Telangana: New Indian state would be world's 33rd largest country

India just approved the formation of Telangana. Opponents are concerned about its impact on Hyderabad, which is a hub for information technology companies like Google. 

Reuters
Telangana supporters cheer as they celebrate after the announcement of the separate state of Telangana at their party headquarters in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, Tuesday, July 30.

Today, India's ruling coalition government agreed to create a 29th state – Telangana – after decades of protests on the matter.

While Telangana may take a few months to be officially created once approval makes it through the Indian parliament, no major political party is opposing it, highlighting the popularity of its demand.

The southern state of Andhra Pradesh will be divided in order to create the new state. Ten of Andhra Pradesh’s 23 districts will be devoted to Telangana (which means "land of the Telugu-speaking"), with Hyderabad, one of India's leading IT hubs and the current capital of Andhra Pradesh, slated to be a shared capital for the next 10 years. During those years Hyderabad stands to benefit, despite some initial hurdles, say proponents.

"Hyderabad will benefit by being capital of Telangana and getting rid of the mafia of coastal Andhra, which has illegally occupied land in Hyderabad and affected investment here," says Biksham Gujja, a scientist who has been an active pro-Telangana ideologue. "This is good for Hyderabad and good for India," Dr. Gujja adds, "as India is too large and needs smaller states for better governance."

With roughly 40 million people, Telangana "would be the world's 33rd largest country by population," he notes. 

There have been protests and calls for a separate state since 1956, when the region that will be Telangana was merged with Andhra state to create the state of Andhra Pradesh to promote national unity. The people of Telangana argue that a separate state will ease perceived injustices in the distribution of water, budget allocations, and jobs. In 2009 the government announced it was beginning the process to create a new state but put the project on hold because of intense opposition protest.

The government is expected to make a formal announcement about the creation on Wednesday.

"It's a moment of joy for us, an important milestone in the history of this region. But we'd like to wait and watch and see what shape it takes," says Kodand Ram of the Telangana Joint Action Committee activist organization, adding, "Hyderabad as a joint capital of the two states will be acceptable to us for some time but not forever."

The coastal region of Andhra and Rayalaseema of Andhra Pradesh have been largely opposed to the division of the state. One reason was the question of who would get the prize international city of Hyderabad, which has an international airport and is the base for a number of domestic and foreign companies such as Microsoft, Dell, Google and Facebook.

Not everyone is convinced this was the right decision.

The uncertainty over Hyderabad could still see some political agitation and, many fear, violence. The central government sent an additional 1,000 paramilitary personnel to the state. "It was not an easy decision. We appeal to the people to cooperate," Congress party spokesperson Ajay Maken told reporters in Delhi.

Hyderabad-based political commentator Parakala Prabhakar says the arguments put forth by Telangana agitators – such as economic discrimination and underdevelopment – are exaggerated. "The decision to create Telangana after five decades has nothing to do with those reasons anyway," Mr. Prabhakar says, "It is just a cynical move by the Congress keeping in mind the 2014 general elections."

But if that was the motivation, say political analysts, the gamble may not pay off for Congress. "The credit will be taken by the Telangana Rashtra Samiti, the political party that agitated for the state all these years," says Sanjay Kumar of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in Delhi.

But, he adds, it could still pay off for India. The decision has sparked calls by many other regions, as India has over a dozen major statehood movements. "Smaller states are a good idea," says Mr. Kumar, "The experience in the past shows that smaller states are able to govern and develop better."

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