Telangana is caught up in teething problems as it were, and Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao seems to be doing nothing much to allay apprehensions all round. The idea to conduct a census on August 19 of all the people in the state and collect information about tax payments and mobile telephone connections might have been an interesting exercise, but for the fact that the government is asking the questions. There are other ways of gathering crucial social statistics.
It has to be admitted straightaway that the lack of social data is the biggest lacuna in the Indian system. This weakens all policy measures, including the welfare programmes.
Rao’s state-wide exercise, however, seems to be peremptory to say the least. Apart from bringing the state to a grinding halt for the day, it has created fears that it wants to exclude people staying in the state but who belong to the Andhra region, and that they will not be eligible for the socio-economic benefits that the government doles out.
The state governments of Seemandhra and Telangana have to assure that people staying in any part of these two states whatever their nativity will not be deprived of any of the welfare schemes. The legalities do not matter. The objection that the 1948 Census Act empowers only the Central government to conduct a census might be circumvented because the state government is engaged in collecting data of a different kind. What is questionable is the fact that it is being carried out as the fiat of the government without explaining to the people the reason for collecting the information.
The other curious anomaly, which has its ominous implications, is insisting that people should be present in their “native” places. Either it was not what the government intended or it was completely misinterpreted by the media — both government and private — channels. It reminded one of the Roman census carried out at the time of Jesus’s birth, and when Joseph along with Mary returned to Bethlehem, his native place, for the census. This would have been a comical matter but for the unamenable atmosphere for the Seemandhra people staying in Hyderabad and in parts of Telangana. This is not a figment of their imagination. Rao had said that scholarships available to Telangana students will not be available to Andhra students in Telangana and that it is the duty of the Andhra government to provide them.
Governor ESL Narsimhan managed to bring Chief Minister Rao and his Andhra counterpart N Chandrababu Naidu to tackle some of the contentious issues like sharing the governmental staff, but this may not be enough. Whatever be the bitterness that preceded the formation of Telangana, the two states will have to learn to maintain decency expected of good neighbours. Like between Haryana and Punjab, there will be unresolved and contentious issues. But these things should be allowed to vitiate the atmosphere among the people who are forever on the move across the country and between the states. If people from Seemandhra continue to migrate to Hyderabad and Telangana, they should be allowed to do so. It will be to the advantage of Telangana. It is quite likely, that many from Telangana would be on the move in the other direction. It happens in the case of Gujaratis moving to Mumbai even after the formation of Maharashtra and Gujarat. Rao and the rest of the Telangana political leadership should make the state a friendly place for all.