Help spread the truth about Telangana region of India. Since 1956, when Andhra and Telangana merged, Telangana has gotten the short end of the stick in terms of natural resources, funding and representation in government. Though two major rivers have their sources in Telangana, irrigation projects divert the precious water to other areas. The feelings have often spilled over into violence, and in 1969, 400 people died in Telangana-related violence.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Who gets to keep the pearl city?

The Telangana agitation that started out over a larger cultural and geographic identity has now narrowed itself to where the real deal is: Hyderabad. Sai Manish finds out why

JUST OFF the highway to Srisailam in Ranga Reddy district's Srinagar village, Rama Rao, along with four other workers, toil on 650 acres of barren land, making markings and putting up signposts. What's unusual is that the interests of this Telangana labourer, earning Rs 130 a day, converges with the interests of an Andhra politician who presides over a $3 billion empire in the middle of nowhere.

Here is how.

In the next eight years, Discovery City, which these five men are helping build, would have gobbled up more than Rs 5,000 crore in investment and would be a city in itself — Telangana's answer to the Lavasa project near Pune.

These five toddy-sipping workers from Telangana, though, are blissfully unaware that their future and the future of their children would be inextricably tied to the success of this mega project being executed by the Ramky Group, owned by TDP MP Modgula Venugopala Reddy.

Located well inside Telangana's Ranga Reddy district, but tantalisingly close to Hyderabad, this project, with the potential of employing 1,00,000 people in numerous schools (including one by the Art of Living Foundation), hospitals, malls, hotels, special economic zones and residential apartments and bungalows will be relying heavily on a political solution to the current impasse over a separate state of Telangana.

However ironic it may sound, this billion-dollar project doesn't need either Telangana or Rayalaseema or Coastal Andhra for its success both as a commercial venture and as a development initiative. Its success will be determined not by any other region, but by its proximity to Hyderabad, a city that will be the venture's umbilical cord for decades after its completion.

"When I was a kid, my mother used to feed me toddy as she had little milk to give us," says Rama Rao as he takes a break from digging up trenches, "but now things are much better. We all want a separate Telangana but they should leave Ranga Reddy and Hyderabad alone. All my life's earnings have come from working in the construction sector in the city. I tell the leaders — let them have what they want, but just leave the city alone."

'Let them have what they want, but just leave the city alone,' says Rama Rao, a daily labourer

The venture is like a joey sitting pretty in its mother's pouch fearing that it might be plucked away by the Telangana boomers. If the workers here fear for their livelihood, the owners fear for their investments and profitability. And that is why the multi-millionaire Venugopala Reddy has been holding placards and shouting on top of his voice in the Lok Sabha for a United Andhra Pradesh. Because quite like the workers who fear for their freedom of movement across borders in search of work, Reddy fears investment flows from enterprising Andhra businessmen will be stymied if Hyderabad is made a part of Telangana.

Reddy's fears can be explained by the massive investments made by his Ramky Group in Hyderabad alone. The MP's company constructed the outer ring road that serves as an artery for spreading out development around Hyderabad at a cost of Rs 400 crore. Ramky also manages Hyderabad's conventional and biomedical wastes through its subsidiaries. It is developing high-rise residential projects in Hyderabad's upcoming Gachibowli locality with an investment of Rs 400 crore, apart from building the luxurious CEO Enclave at a similar cost. Add to that, its uber posh triplex bungalow project, Ramky Pearl, where each house will be sold upwards of Rs 2 crore. Upping the stakes is another futuristic multi-product development park being planned by Ramky in Hyderabad, with an investment of Rs 500 crore. In total, Modugula Reddy's firm has close to Rs 7,000 crore at stake in and around Hyderabad in the years to come. In comparison, the only notable projects of the group outside the Telangana region in AP are in Warangal, where it is building a housing project at a cost of Rs 216 crore and another Rs 500 crore in the functioning Jawaharlal Nehru Pharma City in Vizag.

"Hyderabad in Telangana will be separated from the rest of the state by two districts — Nalgonda and Mahabubnagar. Anti-social elements may use this area as a buffer zone and enforce blockades, badly hurting everyone in Hyderabad and the whole state," fears Reddy. And that is where fears of a casual worker earning Rs 130 a day and a politician-businessman who has investments worth Rs 7,000 crore at stake meet — in a city that has a Metropolitan Development Area five times the size of the National Capital Region (NCR) of Delhi.

EVEN SOME pro-Telangana leaders admit that the biggest impediment to a new state may not be river-sharing, resource allocation or administrative reorganisation. At the centre of what Union Home Minister P Chidambaram described as a "complicated issue" is the question of Hyderabad. The city has become a magnet for investments over the years and is now the preferred destination for MNCs like Facebook, Google and many others, which in turn, has spurred a massive real estate boom. All of it is controlled by Andhra businessmen — among them many senior MPs and MLAs with vested business interests, unwilling to let a veritable goldmine slip out of their hands. This heady cocktail of power, politics and big money makes Hyderabad a prized possession: Telangana leaders see it as a new centre of gravity for spurring development in a separate Telangana while Andhra leaders see the city's 21st century global avatar as a fruit of their labour that cannot be "gifted away" for the sake of political convenience.

"Hyderabad has to be a part of Telangana," says Telangana Joint Action Committee (T-JAC) convener M Kodandaram. "One cannot spoil the geographical contiguity of Telangana by taking away Hyderabad. We will make sure that every group is protected in Hyderabad, which has always been a multi-cultural city. There can be no Telangana without Hyderabad and no Hyderabad without Telangana."


(Courtesy : http://tehelka.com/story_main50.asp?filename=Ne160711Who.asp)

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