Visiting enthralling Telangana, India’s 29th and youngest State
by SURESH PERERA
October 14, 2017
TELANGANA STATE: “Welcome to Telangana”, Chief Secretary S. P. Singh smiled, as he accorded a warm reception to the Sri Lankan visitors to India’s 29th and youngest state, a largely autonomous geographical and political region with its own distinct identity.
“People of all cultures and ethnic backgrounds have settled down here”, the high-ranking government official ventured out to explain, referring to Telangana state, which was formed on June 2, 2014.
Telangana was part of the Hyderabad state from September 17, 1948 to November 1, 1956, until it was merged with Andhra to form the Andhra Pradesh state.
The passage of the AP State Reorganization Bill in both houses of Parliament, witnessed the birth of Telangana state, surrounded by Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh in the North, Karnataka in the West and Andhra Pradesh in the South and East directions. Major cities of the state include Hyderabad, Warangal, Nizamabad and Karimnagar.
“The hopes and aspirations of every ethnic minority are recognized and given their due place”, Singh assured a delegation of visiting senior journalists at the high-security Telangana Secretariat in Khairatabad recently.
Telangana is a predominantly Hindu state with a 13%-14% Muslim population. All religions enjoy equal status without any difference or discrimination, he said.
“There is healthy interaction between the Hindus and Muslims”, he enthused, while underlining that “there exists a confluence of good resources like the Ganga and Yamuna”.
Singh articulated his thoughts in impeccable English and did some brilliant fielding to questions put across to him, amply displaying his prowess as an accomplished academic cum administrator with a Masters Degree from Delhi University and MBA from Swinburne University of Tech., Australia.
He worked as a lecturer in Delhi University before joining the Indian Civil Service, where he held a string of high-profile positions across the administrative firmament.
The historic city of Hyderabad is the capital of Telangana in Southern India. With Telangu and Urdu widely spoken, it is the fifth biggest cosmopolitan city of this giant South Asian country of 1.25 billion people.
“India is a federal country with the Constitution clearly defining the powers and functions to the states. We administer the central justice system, with laws promulgated by the centre and implemented by the states. Fundamental laws are complied with in all states”, the Chief Secretary explained.
He said that policing is done according to the laws of the country as it is impossible for the centre to implement local policing and administer the criminal justice system in the states. Therefore, policing is the responsibility of the respective states in terms of the Constitution.
Policing in Telangana is one of the best in India, he pointed out. “The safety factor here is very high”.
“Absolutely no problem”, Singh emphasized in response to a question whether there has ever been a conflict between the centre and the states on policing. “In my 35 years in service, there has been no such conflict”.
Policing has to be done within the state to be effective. The infrastructure differs, but the criminal justice system remains the same. The scale of police deployment differs according to the resources of the respective states, he elaborated.
However, many central agencies have a key role to play in para military forces being deployed in a state at the request of the centre, the top administrator pointed out.
When police personnel retire, new recruits are absorbed after training at regional centers, he noted. “Police recruitment is a rigorous system, with qualifications and attributes imperative coupled with a written examination”.
“In Telangana, there is less manpower and more technology. The application of modern technological tools is the way forward”.
On bilateral relations, Singh emphasized that the Indian Constitution does not permit states to maintain bilateral ties of any nature as it is the prerogative of the centre.
He said that many Telangana people have set up businesses in Sri Lanka, a country many Indians also visit as a favorite tourism destination. In addition to the business and cultural aspects, Sri Lanka and India maintain excellent relations.
On the literacy rate in the state, he observed that it is picking up gradually with a 90% plus figure on offer. Overall, it’s 75% plus. One should be able to read and write in any vernacular language to be considered literate.
Referring to social parameters, he lauded Sri Lanka for doing very well in the sphere of education and primary education, which can be placed on par with Kerala and Tamil Nadu. With children, health and education taken care of, the focus now is on human development and early stages of life. “Sri Lanka’s performance is remarkable, very good and admirable”.
What led to the creation of the new Telangana state? Andhra Pradesh under British rule had a different system and a higher level of development in comparison to Telangana. With the unification with Andhra in 1956, Telangana continued to be under the same culture. There was a fully regulated system of resources, but Telangana was deprived of its due share of resources, he noted.
Continuing, Singh said the end result was that this region remained backward, while Andhra was not. The inequitable distribution of resources led to a sense of disenchantment and dejection, which ultimately gave birth to the Telangana movement to clamor for equality. The pressure exerted culminated in the government recognizing the new state.
“It was akin to a marriage; if it doesn’t work out, a divorce is the answer. In the case of unification, it was deemed a “marriage” that went on the rocks and a divorce was inevitable”, the Chief Secretary pointed out.
On re-demarcation of the land mass, he said there was no such necessity as the region was merged in 1956.
Asked about the crime rate, Singh asserted that Hyderabad is largely a “safe city” with no major incidents. As modern technology is imperative for effective maintenance of law and order, a project to instal one million CCTV cameras was launched.
“We have already installed around 150,000 cameras under this initiative”, he noted.
Telangana is home to the world’s tallest monolithic statue of Gautama Buddha at Lumbini Park in the Hussain Sagar Island.
Apart from this 58-foot high, white granite stone marvel, the region is replete with many ancient Hindu Temples and cultural sites, which draw scores of visitors from the world over.
Travelling around Hyderabad, I recalled my visit to this city steeped in history and tradition, years ago when the region still remained unified with Andhra Pradesh.
The metropolis and its environs now looked more clean, organized and methodical, but roads were choked as swarms of autos (three-wheelers commonly known as tuk-tuks in Sri Lanka) had their way though other motorists probably had their say!
But, there was no element of surprise involved as, wherever there are tuk-tuks, there’s chaos or far worse, in some cases absolute chaos.
The cuisine in Hyderabad is amazing. The city and the region as a whole is well known for its mouth watering dishes and the assortment of delicious multicolored sweetmeats. The Hyderabadi biriyani is a specialty and those who miss out on it have lost, perhaps, a never-to-be-repeated opportunity to tantalize their taste buds with a delicacy simply out of this world!
Meeting with my erstwhile friend R. S. Prasad again was refreshing. There he was, sporting his signature beard, waiting in the lobby of the five-star ITC Kalkatiya, where I stayed, evoked nostalgic memories of our times in Hyderabad many years ago.
The outings to many sites of interest and the pleasant stay at Hotel Green Park at the time were indeed unforgettable. Prasad is the chief executive of ‘grow with media’, a PR company based in Telangama’s capital city of Hyderabad.
Hyderabad is a charming city one is bound to fall in love with. And when that happens, it is terribly painful to leave all the indelible memories behind.