India Clearing The Way For New State

India looks about to acquire a new state, with a decision by the ruling Congress party to support splitting off a number of districts from Andhra Pradesh. The new state of Telangana will be the first formed not on the basis of language or ethnicity, but after claims by many residents that the area has been neglected by central and regional politicians. Many residents believe they will fare better as an independent state, but opponents warn it could lead to widespread demands for statehood from other disaffected regions.

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India's government is clearing the way for a new state in the southern part of the country. Some of India's states are extremely large, and for years there have been calls to divide them in order to provide better government support and services. This latest state, Telangana, would become the country's 29th. Protestors in the area have been calling for this separate state since the 1950s.

From New Delhi, NPR's Julie McCarthy has more on India's newest addition.

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: The Times of India heralded the event, saying: At 66, Mother India gets ready for her 29th baby. Telangana is likely to be born as India's next state sometime later this year, or early next. Celebrations erupted among supporters...

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

MCCARTHY: ...as word came that the United Progressive Alliance - the ruling coalition huddled in New Delhi - had unanimously agreed to divide one state, Andhra Pradesh, into two.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

MCCARTHY: Twenty-five year old Krishank Manne is a student leader of the movement that spearheaded the new state.

KRISHANK MANNE: The 29th state of India is being formed, and yes, we are celebrating because we finally feel that our dreams are becoming true, our state is coming. And yes, our bright future is also ahead.

MCCARTHY: Basic grievances drove the move for self-determination: resentment over discrimination in jobs, a conviction that plumb posts went to the more educated people of coastal Andhra Pradesh, that resources were unfairly distributed.

The Indian Institute of Technology's Ravinder Kaur coauthored a study the government commissioned on Telangana. She says it had been a princely state when it was merged to form Andhra Pradesh in 1956, and that its deprivations are deep and historic.

RAVINDER KAUR: It was ruled by very, very feudal nazzams who were extremely exploitative, who took everything away from the peasantry. Education was hardly there. The English language was also not there. Telangana was backward, quite backward at the time of the merger.

MCCARTHY: Kaur says the socio-economic gap was being bridged, if slowly. Manne, meanwhile, says the years of pressing for greater autonomy have taken their toll.

MANNE: Many sacrifices involved in 1969, 369 were killed. From 2009 to 2013, many students have self-immolated suicides for one particular state.

MCCARTHY: Opponents of that state, says Manne, are hurting the sentiments of the people of Telangana.

MANNE: When you are hurting our sentiment, there is no point in being united.

MCCARTHY: The resolution of the powerful Congress Party Working Committee said a separate state was being formed to better fulfill the social, economic and political aspirations of the people of Telangana. At a news conference, Congress Party General Secretary Digvijaya Singh described the decision as difficult, and brushed aside critics who say his party backs the new state chiefly because of the electoral gains it could reap.

DIGVIJAYA SINGH: No, no, no. Political expediency cannot be a reason for such a far-reaching decision.

MCCARTHY: Singh said a complex political process will determine new boundaries and delicate issues, such as water for the new arid state of 35 million people. Hyderabad - the international IT hub that is home to Google, among other tech giants - will be shared as the capital of the reconstituted Andhra Pradesh for 10 years before it permanently reverts to Telangana.

Opponents of the division of the state have mobilized. The entire coastal area is reported to be shut in protest over last night's announcement, which is igniting a clamor for statehood in other parts of India.

Julie McCarthy, NPR News, New Delhi.

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