July 30, 2013

Telangana river waters, irrigation & agriculture-1 (Introduction)


The simmering dispute over the formation (or reinstatement) of the Telangana state appears to be slowly coming to a logical conclusion. Given recent history this will not be a smooth process. It would be highly surprising if there are no "surprises" (or "betrayals") such as flip-flops, U-turns etc. in the days and weeks to come. Strong resistance is certain and the will power to counter this less so. Nevertheless it does appear the scales tilt towards convergence as opposed to further procrastination.

Several impediments have fallen by the way or are on the verge of falling. The alleged importance of linguistic states, brotherly love, Telugu unity, Potti Sriramulu's "sacrifice" etc. are heard less. While the tactics may have shifted to scare mongering (e.g. those who partner with former Stalinist "revolutionaries" warning of an "impending spurt in Maoism"), there may not be many buyers. While some die-hard "integrationists" are still clinging to some of these ideas/claims beyond the expiry date, these do not dominate the debate any longer.

I see this as a positive sign. We are coming to grip with issues that affect us directly without obfuscating the matter with immaterial platitudes. While this takes some sheen off the "high moral ground" arguments that ruled the roost for long, it does bring us closer to a workable solution.

Current issues

As may be expected, political parties appear to be driven by ramifications (e.g. how many seats will we win? Can we "save" the party in all regions? Who should get the credit? Will there be a backlash?) These do not deserve to be considered seriously by anyone other than the politicians impacted by the decision.

There are several individuals, including some well intentioned people, who claim they have disproved the rationale behind the Telangana demand. Armed with tons of data, slanted language, interesting interpretations and an aggressive posture, they preach to the converted and lobby the "powers to be". As they do not appear to realize the importance of reaching the primary stakeholders (i.e. the people of Telangana), much of this cacophony is at best of nuisance value. This lobbying may have helped in delaying the decision to some extent but is unlikely to work indefinitely. Therefore it does not make sense to take these seriously beyond a point.

In my understanding, the major issues relating to Telangana formation are:

·         Questions about Hyderabad, especially the claims of Andhras on "their capital"
·         Matters relating to the sharing of river waters (especially Krishna) and related subjects
·         Division of assets & liabilities
·         Apportioning state Government jobs & employees

The last two are technical in nature that can be sorted out through administrative channels subject to base rules that can be mutually agreed upon. The negotiation process can be bitter and prolonged but this will pass with time.

The issue relating to Hyderabad has been blown up by propaganda. The inadequacy of these claims can be demonstrated to anyone willing to listen (though many are not so disposed). There are two related matters. The security concerns of Andhras living in Telangana can (and should) be addressed by reiterating the rule of law. All Indians including Andhras have a legitimate right to live in Hyderabad (and elsewhere in Telangana) with dignity and protection. The legitimate need of building a new capital (or two) is between the Andhras and the central Government. This issue too is a "solvable" one.

The much more difficult question of river waters is closely linked to that of irrigation and agriculture. The matter is impacted to a good extent by the ongoing "development debate".

So far, I have generally stayed away from matters relating to river waters, irrigation & agriculture due to the following reasons:

·         Complexity of the subject cutting across several disciplines
·         My relatively poor knowledge on the subject
·         The fact that my view on Telangana is independent of this subject (and many others prominently heard in the often hot debates)

However this is the only major issue that will survive Telangana formation. This being the case, I started wondering if I should understand the subject better. While my position on Telangana would not change based on the findings, it became apparent that I could learn a good deal while working on the subject.

Fundamental premise

This study is based on a zero based approach. All positions are presumed to be fair and an accurate interpretation of the author's knowledge and analysis. At the same, every stand is deemed to be susceptible of factual & conceptual errors that may lurk inside. As for me, I do not start from any position. No contention is treated as a given unless it stands up to investigation.

Format of the study

I considered if the study could be delivered solely in a blog post format. This appeared ambitious in view of the likely voluminous text. I therefore decided to proceed on a conventional basis (i.e. similar to a research paper) and split it in a series of blog posts. This will no doubt reduce the readability of the posts but is preferable to compromising with the quality of the study. Irrespective of what I do, there will either be too many blog posts and/or too long posts.

