Hyderabad: The BJP government, which started chipping away at the federal structure of the Constitution from the day it came to power, has now brazenly switched to demolition mode, as is evident from the midnight notification that gives complete control of major and minor irrigation projects to the Krishna River Management Board (KRMB) and the Godavari River Management Board (GRMB).
The notification, slipped in stealthily late on Thursday night, gives the two boards absolute control over all the projects on the Krishna and Godavari basins. The Centre cited the inter-State dispute between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh on river water sharing, taking shelter under Section 87 of the AP Reorganisation Act (APRA) of 2014 and the grey areas in the Constitution on placement of water management and irrigation in the Concurrent list.
Applying the same yardstick, the BJP government can be questioned on how it cleared the pre-feasibility report of the Mekedatu project on River Cauvery in Karnataka, where the saffron party is in power, despite the decades-long stand-off between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu on Cauvery water sharing.
The BJP government has been consistently gnawing away at States’ powers that are guaranteed under the Constitution, through draconian legislations. Be it the demonetisation or the GST regime, new farm laws or the proposed amendment to the Central Electricity Act that have all impacted or will impact State governments, the Centre has been bulldozing its way just with the sheer brute majority it enjoys in Parliament.
The Telangana government, which has always maintained that it would extend issue-based support to the Centre, had the grace not to oppose certain moves though, in principle, it was opposed to them.
It is common knowledge that agriculture is at the core of Telangana’s development plans, with the TRS government spending a lot of time, energy and money on ramping up the irrigation sector that led to the State’s emergence as the rice bowl of India within a short span of time.
Taking over irrigation projects at this juncture that seems politically-driven is akin to hitting below the belt. The State government has been seeking National Project status for the one-of-its-kind Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Scheme, but the Centre has consistently turned a deaf ear. It is because of projects like the KLIS that Telangana has emerged as the rice bowl of the country, something that the BJP government apparently is unable to digest.
What is appalling and disappointing is that the Centre, while taking recourse to provisions in the APRA when it is convenient to it, is unwilling to take note of various provisions that should have been implemented for the progress and development of Telangana. Setting up a railway coach factory in Kazipet, establishing a tribal university, Bayyaram Steel Plant and an Information Technology Investment Region (ITIR) in Hyderabad are among the promises made in the APRA.
Another move of the BJP government that would hit hard States like Telangana is the Electricity Amendment Bill, 2020. The Telangana Assembly, in fact, unanimously adopted a resolution last year opposing the proposed Bill. Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao, stating that the Bill would put the lives of farmers in the State at peril and destroy the agriculture economy, had described it as a dangerous move by the Centre.
The Assembly resolution asked the Union government to withdraw the “draconian Bill which is against the federal spirit envisaged by the Constitution and is aimed at usurping powers of the States.”
Notwithstanding the step-motherly attitude of the Centre towards Telangana, the State has made stupendous progress on all fronts in the past seven years virtually on its own, and instead of complementing the efforts of the State through support, the Centre has only been a drag on the acceleration.
First electricity and then water now smacks of a dangerous trend that may well see the complete erosion of powers of the State, something that doesn’t augur well for democracy and federalism.
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