August 03, 2013

Telangana river waters, irrigation & agriculture-2 (Scope & methodology)

Problem statement

I have always believed in defining the questions ("issues" as termed in the Indian judicial system) before trying to find the answers. This approach ensures focus on the relevant factors and improves the success rate of the study.

I framed the following questions as needing to be answered:

a.     Has Telangana received a fair share of river waters, especially in the Krishna basin?
b.    Has Telangana received adequate attention in respect of irrigation & agriculture?

It is possible (or even probable) that its "fair share" and/or "adequate attention" may be derived from an independent identity. Even if this is the case, this extreme legalistic stand should not deter an investigation. These questions would therefore be addressed as if Telangana (or Rayalaseema for that matter) is a formal entity for the purpose of this study.

The natural corollaries to these questions are:

·         From whom?
·         How does one define "fair share"?
·         How does one define "adequate attention"?

Fairness is an essential component of the social contract principle. Salus populi suprema lex est, the fundamental rule of governance, holds the welfare of people to be the highest law. The answer to the first question is therefore obvious i.e. the state in all its forms.

The second question is trickier to answer. I believe the definition of "fair share" can only emerge from the study.

The third question is comparatively easier. The state attention needs to be commensurate with the region's rights & needs. The major complication here is that "rights" are related to or derived from the "fair share" of river waters. Question b can be answered only after the answer to a is ascertained.

Merely answering the above questions is not enough. The following need to be considered based on the findings:

c.     What actions are possible or necessary to correct the real or imagined grievances?
d.    What are the reasons for the widespread mistrust on the apportioning of river waters (between Telangana-Andhra-Rayalaseema but in several other instances)?

These need not be exhaustive or complete. The idea is to generate thoughts that can be studied further rather than to provide a solution.

The actions proposed against question c can include state formation as a possible option. This may not be interpreted as providing any rationale for the proposed new state.

Subsidiary questions

Subject to time & patience, I would also look at the following questions:

e.     Questions a, b & c applied to Rayalaseema
f.     The position of particularly contentious matters (e.g. Almatti, Babhali & Polavaram)

These questions are useful to answer but not essential to the purpose of this study.

Out of scope

It is important to define what one is not trying to accomplish. This helps in setting expectations as well as preventing diverting of attention.

This is a study, not a prescriptive manual. The study is focused on the past and the present, not the future. Any recommendations I make (against # c) will be workable within the existing system.

This is not a treatise on any of the disciplines relevant to the study. While I acquired a working knowledge of these subjects adequate to present & debate my findings, I have not overnight become an expert on any of these aspects.

I do not claim to have studied all the material relevant to the subject. The sources I used are listed separately. Even in these cases, I have limited my study to the factors relevant to the defined purpose. I will gladly study any "verifiable" source that I may have missed or misunderstood if it is bought to my notice and revisit the relevant sections.

This is not a null hypothesis style experiment. I am not setting up the questions for a negative answer.

This work is not targeted at anyone. I started the exercise to educate myself and not to rebut anyone else's position or work.

This work is not about the formation of states. I start from the premise that one's opinion on the formation of Telangana (or Rayalaseema for that matter) does not depend on the findings.

This study is not about discrimination. There could be several reasons for a region receiving less or more than its "fair share" and/or "adequate attention". Even a systematic bias need not be deliberate. While I may examine the reasons offered for any imbalance, this is only to understand the associated issues.

This study is about results, not intentions or conscious effort or lack thereof. Intentions, plans & efforts do not guarantee results. I treat "tried our best", "we intend to", "will achieve in the future" etc. as being an admission of failure.

I am not trying to find out how well or how badly Telangana has progressed in agriculture. I limit my attention to the role of the state's attention.

Basic approach

The high level methodology is obvious:

·         Ascertain the "fair share" of river waters
·         Determine the "adequate attention" in irrigation & agriculture (based on the above)
·         Estimate the actual share & "attention"
·         Compare the results with the "entitlement"

The converse (and vastly easier) approach of estimating the results and justifying these against "entitlement" is tempting but highly error prone. Surprisingly enough many authors (including some "experts") take this route J


After finalizing the basic approach, I turned to the methodology required. I spent several hours trying to understand the nature of the study and the factors essential to the answers. I was in for several surprises: for one, I learnt the subject is even more complex than I had originally believed!

