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Srikrishna Committee: Thorough But Unviable

This article was first published by the authors in the Commentary Section of the Economic And Political Weekly.


It is unfortunate that the

Srikrishna Committee turned out

to be insensitive to the passionate

disapproval in Telangana of

a Samaikya (United) Andhra

identity. This seems primarily

because of the hegemonic

thinking that puts a premium

on development and technology

in meeting people’s aspirations.

This thinking finds favour with

the coastal Andhra capitalist

elite, for this class believes in the

global consensus on neoliberal

development as a panacea for

all social problems. This in

essence means the subordination

in Telangana of the people’s

collective aspirations to the

interests of capital.

The report of the Justice S N Srikrishna

Committee (SKC) on the “Consultation

on the Situation in Andhra

Pradesh” has received mixed reactions

from different quarters. Though the committee

presented six options to resolve the

crisis in Andhra Pradesh, it singled out

only two as worthy of serious consideration.

Keeping “the State united by simultaneously

providing certain definite constitutional/

statutory measures for socio-economic

development and political empowerment

of the Telangana region – creation

of a statutorily empowered Telangana

Regional Council” (SKC Report, p 454)

is recommended as the best option. If

because of the continuing Telangana movement

(which the report acknowledges

amply) it is found difficult to implement

this option then the “second best” option

of “bifurcation of the State into Telangana

and Seemandhra

as per the existing

boundaries, with Hyderabad serving as

the capital of Telangana, and Seemandhra

having a new capital” is put forward for

the union government’s consideration

(SKC Report, p 450).1

There is sufficient evidence to suggest

that the committee took its job seriously

by conducting wide consultations with all

those stakeholders belonging to the three

regions, collecting information from different

government sources, commissioning

studies on issues such as irrigation,

power, industry, agriculture, education,

employment, and the Hyderabad metropolis.

Its members “individually visited all

the 23 districts of the State and several


to get a first hand feel at the

ground level” (SKC Report, p x).

This work has resulted in a bulky report

that contains analysis of issues that have

become central to the dispute between

the two regions, literally dividing the


journalists, employees and


in the state into two camps;

one supporting the demand for Telangana

and the other opposing bifurcation. The

past year (when the SKC was at work) has

seen unprecedented political, economic,

cultural and social analysis in the vernacular

media, both print and visual, and

the average citizen has been flooded

with so much of information and opinion

that perhaps no other issue has been

able to attract

so much attention and

scrutiny. This has definitely led to a strengthening

of the resolve

for the demand for

Telangana, which anybody with a cursory

familiarity with the Telangana movement

would acknowledge.

In contrast, it is curious to note that the

report has not received the attention it


While the proponents of Telangana

have rejected the report as a pro-

Seemandhra one, the otherwise vocal

politicians and opinion makers from Seemandhra

have maintained a more or less

disturbing silence. If the rejection of the


in Telangana is due to the fact that

the committee’s preference was for a


state then the response in Andhra

which should have been one of enthusiasm,

has remained subdued. This indirectly


the fact that the


was not decisively for a unified

state and suggested it as only one of two

preferred options. Given

the importance

of the SKC Report and its implications for

the unfolding political scenario and its

influence on the state it is instructive to

analyse the report, especially the last two


Sixth Option and Telangana

Regional Council

The SKC’s sixth recommendation of retaining

the present state with certain safeguards

for the Telangana region gained

some importance as it is termed the best

option. The safeguards packaged as part

of this option are the establishment of a

statutory and empowered Telangana


Council (TRC) with adequate

funds, functions and functionaries. “The

Regional Council would provide a legislative

consultative mechanism for the

subjects to be dealt with by the Council”

(SKC Report, p 455). For managing water

and irrigation resources equitably, the


recommends the constitution of a

technically competent water management

board and an irrigation project development

corporation with an expanded role.


It is expected that the issues raised by

the Telangana movement regarding the

crucial issues of water distribution and

irrigation projects would be addressed

to the satisfaction of the people of all

the regions.

It is surprising that the committee

should come out with such a recommendation

after reviewing the developments

in the state since 1956. To recollect:


Pradesh was formed on the basis

of an agreement reached by the Congress

leaders of both the regions of Telangana

and Seemandhra. This “Gentlemen’s Agreement”

laid out important terms and guidelines

for the future party leadership and

governments of the state to protect the

interests of the less-developed Telangana,

like the implementation of Mulki rules in

service matters, establishment of a TRC for

Telangana’s development including the sale

of agricultural lands in Telangana under

its control, creation of more educational

and irrigational facilities and allotment

of political positions for the Telangana

region, etc (see Appendix of the SKC

Report, pp 47-70).

This was meant to allay the apprehensions

of the people and the leadership in

Telangana who were not uniformly in favour

of the formation of a unified state. The apprehensions

of Telangana were also sufficiently

documented by the States’ Reorganisation

Commission (SRC) and were

agreed upon as quite genuine both by the

central leadership and also the Seemandhra

leadership of the Congress Party.

The Gentlemen’s Agreement came to be

known more for its violation than for adherence.

