Voices Tuesday, June 02, 2015 - 05:30
  The last election brought TRS to power in Telangana. The long battle for separate state began soon after the formation of Andhra Pradesh in 1956 and various political entities and civil society groups backed the demand over the years, genuinely believing that a separate state with an administration headed by people with local loyalties would address long festering problems of the poor in the region. Till the 1970s this could well have been true. But 2014 is not 1970s. This is a globalised India with a liberalised economy. Predatory capitalism has devoured much of the humanitarian impulse of the welfare state and is looking to finish the job with its new-found allies. As a self-proclaimed saviour of the three crore Telangana people, the TRS party has promised jobs, education, irrigation facilities, better management of the power situation and much else. While not a resounding victory, it garnered enough votes to form the government. However, from the moment it assumed power, it began to concentrate on three things – consolidation of its political future, appeasement of the three crore Gods (not the three crore voters), further dismantling of welfare measures to benefit the rich who will help it win the next election. The very first weeks after the elections, politicians from other parties began to migrate to the winning side and were welcomed with important positions. It was evident that the work for ensuring a better win at the next election was already underway from the nature of alliances kicking in. Before the elections, many statements were made to make the voters believe that the vast land grab that happened in Telangana under the Andhra political dispensations would be set right by invoking the law and strictly implementing the rules. Today we see the burnt bridges are being rebuilt with the same forces that were inimical to the formation of the Telangana state. In fact, prestigious institutions of Telangana like Osmania University are under threat of being converted into real estate projects even as the TRS government showed no courage to reverse land accumulation under earlier governments. In fact, none of the previous governments had the brazenness to threaten the take-over of Osmania lands officially for real estate development at worst of times. The fig leaf of housing for the poor is merely a ploy to divest the university of its land assets. Before elections, education, jobs and health care were the priorities. Today, after one year of government formation, none of the universities have vice chancellors, there is a concerted attempt the amend the Universities Act to further politicise the appointment of VCs, and a move to have political side-kicks as chancellors of universities. Universities are being seen as another arena for dispensing political patronage, while milking their resources for political gains. The level of contempt being shown towards higher education is unprecedented. This is surprising in view of the benefits TRS reaped from the intellectual capital and credibility from people like Prof Jayashankar, Prof Kodandram and Prof GhantaChakrapani. Won’t the undermining of the university system and its independent culture of free thought effectively shut down the possibility of the rise of similar voices in the future?Why is the intellectual community silent? The TRS government is also moving in to close some 4000 schools for one reason or the other. The delightful dreams of KG to PG free education that were woven before elections are nowhere in sight. One does not know if the free education dream is actually one of closing all government schools and providing fee reimbursement for private teaching shops run by political allies. The teaching shops that were under threat in Telangana before the elections are thriving with renewed vigour. The only things that the new government has moved swiftly on are the draining of tank bund, the development of Yadagirigutta and the celebration of Bathukamma festival. All symbolic and incapable of qualitatively improving the lives of ordinary people.  There is a vastu expert as advisor to the government appointed on public money. He perhaps identifies real estate opportunities such as draining of lakes and shifting the secretariat on a daily basis. When Telangana was formed a year ago, one thing that could have been a real advantage for Telangana was that it had an established administrative infrastructure and systems, so that it could now concentrate on people’s issues like education, jobs and healthcare. However, with the Vastu expert in residence, Telangana is now seeking to find land from existing hospitals and defence establishments to build new capital infrastructure. No one has enlightened us on what is proposed to be done with the existing infrastructure. The level of administrative uncertainty and the resultant chaos is not healthy for the state that is already battling to find its feet. Given its backwardness, what Telangana needs today is more schools and colleges under the state-run system and strengthening of the existing institutions. Healthcare infrastructure under the state needs to be strengthened. Non-political recruitments and greater accountability in performance are required. After one year of its formation, one suspects that Telangana is unlikely to see any of this happen soon. The people will have to speak up all over again.   The writer is retired professor, Department of Journalism, Osmania University