I narrowed down on the following subjects that needed to be investigated:

·         Water rights & related concepts in various legal systems
·         Water sharing concepts ("fair share") & dispute resolution mechanisms, especially in the Indian context
·         Water conflicts & their resolution/impact
·         Hierarchy of water uses
·         Basin-geography contradictions
·         Factors affecting the volume of water available for sharing including scientific models if available
·         Factors affecting the consumption of water especially in irrigation uses
·         Irrigation sources with advantages & disadvantages
·         Available data & applicable data collection mechanisms relating to water use and agricultural (especially food grains) production in AP

As I started working on these, I realized I had missed identifying certain important subjects. These are briefly stated below:

·         Rainfall related data & drought patterns in AP
·         Statutory & other requirements for irrigation projects in India
·         Information on cropping patterns in AP
·         Rural economics in AP

These are broad headings. Much of the study was iterative by nature but, apart from the above, these required deeper investigation rather than adding new subjects.

Based on the above subjects, the study can be broadly divided into the following streams:

·         Qualitative parameters such as applicable laws, regulations, precedent, procedures & processes etc.
·         Quantitative data on various relevant parameters

These streams appear to be divergent at a first glance. This is misleading as the qualitative parameters can help define the mathematical models used to analyze the data.

I started analyzing the inputs after assimilating a critical mass adequate for an initial understanding. As expected, some of the analysis resulted in further studies.

I started drafting this report only after I was reasonably certain the findings would not need any significant change.

Primary "protagonist" sources

An analysis of this nature needs to start somewhere. A good starting point for a study of this nature is material from those who have answered questions a and b in the positive. Fortunately there are enough qualifying sources. Studying this material first was very useful in framing the methodology.

Lagadapati Rajagopal, an Andhra businessman-cum-politician, often claims that he has all the material to convincingly disprove Telangana activist claims. This presumably includes claims relating to river waters, irrigation & agriculture. However I could not find Rajagopal's material anywhere. This is also true of many other similar individuals.

Loksatta party (LSP) is an unrecognized political party founded and led by ex-bureaucrat Dr. Nagabhairava Jaya Prakash Narayan. The party enjoys high visibility thanks to the stature of the founder and a good degree of admiration (though not vote share) in Andhra urban educated classes. LSP has made available its submittal to the Sri Krishna Committee (formally called "Committee for consultations on the situation in Andhra Pradesh", abbreviated as SKC here). In addition, the party's views are available through interviews & chats with its founder as well as party press releases. Most of the material can be traced back to the party's web site.

While LSP's stand on Telangana is nuanced, their answer to questions a & b is "Yes". The party's material can therefore be considered that of a "protagonist" for the purpose of this study.

Nalamotu Chakravarthy, an American whose family is said to hail from Nalgonda district, enjoys a strong following among Internet savvy anti-Telangana individuals. Though Chakravarthy's "book" titled "My Telugu roots (Telangana state demand- a Bhasmasura wish)" is in most parts outside the public domain, he has made available three (out of twenty) chapters on his web site. Chapter 19 (titled "Telangana state demand built on a platform of lies") includes material relating to river waters, irrigation & agriculture. Chakravarthy specifically targets the late Prof. K. Jayashankar's paper titled "Telangana movement: the demand for a separate state (a historical perspective)". He also provides a bibliography and several tables & figures supporting his claims.

In addition, Chakravarthy has also made available his submittal to the SKC. While the submittal is actually in the name of a group of North Americans styled as "Andhra Pradesh Non-Resident Indians", Chakravarthy is credited with the preparation of the submittal with the support of others. While Chakravarthy's current association with the group is not known, I treated the submittal as Chakravarthy's own on the strength of his being credited with the preparation. It is also interesting to note the submittal is not available on the group's own web site.

More recently, an advocacy group styled as Visalandhra Mahasabha (VMS) has published another "book" titled "Refuting an agitation (101 lies & dubious arguments of Telangana separatists)". As Chakravarthy is the president of this group, this "book" is also considered as Chakravarthy's own for the purpose of this study.