The converse is also true. There will be too many short chapters compared to conventional studies. I nevertheless decided to stick to the "one chapter per each blog post" approach.

I toyed briefly with the idea of using executive summaries for the blog posts. This is against my own guidelines and may prove counter productive in a contentious subject such as this.

I tried making the study somewhat "blog friendly" (e.g. adopting a conversational tone) especially in a few /explanatory chapters. It is quite possible that this may not enhance the posts in any way while sounding jarring to those who read the entire work at one go.


I set myself the following guidelines for the study:

·         Humility: realize the complexity of the subject; avoid a single-dimensional approach; state upfront the weaknesses/limitations of the study where known
·         Methodology driven: define a methodology, follow it to the extent possible, and refine the methodology if required. Do not try to learn swimming after jumping!
·         Appropriateness: use models that are relevant & appropriate for the study
·         Objectivity: no bias, "slanting", insinuations or selective presentations
·         Balance: present all relevant facts & arguments to the extent possible
·         Good faith: do not impute motives; treat all sources/experts on merit irrespective of their stand or bias (real or imagined)
·         Temperate language: no posturing, accusations or jumping to conclusions
·         Transparency: quote sources "on the spot" if necessary with appropriate details (e.g. page/clause #) instead of burying under footnotes or citations; state all assumptions clearly; avoid extrapolations unless imperative
·         Verifiability: use only textual public domain material (e.g. PDF downloads) freely accessible to anyone. In other words, no YouTube videos, no Google books, paperbacks, personal anecdotes or subscription material. I also decided to stick to English language material (or material already translated to English) to the extent possible to minimize translation losses.
·         Retrievable: if it can not be retrieved, it can not be verified! Avoid dynamic sources like blog posts (unless the blogger is a recognized expert) or news paper/TV stories
·         High quality sourcing: try to find the best expert/source possible (consistent with the verifiability guideline) for each of the study areas
·         Integrity: subject the theories & data to verification before using it; especially check for completeness & consistency; acknowledge limitations "on the spot"
·         Consistency: use data & material consistent with each other to the extent possible; declare inconsistencies "on the spot"
·         Proper attribution: if a source refers to some other work, try to provide the full chain & attribute the "correct" source; study further where possible (but don't go overboard trying to find & validate that source unless it is important to do so)
·         Benefit of doubt against Telangana interests and/or claims where necessary
·         Respect for intellectual property: no violation of copyright; stick to "fair use" discipline

There is an exception to the attribution guideline. Most scholars cite other authors: this is sometimes to authenticate/reinforce the position. There are also cases where an author refers to his own previous work. Similarly there are cases where a recognized expert refers to a "lesser" scholar's work. I assumed renowned scholars (e.g. Joseph Dellapenna or Ramaswamy Iyer) would not cite someone else's assertion without considering the matter themselves in depth. I therefore attribute such positions to the "present" author without giving further details (i.e. the author whom he cites or his own earlier work).

Some of the guidelines are not rigid. If a Telugu source that establishes an important point more effectively than available English sources, it would be quite OK to use this. Similarly there is little point in applying rigorous verification to a source or material that does not impact the study much.

To avoid any semblance of bias, I decided against using pro-Telangana sources with the following exceptions:

·         When a source refers to any pro-Telangana work or scholar directly or indirectly, I look up that reference to the limited extent of the reference
·         Where the work of a pro-Telangana source does not impact the findings directly, I may refer to this duly acknowledging the possible conflict of interest

A similar restriction on all other activist sources (e.g. those opposing Telangana) would obviously be counter productive. I did not try to discount these sources on the grounds of perceived bias. I therefore used such sources validating them on lines similar to "neutral" sources.

I debated with myself if I should approach anyone for a review. While a review would certainly have been extremely helpful, it was difficult for me to find someone with expertise in all the subjects as well as the time & patience of going through the entire material.

Some friends did offer to help/review. However, I was cagey as I did not want to be "guided" under the guise of "vetting". I did not want to end up writing someone else's interpretations as mine!

