How J&K bifurcation refreshes memories of Andhra’s division

Although the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir emerged from a different set of political circumstances and contexts, they involved similar administrative and logistic measures

Nearly five-and-a-half years after the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, giving birth to the country’s youngest state of Telangana, a similar exercise has unfolded, with the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 coming into effect on October 31, cleaving the border state into the two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

Though the two historic events emerged from a different set of political circumstances and contexts, they involve similar administrative and logistic measures.

The key difference between the division of Andhra Pradesh and the bifurcation and downgrading of Jammu and Kashmir is that in the case of Andhra Pradesh, the officers of the All India Services like IAS, IPS and Indian Forest Service were distributed between the two sibling Telugu states in proportion to their administrative requirements while Jammu and Kashmir’s All India Services cadres will be merged with the AGMUT cadre (Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram and Union Territories (excluding Andaman & Nicobar Islands).

Whenever a state is divided into two or more states, its cadres of IAS, IPS and IFS officers are restructured. This was a prolonged exercise after the formation of Telangana in June 2014 with an expert committee going into the issue in detail and allocating the officers to the two states.

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A total of 133 IAS officers, 98 IPS and 58 IFS officers were allocated to the Telangana cadre while 161 IAS, 116 IPS and 69 IFS officers were given to the Andhra Pradesh cadre. The allocation of the three all India services officers was based on the recommendations of a six-member committee led by former Central Vigilance Commissioner Pratyush Sinha.

Unlike the division of the Andhra Pradesh cadre then, the Jammu and Kashmir cadre will be merged with the AGMUT since it ceases to be a state.

AGMUT is different from the other cadres since it comes under the direct control of the central government, unlike the state cadres which report to state governments. This means officers from this cadre can be posted and transferred by the central government directly.

The experts say that subsuming the J&K cadre into the AGMUT cadre will have widespread ramifications for the governance of the region which now falls completely under the Centre’s ambit. The two Union Territories—Jammu and Kashmir with an assembly and Ladakh without an assembly— will now come under the control of the Union Home Ministry and will be administered by a Lieutenant Governor who is a central government appointee.

Capital woes

The Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, passed by Parliament in March 2014, stipulated that Hyderabad will remain the common capital for both the states for a period of 10 years before becoming the permanent capital of Telangana in 2024.

As per the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, Srinagar and Leh will be the capital cities of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh respectively, and will be ruled by lieutenant governors.

Hyderabad, the bustling cosmopolitan city was the major bone of contention between the protagonists of a separate Telangana state and the opponents of the state’s division.

Even after the bifurcation, the two states were locked in a bitter dispute over distribution of assets of the state-owned institutions and the buildings in the secretariat complex in Hyderabad. The process of assets distribution is still underway.

In the case of Jammu and Kashmir, the Union Home Ministry has appointed a three-member committee to apportion the assets and liabilities between the two Union territories. The committee is yet to submit its report.

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Repeal of state laws

The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act envisages the repeal of 153 state laws. However, there was no such requirement in the case of the division of Andhra Pradesh.

With the two Union territories coming into existence, the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir will serve as the common high court for Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. The judges of the high court of Jammu and Kashmir will become the judges of the common high court from October 31.

A similar arrangement was put in place with the high court in Hyderabad serving as the common court for both the Telugu states till Andhra Pradesh High Court started functioning from Amaravati from January 1 this year.

Bifurcation blues

Soon after bifurcation, the two Telugu states were at loggerheads over a plethora of issues including sharing of river waters, power, division among government employees and allocation of buildings to house government offices in Hyderabad.

They accused each other of violating the provisions of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act. There was also a wrangling over the division of assets and funds pertaining to the institutions and organisations listed in Schedule IX and X of the Act.

On the Krishna river water dispute, Andhra Pradesh had often accused Telangana, which became the upper riparian state following the division, of violating the directives of the Krishna River Water Management Board by going ahead with power generation at Srisailam Project.

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Andhra Pradesh has been arguing that injustice had been done to the state due to inconsistencies in the Reorganisation Act. The state received only 46% of the revenues of the combined Andhra Pradesh while accounting for 58% of its population as confirmed by the 14th Finance Commission. The assets were allocated on location basis while debt liabilities were distributed on population basis, it was argued.

Similarly, refund of taxes was to be shared between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh on population basis but were allocated on a location basis.

Even four years after the division, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are yet to split the financial assets, liabilities and institutions between themselves.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has said that ₹1.51 lakh crore under capital heads and ₹28,100 crore under loans and advances were yet to be apportioned between the two states.

The CAG made this observation in its report on Telangana government’s finances for 2017-18. The Schedule IX of the Andhra Pradesh Re-Organisation Act, 2014 called for de-merger of 91 institutions. Of this, the expert committee constituted for the purpose gave its recommendations with regard to 86 institutions. The Telangana government gave its nod with respect to two of them.

The issue of dividing assets has been contentious with Telangana earlier claiming that those assets that lay in its territory should automatically be transferred to them. Andhra Pradesh had strongly objected as most institutions were located in and around the capital Hyderabad.

Mediated by the Union Home Ministry, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana had, in 2016, agreed to amicably divide assets and institutions in the 58:42 ratio on the basis of population.