Based on a quick glance of this material, it is clear the "book" titled "My Telugu roots (Telangana state demand- a Bhasmasura wish)" is Chakravarthy's primary material while the supporting material on his web site and the two collaborative works are secondary or supplementary in nature.

I must mention both LSP & Chakravarthy touch upon a wide range of subjects that are outside the scope of this study. I considered only that part of the material that directly or indirectly relates to my problem statements.

At a first glance, Chakravarthy's treatment of the qualitative aspects is superior to that of LSP. He lists his sources and adopts a more granular approach. On quantitative aspects, however, LSP provides much more data presented quite well. This may be because of stronger organizational mobilization and/or familiarity with data management methods. Chakravarthy due to his own reasons needed to provide two sets of data configured slightly differently: this dents what is otherwise a remarkable effort.

I therefore treated Chakravarthy as the main "protagonist" on qualitative aspects while according this "status" to LSP on quantitative matters. This does not mean I ignored the other party's material.

Even at a first glance, there are shortcomings in the material offered by the two "protagonists". I will go into these later along with any other not so apparent aspects that may be uncovered. For now, it is sufficient to acknowledge these sources provide enough material to help in the fact finding exercise.

It is possible (or even probable) that both these "protagonists" (as well as others who have not published their claims) used material from the same original source. This should not be used to jump to the conclusion of collaboration or otherwise discredit/criticize either or both. Perhaps there is only one original source for each subject of interest? The fact that the three (counting Chakravarthy's two sets separately) datasets are not identical does provide a basis for cross-verification.

I would like to make it clear that designating an individual or group as "protagonist" is for the limited purposes of creating a baseline and helping me freeze my methodology. I acknowledge their stand on any subject including Telangana is quite likely to be based on their interpretation of facts rather than the other way round. Their material deserves to be taken at face value without being dismissed either on grounds of bias or because some of their other claims have been shown to be wrong. Imputing motives to anyone is not only unfair but also counter productive.

This work is not about the claims of these "protagonists". I did submit their claims to fact checking but this was only to find the answers to the questions I have set for myself. The fact checking exercise constitutes a small (and definitely not the most important) part of this work.

I also acknowledge the fact that anyone including the best "experts" may be subject to limitations including inherent bias (e.g. due to political ideology). This again should not detract from appreciating the merit of their opinions, interpretations and theories. Their opinions should be treated on merit similar to those of the "protagonists" with only one difference- their expertise deserves to be acknowledged and treated with the appropriate weightage.

SKC report as a source

SKC report can not for obvious reasons be treated as that of a "protagonist". The next logical question is: can we treat this report as a final arbiter on these questions?

Due to various reasons that require more space than I can spare at the moment, I am unable to treat SKC as a neutral arbitrator. No section of the aggrieved parties have accepted their report wholeheartedly. While anti-Telangana groups have generally welcomed the report, this enthusiasm does not translate into total (or even near total) acceptance.

More importantly for this study, however, the questions as framed by me are not directly addressed by SKC. Their approach & style are not compatible with my framework. This is apart from the fact that none of the committee members have, by the committee's own admission, any expertise in the various dimensions relating to the subject matter.

It is by no means certain if these questions are even a part of their mandate. If these questions were indeed a part of the SKC terms of reference, would it not have been better to include one member with relevant expertise?

SKC appointed Anil Mohile, former Chairman of the Central Water Commission (CWC) to study “issues relating to Water Resources and Irrigation in Andhra Pradesh”. SKC has chosen not to publish either the expert report or any details relating to the assignment such as the terms of reference, selection criterion, remuneration & benefits, working methodology etc. SKC report does not include a summary of the Mohile report. There is very little information on crucial matters like how the expert worked, the documents were referred by him, experts he consulted etc. The report refers to the expert at times and does not do so at others. It is difficult to gauge at the impact of the expert's report on SKC's findings.

SKC's methodology differed quite a bit from proceedings before traditional arbitration mechanisms (e.g. a tribunal). For instance, no issues were framed or witnesses examined. None of the "respondents" were provided access to material or testimony submitted by the other parties. Almost the entire material received by the committee is off limits. There may be valid reasons behind some of the above but these alone can not bestow the "status" of arbiter on SKC.

