POLITICS

Why Telangana Is Getting Divided A Second Time And What It Means

After splitting from Andhra Pradesh in 2014, now Telangana is 'divided'.

10/10/2016 6:05 PM IST | Updated 10/10/2016 6:51 PM IST
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File photo of Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) party president K. Chandrasekhar Rao and other officials riding on a truck during a victory procession for the formation of a separate Telangana state in Hyderabad on February 26, 2014.

At the stroke of twenty minutes past the midnight hour on Dussehra, Telangana will change its look and feel. India's youngest state of ten districts will splinter to become 31 districts. In keeping with chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao's obsession with astrologically auspicious time, the new administrative units will be announced between 12:20 am and 12:24 am on 11 October. That is when Vijayadashami, the biggest festival in Telangana, officially starts.

Telangana's bureaucracy will be burning the midnight oil tonight, literally.

'Small is better' is KCR's recipe for better governance. Three times smaller on an average. So all districts barring Hyderabad, are breaking up into two, three, even four districts. Adilabad, Warangal, Karimnagar and Mahbubnagar will go from being one district to four districts each.

On paper, it will bring the administration geographically closer to the people and the district magistrate aka collector won't be one powerful official presiding over the destiny of lakhs of people in a district. For instance, the people of Jangaon will no longer have to travel 60 km to meet district officials in Warangal as Jangaon has been made a district and its collector will sit there. Ditto for Peddapalli, whose residents will no longer have to travel 35 km to Karimnagar as their town will now be a district headquarters.

The division of Telangana, home to 3.6 crore people, will mean some of these administrative jurisdictions will be quite small. For instance, Mahbubnagar district will now break up into four districts--Mahbubnagar, Nagarkurnool, Wanaparthy and Gadwal.

All this entails a huge capital and recurring expenditure for the two-year-old state and the finance department is working on how big a hole it will burn in the Telangana exchequer. Just to create the infrastructure in the newly carved out districts--which includes offices and residences for collectors, SPs, junior officers, guest houses--it is estimated that up to ₹20,000 crore will be needed over a period of time. Over 12,000 posts need to be filled up. The police will need the maximum investment with 92 new police stations to be built, security paraphernalia and 1,800 new posts to be created.

While on paper, it sounds like a great idea to improve the quality of administration, the government can only be as good as its men and women on the ground. The central pool of IAS and IPS will not have so many officers as there are districts now and Telangana will have to dip into the state cadre to fill up posts. The plan now is to appoint junior officers as district SPs as the area of jurisdiction is smaller.

The manner in which the division took place also left much to be desired. The initial plan was to create 14 new districts, moving from 10 to 24 (2 + 4 = 6, which is KCR's lucky number). But agitations for new districts in places like Gadwal, Sircilla and Jangaon meant KCR was under pressure to go by people's demands rather than a scientific method of division according to demographics. This has meant even after division, some districts are very big in size while some are rather small. The number of new units finally went up from 14 to 21.

Ever since KCR announced his decision to increase the number of districts more than a year back, several aspiring towns saw property prices shooting up. A district headquarters obviously has better face value in the real estate market and this lobby put sufficient pressure to ensure it got what it wanted. For instance, an acre in Suryapet that used to sell for ₹15 lakh in 2014 is now going for over ₹1 crore, after it has been made a new district out of Nalgonda. Similarly, Jagtial that has been taken out of Karimnagar district, is seeing an acre going for over ₹1 crore.

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The corridors of power believe this is a good augury especially since the real estate market in Hyderabad has failed to take off even after the creation of Telangana. The politicians feel the new district towns will be the new growth engines of the state.

Hyderabad did not come under the knife bowing to the wishes of MP Asaduddin Owaisi who made it clear that nothing should be done to change the core area of Hyderabad and alter Hyderabadi identity.

The opposition in Telangana is miffed that KCR after calling for a formality-sake all-party meeting, finalised the new districts based on feedback only from his Telangana Rashtra Samiti cadre. It is anyone's guess how many of the suggestions in petitions received online were considered.

The exercise is also partly political as a lot of the infrastructure work that will come up will help in keeping the political cadre happy. More districts will convert into more government jobs, more contracts and as anyone would know, most often people with the right political connections and son of the soil card corner most of the tenders.

KCR would also hope the new map of Telangana will put pressure on the Union government to increase the number of assembly constituencies from the present 119 to 153. This will help him politically as he has admitted several MLAs and other leaders from the Telugu Desam and Congress into the TRS and he needs to find assembly seats for all of them to avoid infighting in the 2019 assembly elections.

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