The TRC that was formed as part

of the agreement remained largely ineffective

despite constitutional sanction

provided under Article 371 through the

Constitution (Seventh Amendment) Act,

1956. The experience with the TRC, during

more than a decade and half of its existence,

as the SKC report itself notes in the

first chapter, was one of failure. In fact,

the emergence of the Telangana movement

in the late 1960s was an outcome of

the failure of the TRC and other safeguards,

and an expression of a lack of

popular trust.2 The subsequent arrangements,

safeguards and promises which replaced

the earlier arrangement like the

Six Point formula, legislative committees,

and government order 610, etc, have met

with a similar fate. It is difficult to believe

that the SKC, was unaware of the reasons

for the failure. The sensitive analysis of

the caste-class dynamics of power and

dominance in the united state (presented

in Chapter 7 titled “Sociological and Cultural

Issues”, pp 341-422) should have

provided the key to their understanding.

It is a major enigma that despite a fairly

well documented history of failures of the

safeguards in the report. The SKC found

it appropriate to recommend the option

of a united state with safeguards like the

Regional Council as “(the) best way forward”.

The naivety in this recommendation

should be clear given the fact that the


of the SKC itself is a testimony

to the power of the Seemandhra social forces

that could force the union government

to backtrack on its announcement on formation

of a Telangana state even after


was made in Parliament.

Even if the committee opines that the

TRC should be given a second chance, the

central government has to initiate a constitutional

amendment for this purpose.

In order to provide constitutional guarantees,

the report says that the provisions

of the sixth option should necessarily

be incorporated in Part XXI (Article

371) of the Constitution. This amendment

as per the procedure provided under Article

368 requires

two-thirds approval in

Parliament. The United Progressive Alliance

government has to depend on the

Bharatiya Janata

Party (BJP) to effect the

constitutional amendment. The BJP, given

its stand on Telangana, may not support

this move. Unlike the Congress and the

Telugu Desam Party which have dilly-dallied

on the Telangana issue, the BJP, in

line with its national policy favouring

small states, has unequivocally been demanding

the introduction of a Telangana

State Bill in Parliament.

The Second Best Option

The SKC’s preference for the sixth option

despite a history of failures to implement

safeguards for Telangana points to a basic

inconsistency between its diagnosis and

the solution. Is it simply a logical flaw or a

result of a deeper perspectival problem?

To understand this, it is necessary to go

beyond the obvious.

The dominant policy perspective,


by the politics of neoliberal

policy thinking, prioritises and considers

economic development as the panacea for

all problems. Here it is not politics but the

economic logic of development that is


primacy at least perspectivally.


characterises the present

official thinking not just in India but

globally. The official discourse available in

governmental reports during the last


of decades has sought to diagnose

every problem through the prism of


even when they are consequences

of technology and an anti-people

developmental paradigm.3 In a

significant sense the SKC’s perspective on

Telangana demand

echoes this current

official thinking.

This becomes clear in the importance

given to Hyderabad city (Chapter 6 titled

“Issues Relating to Hyderabad Metropolis”)

in the report as two options it suggested

are centred on the status of the city. In

fact, Hyderabad city, which has been made

the central issue of contention by the Seemandhra

elite, has been treated in terms

of economic development

and a global IT

hub to the exclusion of its history and its

place in the collective popular imagination

of the Telangana region.4

Comparison with SRC Report

It would be illuminating in this context to

recollect the perspective on the Telangana

issue in the SRC report. The SRC, constituted

under the chairmanship of justice

Fazal Ali in the early 1950s echoing the influence

of the nationalist legacy, sought to

view the question of States’ reorganisation

in a complex multidimensional perspective

rather than merely through a narrow

linguistic angle as evident in the following


It is obviously an advantage that constituent

units of a federation should have a minimum

measure of internal cohesion. Likewise, a regional

consciousness, not merely in the sense

of a negative awareness of absence of repression

or exploitation but also in the sense of

scope of positive expression of the collective

personality of a people inhabiting

a State or a

region may be conducive to the contentment

and well being of the community.

(Report of the SRC, 1955, p 142; emphasis


Taking note of a deeper distrust of

“Vishalandhra”, a unified Telugu state,

among the Telangana people, the SRC opined

that the opposition to it emanates from

apprehension felt by the educationally backward

people of Telangana that they may

be swamped and exploited by the more advanced

people of the coastal area... The real

fear of the people of Telangana is that if they

join Andhra they will be unequally placed in

relation to the people of Andhra and in this

partnership the major partner will derive all

the advantages immediately, while Telangana

itself may be converted into a colony by the

enterprising coastal Andhra.

(Report of the SRC, 1955: 105; emphasis


In tune with this perception, it recommended:

…it will be in the interests of Andhra as well

as Telangana if, for the present, the Telangana

area is constituted into a separate State,

which may be known as the Hyderabad

State, with provision for its unification with

Andhra after the general elections likely to

be held in or about 1961, if by two-thirds

majority the legislature of the residuary Hyderabad

State expresses itself in favour of

such unification.