I therefore decided to go ahead without any review, vetting or guidance. The entire study is mine (without claiming copyright on any one's work). This is the biggest weakness of this study.


I asked myself several hard questions if I have the credentials for a study of this nature. As confessed the subject is vast and I have limited knowledge on the various dimensions. I have no formal education in subjects like law, hydrology, agriculture, meteorology, irrigation or statistics. I have no published works against my name.

I decided to go forward with the study based on what I perceive to be my strengths & credentials:

·         Strong analytical strengths, thanks to my quality assurance related training & experience
·         Attention for detail & patience
·         Sound grip of legal principles
·         Good general engineering skills
·         Years of experience collating, validating & applying data as well as designing/managing data models
·         Strong commitment to the principle of "factual approach to decision making"
·         Years of experience in drafting & reviewing policies, procedures, reports, contracts etc.

I realize I am not backing up the above "strengths". I urge the readers to treat the above as mere claims and judge the work on its own merit.

Having decided against accepting outside help, I was left to my own limited resources. I needed to wade through hundreds of pages of papers, books, reports, case law, data & analysis on my own. The lack of organizational support will almost certainly show up in the subsequent pages.

Notes on authoring standards

·         Due to US English proofing, some of the quoted text may differ from the original source
·         A similar caution about formatting & paragraph structures. For instance, much of the original material consists of PDF files generated by optical character recognition tools. The "paragraphs" quoted by me could be spread across several "lines" in the original document
·         All emphasis is mine, unless specifically stated otherwise
·         Page numbers cited are document pages, not the one quoted by the original work

I did not use the convention of italicizing foreign words. This is to avoid "italics clutter" caused by the legal terms & Indian phrases peculiar to the subject disciplines.

The work is likely to be "rich in quotes" from diverse sources. Other than proofing, formatting & paragraphs, I did not impose my style on the quoted text to retain the original flavor.

The unit systems presented a major challenge. If I stay metric as per my preference, many readers could be confused. I would also need to translate the units used by the sources to metric equivalent. I therefore had no option but to use a hybrid unit system reflecting popular usage.

I also had to adopt the archaic number systems in vogue. For instance, I have no option but to accept the oddly named "thousand million cubic feet (TMC)" ignoring the reality that a thousand millions equal a billion. The same goes for the popular metric unit "billion cubic meters (BCM)" that should have been correctly called "cubic km".

For similar reasons, I use the terms "lakh" (or "lac") and "crore". This will look jarring on occasion but I have little choice in the matter.

Another major challenge I faced is the contradiction between the accounting year (April-March) used in financial reporting and the "water year" (June-May) used for water accounting. As there was no way I could redistribute the financial numbers (e.g. budget) to the water year, I ignored this distinction.

Please note the end-of-chapter quotes are for the sole purpose of making the work "blog friendly". I tried to use quotes close to the subject of the chapter but did not verify the sourcing beyond a point. It is best to avoid reading too much meaning in these.

Definition of regions

For the purpose of this study, the term Andhra refers to nine coastal districts (Srikakulam in the north through Nellore in the south) of Andhra Pradesh (AP). The term Rayalaseema (or Seema) refers to the districts of Chittoor, Cuddapah, Anantapur & Kurnool. The term Telangana refers to the other ten districts. The names and boundaries relate to the year 2001.

There is a problem with this definition. Telangana, Andhra & Rayalaseema do not exist as distinct entities today. It can be argued that something that does not exist can not be used as the basis for determining equity. This is an extremely legalistic and over simplified argument that I decided to ignore.

Another problem with the above definition is that not everyone accepts the 2001 boundaries. For instance, some people argue Bhadrachalam should be treated as a part of Andhra in line with the 1956 borders. There are others who argue for "greater Rayalaseema" or Kalinga. While I acknowledge these aspirations do exist to some extent, I am unable to implement them in my work. This is primarily because all the data available is aggregated at a district level.

The questions I seek answers to can be extended somewhat to Rayalaseema without much additional data collection/analysis effort. This is the primary reason for treating Rayalaseema as a distinct region.

"If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing": W. Edwards Deming