Water diplomacy: Sibling Telugu states break new ground
Telangana CM K Chandrashekhar Rao met Andhra Pradesh CM Jagan Mohan Reddy on Friday in Hyderabad to discuss inter-state disputes over water sharing. Photo: Facebook

Water diplomacy: Sibling Telugu states break new ground

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Shedding the bitter baggage of the past, the sibling Telugu states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have decided to stop approaching courts and tribunals over water disputes in future and, instead, draw up joint plans to harness the river waters for the benefit of the people of both the states.

A meeting of the two Chief Ministers K Chandrasekhar Rao and Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy at Hyderabad on Friday (June 28) broke new ground in resolution of the inter-state disputes over water sharing.

Apart from the bonhomie that marked the meeting, in the wake of new-found political friendship between the two leaders, the exercise presented a refreshing departure from the past. Ever since the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh to carve out separate Telangana state in 2014, the two Telugu states have been locked in a bitter battle over a plethora of issues including disputes over sharing of Krishna river water, assets of the public sector institutions, revenues and allocation of staff.

Joint plan

After a day-long meeting, accompanied by ministers and officials from both the states, it was decided to prepare a ‘joint strategy’ to divert water from Godavari river to Srisailam reservoir across Krishna to provide irrigation and drinking water facility to some of the most backward areas of AP and Telangana.

“Over 3,000 TMC of Godavari water goes waste into the sea every year. Every inch of land in both the states can be irrigated if we sit together and plan for optimum utilisation of water resources,” KCR, as the Telangana Chief Minister is popularly known, said at the meeting.

Echoing similar sentiments, Jagan, his AP counterpart, said there was a need to make a new beginning in the interests of the people of both the states and resolve all the pending issues amicably. “If we get bogged down by court cases and endless inter-state disputes, we will not be able to provide water to the people for generations to come. We need to put an end to this,” he said.

The officials have been asked to chalk out a plan to divert Godavari water from coastal Andhra to Srisailam reservoir in Kurnool district so that the needs of the backward Rayalaseema region and the Telangana districts of Mahbubnagar and Nalgonda could be taken care of.

“The officials of both the States will come up with proposals at the earliest,” said the Telangana Minister E Rajender after the meeting.

The inadequate availability of water in Krishna is causing hardship to both the Rayalaseema region in AP and the perennially drought-prone Telangana districts.

“After the recent elections, there is a qualitative change in the relations between the two states. There are no egos, no disputes over the river basins (water) and no differences anymore. People have voted for us with trust. It is our responsibility to do good for them,” KCR said.

“The availability of water is going down in Krishna river. It may further get reduced in the years to come. Both the states need to utilise water from Godavari river to mitigate the problems,” Jagan said.

The combined water availability in Krishna and Godavari, the major rivers which pass through the two states, is around 4,000 tmc. The two Chief Ministers felt that both the states could work together in a spirit of brotherhood to meet the needs of the people.

Stating that the era of disputes pertaining to river water sharing was a thing of the past, both the Chief Ministers said their endeavour was to ensure that there would be no water scarcity not only for agriculture but also for industries and drinking purposes in both the states.

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“All the issues that cropped up after bifurcation will be solved amicably with a positive approach. There is no need to brandish swords. What is needed is a handshake,” KCR said, adding that his government’s approach would be one of give and take. “This policy yielded good results with Maharashtra and the same will be applied in the case of AP for mutual benefit,” he said, and urged the AP officials to fast-track their projects.

Changed political dynamics

Since Jagan took over the reins of AP on May 30, the two Chief Ministers have met thrice and vowed to sort out inter-state disputes in an atmosphere of cordiality and friendship. And, all their meetings so far were high on optics and personal chemistry.

There has been a swift forward movement in resolving some of the nagging disputes between the two states.

In a clear indication of an attempt to reset the inter-state relations, the AP government recently handed over the buildings in its control in the Secretariat complex in Hyderabad to Telangana.

The buildings had been allocated to AP as Hyderabad was the common capital for both the states for 10 years beginning 2014 under the provisions of the AP Reorganisation Act.

Position of strength

The growing political friendship between KCR and Jagan stems from their position of strength and clearly defined turfs for their parties. KCR’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and Jagan’s YSRCP are confined to their respective states. This is in contrast to Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP) which tried in vain to revive its political fortunes in Telangana by forging ‘Maha Kutami’ (grand alliance) with the Congress and CPI in the last Assembly elections. However, the experiment failed miserably at the hustings. Naidu remains the common enemy for both. Moreover, the two leaders are on the same page on the issue of building a Federal Front of regional parties as an effective alternative to the BJP and Congress.

Baggage of the past

Soon after bifurcation, the two states were locked in a bitter confrontation over a plethora of issues including sharing of river waters, power, division of government employees, allocation of buildings to house government offices in Hyderabad.

The two states have, in the past, accused each other of violating the provisions of the AP Reorganization Act, 2014. 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, AP 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.

AP has been arguing that injustice had been done to the state due to inconsistencies in the Reorganisation Act. AP received only 46 percent of the revenues of the combined AP while accounting for 58 percent 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 AP on population basis but were allocated on location basis.

Unresolved issues

The division of some of the institutions mentioned in the Schedules 9 and 10 of the Reorganisation Act, particularly those with only cash and no fixed assets, sharing of loans accumulated in the combined AP and irritants in the sharing of Krishna river waters are some of the sticking points.

Out of the 91 institutions listed in the Schedule 9 of the Reorganisation Act, the Sheila Bhide Committee had submitted its report with respect to 78 institutions while the remaining are still under examination. The difficulties also arose after AP objected to the definition of the word ‘headquarters’ of some of the institutions.

The combined state had loans of₹1,66,522 crore but the share of the two States has been determined only for ₹1,48,066 crore.

Also read: Telugu states are shedding the past, one baggage at a time

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