(Report of the SRC, 1955: 107).

It is evident from the above observations

that the SRC sought to view the question

of “Telangana” and its merger with

Andhra state in a larger historical and


perspective with sensitivity

to the aspirations, apprehensions and concerns

of the people. Thus the apprehension

of the people of Telangana that if they

merge with Andhra they will be unequally

placed in relation to the latter and that

they may be exploited by the more advanced

people of the coastal area weighed

as an important factor to exercise caution

in merging these two regions and forming

a united state.

This prompted the SRC to recommend

that merger of the two regions may be

taken up after six years with the consent

of the people of Telangana. This is a clear

vindication of the sensitivity of SRC members

to the political apprehensions and

democratic social-cultural aspirations of

the people of Telangana.

In contrast, the SKC was expected to respond

to a situation when the counter-sentiment

in Telangana was informed by a

strong assertion of Telangana’s independent

identity. In fact, as the report notes, the

Joint Action Committees involving various

caste and communities and cutting across

political party lines “have spread to the

district, mandal and village level in Telangana

resulting in a groundswell of demand

for a separate state” (SKC Report: 349.)

While there is diversity of opinion in

Seemandhra (a significant voice supporting

separate statehood for Seemandhra

with dalits being in the forefront), unanimity

for Telangana state is the hallmark

of the present movement.

Though in the earlier phase the discourse

on Telangana was formulated in

terms of development/backwardness, in

the current phase of the movement what

overweighs is the nuanced articulation of

the Telangana identity seen pre-eminently

in terms of cultural and social imaginary.

In fact, the Telangana movement

has not only shown the limitations of

the notion of Vishalandhra, it has also

proved that the Telugus as a linguistic

group are not an “imagined community”.

For Anderson the coherence of a national

– or, for that matter, regional – community

derives from the form in which it is imagined

as “deep, horizontal comradeship,”

(Anderson 1983: 7) a common language

being one of the sources of such imagination.

Thus the Telangana movement

opens up an alternative to the political

imagination of language

being the only

authentic basis of the reorganisation of

states in India.5


It is a sad comment on the SKC report that

it is insensitive to the passionate disapproval

of a Samaikya Andhra identity, articulated

in a collective and organised

manner consistently over a fairly long


of time and that the people of two

regions can be expected to live together in

harmony. In view of the emotional disintegration

seen over a period of time it is unlikely

that the sixth and preferred option

of a united state would be a viable and

wise one.

In spite of this ground reality, if the SKC

thought otherwise it is basically because

of the hegemonic thinking that puts a premium

on development and technology as

a solution for meeting people’s aspirations.

This thinking, of course, finds favour

with the coastal Andhra capitalist

elite for it shares the global consensus on a

neoliberal faith in development as the

panacea for all social problems. Quite


the sixth option would

be their choice. This would in essence

mean the subordination of the people’s

collective aspirations to the interests

of capital.


1 The other four options are: (i) maintaining the

status quo in AP; (ii) bifurcation of AP into


and Telangana, with Hyderabad as a

Union Territory, and the two separate capitals


the new states developing their own capitals in

due course; (iii) bifurcation of the state into the

Rayala-Telangana and coastal Andhra

states, keeping

Hyderabad as an integral part of the former;

(iv) bifurcation of the state into Seemandhra


Telangana, creating an enlarged Hyderabad metropolis

as a separate Union Territory.

2 The failure of Gentlemen’s Agreement and TRC

has been analysed in a number of government

committee reports and academic studies, see, for

instance, Rao (1971) and Reddy and Sharma


3 Various government committees constituted, for

instance, in the context of the crisis in the handloom

industry leading to the suicides of weavers

have done precisely this. For a critique of such a

policy perspective, see, Srinivasulu (1997).

4 Hyderabad has been the sixth largest city in India

during the Nizam’s period. Its ranking has not

changed since then. The public sector industries

in Hyderabad, which are traced back to the


period, have declined through the


and deliberate intervention especially

during Chandrababu Naidu’s tenure.

5 For an analysis of linguistic nationality principle

in the context of the Telangana movement, see

Srinivasulu (forthcoming).


Anderson, Benedict (1983): Imagined Communities:

Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism,


Ministry of Home Affairs (2010): “Committee for Consultation

on the Situation in Andhra Pradesh”,

Government of India, New Delhi, December.

Rao, K V Narayana (1971): Telangana: A Study in


Committee and Its Problems (Calcutta:

Minerva Publications).

Reddy, G Ram and B A V Sharma (1979): Regionalism

in India: A Study of Telangana (New Delhi: Concept


Srinivasulu, K (1997): “High-Powered Committee and

Low Voltage Report: Mira Seth Report on Handlooms”,

Economic & Political Weekly, Vol XXXII,

No 24, 14 June.

– (forthcoming): “Discourses on Telangana and


of the Linguistic Nationality Principle” in

Sudha Pai and Asha Sarangi (ed.), Interrogating

States Reorganisation: Culture, Identity and


Economy in Independent India, Routledge.