andhra aaku and mullu
Andhra is the leaf and Centre is the thorn

J.Vishnu Shankar

Last week at the height of Special status debate, CM Chandrababu gave an analogy of ‘aaku and mullu’ regarding the relationship with the centre. What he was trying to convey was that whether centre fights with AP or vice versa, its only the state which has to suffer. In the so-called federal structure of India, the centre is unfairly strong at times. It can favour or trouble a state almost at its whims. The states have no great bargaining power and even if they seek judicial redressal, the hope of early judicial intervention is impractical.

AP needs not just funds and grants from the centre. Even if it somehow improves its tax base and resorts to innovative fund raising methods without relying too much on the centre, it still has to go to the centre for approvals for different projects. Centre almost has a veto power on many project approvals, environmental or otherwise. It can also resort to delaying tactics raising one query after the other. A state like AP which needs centre’s help for many of the new projects it wants to undertake can not wish away this bitter truth.

Chandrababu knows the need to keep the centre in “good humour”

Just look at two issues. 1) AP’s request for denotifying forest land north of river Krishna near Amaravati and 2) green approvals for Polavaram.

The AP government has received a `green shock’ with the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Union ministry of environment, forests and climate change turning down the state’s proposal to use about 13,000 hectares of forest land for construction of the capital city , Amaravati, and other development projects. This is the second time this year that the FAC has turned down the proposal of the AP government to convert forest land. AP wants this land abetting Amaravati for future expansions including for a new greenfield airport. The FAC, which deals with clearances for new projects, has asked the AP government to furnish details of the land use plan and how it’s going to compensate the loss of greenery . Under environment norms, the AP government will have to take up compensatory social forestry on an equal extent of land.

In case of Polavaram, the Centre is under pressure from the upper riparian states of Odisha and Chhattisgarh not to grant further concession to Andhra Pradesh. The Union ministry of environment and forests issued `stop work’ order in February 2011. Central government is unlikely to extend the concession as Odisha and Chhattisgarh have objected to the project, which will submerge some forest land in the upper riparian states. In fact, Odisha had approached Supreme Court. Stating that since the issue is sub judice, Odisha has been refusing permission to AP to take up public hearing. Even Chhattisgarh which has a BJP government, has also made it clear that it will not hold public hearing. The AP government cannot proceed further on the project unless the central government keeps in abeyance its `stop work’ order for a longer period.Intermittent grant of exemptions will affect the progress of the dam work.

The above are just two examples of how the centre can hurt the state by simply being a mute spectator or by being a nonchalant and non-enthusiastic supporter. AP will do well not to be too aggressive with the central government. After all in India, states are the beggars and the centre is always the chooser.