Should we treat the SKC report as an expert opinion? The answer is clearly "No" based on the reasons/shortfalls outlined above.

I would have treated the Mohile report as an expert opinion had it been published in full. I considered filing a right-to-information (RTI) request asking for the unpublished (secret?)expert report but did not do so due to the "verifiability" guideline I set for myself.

In view of the above I treated SKC report as an additional input without any special consideration or suspicion.

"Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable": Mark Twain


  1. Email from Challa Hanumanth Rao:

    Make it once in a week as it is a complicated subject and you may well aware of statistics and complications.

    I also have few facts and I also know a little hence request. Let it be slow and steady.

    1. My reply to Hanumanth Rao:

      Thanks a lot for your suggestion. I fully agree the subject is complex and requires careful attention.

      When I listened to Prof. Kodandaram on HMTV today, I was surprised to note his grip on this subject is not strong.

      Unfortunately my report is too long and weekly posts will prolong it. I want to complete the series by the time the bill is passed.

      Right now I am still in the introductory stage. I will try to reduce the frequency once I come to the more “discussable” chapters.

  2. Excerpt of an email from Gandhi Bhamidipati:

    Yes, I am interested and will continue reading. I read your earlier post on Telangana March long ago.

    1. Excerpts from my reply to Gandhi (the rest of his email & my reply are unrelated to the blog subject):

      I look forward to your views. I have posted an excerpt from your mail as a comment in my blog. If it is OK, please do post comments at the blog itself.

  3. Divakar Kondubhatla, nothing but your non-sense rattle Jai. I think you must have a trip to kulumanali since you etired.

    1. Anon (Divakar?),

      Thanks for visiting my blog. I wish you post a comment related to the post.

  4. Email from Dr. Ratnakar Palla:

    I am extremely happy to see that u have started to write on Telangaana river waters,irrigation n agriculture which is a very vast . It is going to be very informative.i wish u all d best in ur effort. Regards. Ratnakar palla

  5. Good beginning!
    I am surprised you are calling Lagadapati,JP & Chakravarthi protagonists, going by the conventional meaning of the word :)

    1. I used the word in quotes. I hope this makes it clear that I did not use it in the "conventional" meaning.

      I picked published sources who answer Yes to my questions a & b. Maybe the term should have been "aye-sayers"?

      In any case, you will not find the word "protagonist" in the next chapters.

  6. hai jai, you say there are shortcomings in JP and chakravarthy statistics at a first glance. Give examples insted of crying

    1. Anon (not sure if its the same one as previous):

      I reiterate "Even at a first glance, there are shortcomings in the material offered by the two "protagonists". I am sure you will find some yourself if you check.

      As you asked for examples, I am providing two (one from each source). I am not saying these have to be rejected but it does call for scrutiny. They may indeed be correct but this can't be asserted without digging deeper.


      In his submittal to SKC (slide 35), Chakravarthy provides the areas covered in each district by different irrigation sources. The net canal irrigated area (in ha) numbers in water year 1955-56 are 114,720; 1,106,258 & 70,860 for Telangana, Andhra & Rayalaseema respectively.

      In the next slide, he provides the land revenue by district for the same period. Telangana, Andhra & Rayalaseema numbers (in lacs) are 29.6, 60.5 & 14.9.

      This translates to Rs. 258/net canal ha for Telangana & Rs. 209 for Rayalaseema while Andhra's revenue per net canal ha is Rs. 55/-. The situation at district level varies even wider.

      Page 88 of LSP submittal provides the areas covered in each district by different irrigation sources. The net irrigated area comes to 48.2 lac ha.

      Page 90 lists irrigated & sown land by holding size in the water year 2000-01. The total net irrigated area comes to 34.2 lac ha.

      If both tables are correct around 14 lac net irrigated hectares (~ 40%) were added in 8 years. This does not look easy without any new projects.

  7. Good to see the questions but when are you giving answers? SKC has given answers three years ago itself.

    1. Anon:

      There are many questions on the SKC "answers".

      What are their answers is itself not clear. SKC did not publish the full Mohile committee report.

      Are the SKC "answers" correct? Not sure at a first glance.

      I will reply all questions as the posts fan out. This will take time because the subject is vast.


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