital failed to create a manufacturing base either.

The surplus Andhra capital went into the making the Telugu film industry and the health and education sectors. There is significant migration from Andhra and Telangana. The unskilled rural labour from Telangana flock to Mumbai, and the Andhra middle class engineers and doctors move to the United States. The migration pattern is not unique to Andhra Pradesh but it does indicate that the state has failed to create employment opportunities for its people, and this will remain a major challenge to the success of the two new states in the future.

Can they create educational institutions of excellence and equip the younger generation with the skills to man a futurist technology-driven economy? Even if the two regions opt to remain agricultural societies — and it need not be seen as a retrogressive choice — with the cultural rhythms that go with a rural economy, they will have to make agriculture and its ancillary sectors viable enough to sustain jobs and livelihoods for all.

While politicians will continue to bicker as to who would become the chief minister in each of these states, it will be the responsibility of the leaders of society to rise to the occasion and provide a blueprint for the people to move into the future. There is need then in the two regions for the intelligentsia to debate about the way forward. The major hurdle for Andhra and Telangana will be the blinkered views of their intelligentsia. They are struck in the old Marxian groove. In Andhra the Communist movement took root back in the 1930s, and it is the Andhra Marxists who brought Telangana under the communist umbrella. This was also part of the rationalist reformist movement which began in Andhra from late 19th century onwards, and the Telangana version of reform and rationalism was on a minor scale in comparison to Andhra.

The world has changed radically in the last 20 years and more, but the intelligentsia in the two regions has not, especially in Telangana. The Telangana intellectuals still tend towards a quaint orthodox Marxism, and an old strain of socialism which was prominent in the region, especially in Hyderabad, has faded away. It can be said that Marxism of some kind, including the Maoist variant, is the only reasonable response to the backward economic and social conditions in the region.

This will remain a vicious circle because Marxism can be a critique of backwardness but it is not a cure for it. It is the same Marxist strain that colours creative literature as well, especially in poetry. The poetry of left protest has a long tradition in Telugu across the state. It has however become sterile and the poetry has lost the fire it showed in its earlier phase. The great challenge that Telangana intelligentsia faces is that of lifting themselves out of the pit of outdated Marxism. They can continue to subscribe to Marxism but there is need for an updated, more contemporary, even a little more post-modern, version of it.

There is a crying need in the two states for the economic and social leadership of imaginative intellectuals, who can think of new solutions. It will be possible for Andhra and Telangana to retain their rural landscape but they have to create an appropriate architecture of space to accommodate people with homes, schools, colleges, parks, cultural centres and sports arenas. The villages need not be transformed into ghetto towns and there is no need for the villagers to crowd into slums in sprawling un-aesthetic semi-industrial and market urban conglomerations.

There is no need for intellectual leaders to waste any more time in polemical recriminations of one kind or another. They should start imagining the future that could serve as an example to the rest of the country. This is no utopian demand. Andhra and Telangana now have a reasonably large educated middle class. They are equipped to think and change their respective societies. The important thing for them is to sense the opportunity that has come their way to do something creative. A new state is not just a new administrative set-up. It can be a moment of creation.

The author is editorial consultant with dna.

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