Telangana should have come two years ago, says Former Union home secretary GK Pillai

Saturday, Oct 19, 2013, 6:57 IST | Agency: DNA

By Manan Kumar

Former Union home secretary GK Pillai tells dna’s Manan Kumar in an exclusive interview that the Telangana decision was wrongly timed. It should have come one or two years ago, he said. Edited excerpts:

Is carving out a new state of Telangana a right decision? Will it create more problems?
If people in Telangana do not want to be part of Andhra, they have full right to demand a new state. If after 60 years, Andhra hasn’t been able to give them confidence… I do not see any reason why they cannot be given a state. But the timing of the decision is bad. It should have come one or two years ago.

The Centre too should have pushed for the first best option given by the Justice Sri Krishna Commission — to give Telangana a regional council. The government should have tried it out for two-three years. If that did not work they should have then gone for the full statehood option.

Which major problem do you foresee once Telangana is carved out?
Most of the problems like capital are highly exaggerated. I think the main problem would be water because water flows from Telangana to coastal regions, which has more fertile land. The real fear of Seemandhra region is what if Telangana constructs a dam. That is something that Telangana should not do but then there is inter-state water commission and recourse to law to take care of such issues.

There is a strong view that creation of Telangana will help the Maoists?
On the contrary, I think a delay in creating Telangana will help the Maoists and allow them to exploit pro-Telangana sentiments.

There are fears that Telangana will give rise to new statehood demands
The way out is to set up the second states re-organisation commission. Its terms of reference should be criteria under which new states will be formed. Let it hear out everybody. Once it determines the criteria for setting up new states that are accepted by Parliament they can look into each demand and decide.

When you were home secretary, you said the main problem of J&K is every agency has a vested interest there. How do we get rid of these vested interests?
For this the government of India needs to reach out to the people of J&K. People want panchayats to have more power. When you have done it for the whole country why can’t you do it for J&K.
Agreed that the 73rd and the 74th amendments are not applicable to J&K. Bring a separate but similar law for the state and force the JK government to implement it. About 70-80% people voted for panchayat elections thinking that devolution of powers will happen and they will run their area efficiently by solving problems locally.

The people of Kashmir want to get rid of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act
I am convinced that AFSPA can be slowly phased out except from border districts. You cannot have such an extensive army presence in civilian areas for so many years. The army must come when there is a serious problem. This will also break the vicious cycle of vested interests developed over the years by the security forces.

But why is the Centre not taking any initiative?
Because there are vested interests in the Centre as well. That is why the need for public opinion… They need to come forward and hold the government accountable…

A central committee paper of the CPI (Maoist) suggests that Maoists are on the backfoot. Do you agree?
A. Yes, it talks about reverses and the need to make a lot of changes. This shows our strategy has, at least, been partially successful. I don’t think that the Maoist can ever succeed. The question is how long can their struggle continue.

As the union home secretary you were of the opinion that government would take 5 to 7 years to defeat Maoists. Is the government on the right track?
Very difficult to know what currently is being done but yes the path is correct.

The key issues are tribal land rights and rights over minor forest produce. In both these aspects, I think we have taken steps in the right direction. Now their implementation is critical. If we are able to implement these rights, many of their complaints will go away. I think the time has come when the government can say that in these areas at least land acquisition in a large sense leading to displacement can actually be kept on hold for two years.

What are the reasons for current communal strife? Is it posing a threat to our social fabric? How do we correct it?
The basic thing is communication. You must keep the communication channel open between communities. I look upon it as how many friends do I have among the Muslim community. Ten years ago did I have fewer friends or more Muslim friends? If your self-examination shows that your Muslim friends have come down, it means there is something wrong.

I come from Kerala where Hindus, Muslims, Christians all live together, celebrate festivals. Nobody looks at you as a Hindu or a Muslim. In the north, people do not do that. As a result you have ghettos of different communities. We need to break this barrier.

Social media has emerged as a big trouble-maker lately by showing morphed and doctored videos leading to communal clashes. What are the effective ways to deal with it?
Government cannot ban it, it is unstoppable. It will have to learn to make use of it. Media information flow needs to be monitored better. Government can be more vigilant to come out with forceful denial of a wrong act committed on a social website and at the same time find ways to proscribe a particular video or a message and take action against those who uploaded such content.

Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif wants to have good relations with India. But there are ceasefire violations and attempts to push terrorists inside. How should India go about it?
We must strengthen democracy in Pakistan. But at the same time infiltration by terrorists from across the border should not be tolerated. India should do surgical strikes and knock off terror camps.

At the same time we should improve trade, and have more people to people and business to business contacts. When there are shared interests nobody wants war as it affects economic interests. Who knows that the Pakistani army and the ISI that already have large business interests may find business with India lucrative once it grows and slowly leave its anti-India stance that it currently finds essential for their existence.

Courtesy DNA