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Govt. announces Terms of Reference of Srikrishna Committee on Telangana issue

The Union Government today announced the Terms of Reference of the Mr Justice B N Srikrishna Committee, which will, among other things, examine the situation in Andhra Pradesh arising out of the demand for a separate State of Telangana and the protests in the State against the move.

According to a statement from the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Committee has been asked to submit its report by December 31, 2010.

The following are the seven-point Terms of Reference of the Committee:

(1) To examine the situation in the State of Andhra Pradesh with reference to the demand for a separate State of Telangana as well as the demand for maintaining the present status of a united Andhra Pradesh.

(2) To review the developments in the State since its formation and their impact on the progress and development of the different regions of the State.

(3) To examine the impact of the recent developments in the State on the different sections of the people such as women, children, students, minorities, other backward classes, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

(4) To identify the key issues that must be addressed while considering the matters mentioned in items (1), (2) and (3) above.

(5) To consult all sections of the people, especially the political parties, on the aforesaid matters and elicit their views; to seek from the political parties and other organisations a range of solutions that would resolve the present difficult situation and promote the welfare of all sections of the people; to identify the optimal solutions for this purpose; and to recommend a plan of action and a road map.

(6) To consult other organisations of civil society such as industry, trade, trade unions, farmers’ organisations, women’s organisations and students’ organisations on the aforesaid matters and elicit their views with specific reference to the all round development of the different regions of the State.

(7) To make any other suggestion or recommendation that the Committee may deem appropriate.

The five-member Committee was announced by the Home Ministry on February 3 as part of the Centre's move to have wide-ranging consultations with all sections of the people and all political parties and groups in Andhra Pradeh on the Telangana issue.

Apart from Mr Justice Srikrishna, a retired judge of the Supreme Court, the other memebrs of the Committee are Dr Ranbir Singh, Vice-Chancellor of the National Law University, Delhi, Dr Abusaleh Shariff, Senior Research Fellow, International Food Policy Research Institute, Delhi, Dr (Ms) Ravinder Kaur, Professor, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, and Mr Vinod K Duggal, former Union Home Secretary, who will be the Member-Secretary.

The committee was set up in pursuance of statements made by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on December 9, 2009 and December 23, 2009 and the meeting he held with the eight recognised political parties of Andhra Pradesh on January 5, 2010.

After his meeting with the leaders of the political parties in the State, Mr Chidambaram had said that the Centre would soon formulate a course of action on the basis of the sense of the meeting.

He had said that it was quite clear that the views of the political parties, which participated in the meeting, were divided on the question of formation of a new state of Telangana.

"It appears to me that no one is opposed to further consultations with other groups and stakeholders. Should such consultations become necessary, they were keen that these should be completed in a reasonable time," he had said.

They had also issued a joint statement, appealing for the maintenance of peace, harmony and law and order in the State.

Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) leader K Chandrasekhara Rao, who is spearheading the movement for a separate state, and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Bandaru Dattatreya had, at the meeting, wanted the Centre to take immediate steps for the formation of Telangana, while Praja Rajyam chief and actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi asserted his party wanted a united Andhra Pradesh.

The January 5 meeting was also attended by leaders of the Congress, the Telugu Desam, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India and the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen,

Earlier, in his opening statement at the meeting, Mr Chidambaram had urged the political parties to show accommodation and goodwill on the issue.

He told the meeting that, as stated in his letter to them, the agenda was to "deliberate on the mechanism and lay down a roadmap for the consultations."

He said the situation on the ground had altered significantly since the all-party meeting in Hyderabad held on December 7 and the first statement made by him on behalf of the Central Government on December 9.

He said that, on December 23, taking note of the altered situation, the Centre had promised to hold wide-ranging consultations with all political parties and groups in Andhra Pradesh.

"I urge each of the political parties represented here to show accommodation and goodwill. Ultimately, you must find the answers and you must help the Central Government find a solution," he had said.

"The agenda for this meeting may appear limited, but I am confident that if we take one step at a time we will, eventually, find a solution. I request you, therefore, to give your views on the agenda. What is the mechanism that you visualise for the consultations with all political parties and groups in Andhra Pradesh? What is the road map for such consultations?" he had said.

The Home Minister had said that it was in the interest of all sections of the people of Andhra Pradesh that peace and harmony prevailed while the consultations took place.

In an obvious reference to Naxalites, Mr Chidambaram had cautioned all political parties that there were forces waiting in the wings who ridicule the parliamentary form of democracy and who would be happy if the leaders collectively failed to find answers to the issues that concerned them.

"We should not give any room for these forces to gain strength or credence," Mr Chidambaram had stressed.

Mr Chidambaram had announced on the night of December 9 that the process of carving out a new state of Telangana out of Andhra Pradesh would be initiated. He had also said that an appropriate resolution on the formation of the new state would be moved in the Andhra Pradesh state legislative assembly.

The December 9 announcement had come at a time when an agitation launched by the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) was threatening to spin out of control. TRS chief Chandrasekhara Rao, 55, had been on a fast unto death in Hyderabad for 11 days at that time, forcing the Centre to speed up its efforts to defuse the crisis as his health was deteriorating.

On December 23, Mr Chidambaram said the December 9 announcement had been made after the receipt of the minutes of a meeting of all political parties convened by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K Rosaiah on December 7, when a consensus had emerged on the question of formation of a separate state of Telangana.

He also took note of the agitations launched by both supporters and opponents of Telangana in Andhra Pradesh and said there was a need for wider consultations.

The Home Minister told the January 5 meeting that there were a number of misconceptions surrounding the issues before the meeting.

"There is a misconception that the Central Government acted in haste; that the political parties were not consulted; and that I, as Home Minister, acted as an individual. As you are well aware, none of these misconceptions is supported by facts.." he had said.

Mr Chidambaram had referred to the long history behind the demand for a separate state of Telangana. "It is sufficient to refer to the report of the States Reorganisation Commission; the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1956 and the amendment of Article 371(1) of the Constitution; the Six Point Formula of 1973; and the introduction of Article 371D in the Constitution. More recently, in the elections to the State Assembly of Andhra Pradesh held in May, 2009, the political parties outlined their positions in their respective election manifestos. All this is in the public domain," he had said.

He had said the Central Government was concerned when an agitation was started in November, 2009 demanding a separate State of Telangana.

"Quite rightly, the political parties in Andhra Pradesh were the first responders to the agitation. You are aware of the proceedings of the Business Advisory Committee of the Andhra Pradesh State Assembly on December 7, 2009 followed by the proceedings of the all party meeting convened by the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh later in the evening of the same day.

"I wish to reiterate that the first statement on behalf of the Central Government was made on the basis of the minutes of the all party meeting held on December 7, 2009," he had said.

The Home Minister's December 9, 2009 announcement on Telangana had led to a situation in which some of the parties which had supported the demand for a separate state later changed their stance. Scores of legislators in Andhra Pradesh sent in their resignations in protest against the move to divide the state.

Even within the Congress, Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) from the coastal and Rayalaseema regions opposed the move. The issue has polarised political parties in Andhra Pradesh on regional lines.

On December 11, a delegation of Andhra Pradesh had met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was understood to have assured them that the Centre would not act in haste in the matter of creating the new state. The MPs told Dr Singh that the mood in the state was for it to remain united.

The Centre's December 9 announcement on Telangana had also sparked off similar demands from those campaigning for Gorkhaland in West Bengal, Bundelkhand and Harit Pradesh in Uttar Pradesh, Vidarbha in Maharashtra and Maru Pradesh in Rajasthan. This prompted some people to suggest that it was, perhaps, time to appoint a States Reorganisation Commission.

Telangana is that part of Andhra Pradesh which corresponds to the Telugu-speaking part of the erstwhile princely state of Hyderabad, which lies on the Deccan plateau to the west of the Eastern Ghats.

It includes the districts of Warangal, Adilabad, Khammam, Mahabubnagar, Nalgonda, Rangareddy, Karimnagar, Nizamabad, Medak and Hyderabad, the capital.

Andhra Pradesh was formed in 1956 and in the years that followed there were growing complaints in the Telangana region that the promises made to them had not been kept. These finally led to a students' agitation in 1969 that was marked by widespread violence and the deaths of scores of people.

The demand for a separate state was kept alive in one form or the other and in 1971 some leaders left the Congress to form the Telangana Praja Samiti, but they later returned to the party. In the 1990s, the National Democratic Alliance government at the centre could not take a decision on the issue because of the stand taken by its coalition partner Telugu Desam Party.

The TRS was formed with the single point agenda of creating a separate Telangana state with Hyderabad as its capital. In the 2004 elections to the Lok Sabha as well as the State Legislative Assembly, the Congress struck an alliance with the TRS with the promise of a separate state.

The Congress came to power in Andhra Pradesh and the party led the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at the Centre, with the TRS as one of the coalition partners. Mr Chandrasekhara Rao also joined the Union Government as a minister, but the Union Government remained indecisive on the issue, forcing the TRS leader to withdraw his party's support to the UPA Government in September, 2006.

Telangana was an issue ahead of the General Elections last year and all the major parties in Andhra Pradesh came out in support of the cause.

The Congress returned to power both at the Centre and in Andhra Pradesh and the alliance of which TRS was a part lost badly in the state. On September 2, 2009 then Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, who had returned to power with a convincing mandate, died in a helicopter crash.

Mr Rosaiah, who took over as Chief Minister, is not considered to be politically tough the way the late Mr Reddy was and this, many believe, encouraged Mr Chandrasekhara Rao to start his indefinite fast in late November, 2009 demanding the formation of a separate Telangana state.

NNN


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