The decision of the YS Jaganmohan Reddy government to reserve 75% of the seats of private sector enterprises in Andhra Pradesh even if they do not take State grants is economically disastrous. A Tamil politician immediately tried a game of oneupmanship by demanding 80% of quotas in his State. Politicians of several other States have attempted it in the recent past, albeit unsuccessfully. Before the division of Andhra Pradesh, if too much of importance was given to the development of Hyderabad at the expense of the rest of Telangana, coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions, finally leading to resentment from all quarters leading to the bifurcation of the Telugu-speaking province, the truncated part ought to develop on the basis of enterprise rather than central grant. The special category will remain an elusive tag, as the status is accorded chiefly to border States due to certain extra costs incurred on national security. In this scenario, Andhra Pradesh will require not only FDI across its cities and towns but also a variety of talent, the likes of which are business-wise impossible to hunt from any given State in the geographical expanse from Jammu and Kashmir to Tamil Nadu, from Gujarat to Nagaland or from Punjab to Odisha. A company looks at quite a few factors for a candidate’s employability, the most pressing of which is economic viability. A local recruit often misses out on an opportunity because he tends to demand more facilities from the employer, as he is socially well ensconced in the area, which gives him more bargaining power but makes him less attractive at the same time. The logic works as much in Silicon Valley recruiting Indians as it would be in Amaravati that ought to be built from scratch. If reserving jobs for the local population has not made the US under Donald Trump richer, Mumbai never became more attractive because of the ‘Marathi Manoos’ activism by the Shiv Sena or Maharastra Navanirman Sena. The AAP’s bid to reserve seats for Delhi students at the University of Delhi did not even take off. The Madhya Pradesh Congress made similar noises and then shut up. The best performing States have always been those that embrace all. Indeed, the American success story relied heavily on import and assimilation of talent initially from Europe and later from Asia.
Andhra Pradesh may not be immediately impacted because of the fact that 62% of its population is engaged directly or indirectly in agriculture, almost 20 percentage points higher than the national average. But the farm sector is bound to shrink as a new State cannot prosper without urbanisation. Automobiles and auto components industry, spices, mines and minerals, textiles and apparels, IT industry, bulk drugs and pharmaceuticals, the main industries in the State, cannot make do with exclusive local workforces. No doubt, there are qualified job seekers in Andhra Pradesh. However, the types seen drawing handsome salaries from multinational companies are confined largely to information technology. Will they return home from the West on learning about this quota? No. Can the local companies absorb all of them? No. Even those engaged in menial labour in Chennai will not return to Naidupet, Sullurpet and Tada, as Tamil Nadu offers higher daily wages and can accommodate a bigger workforce. The only impact will be negative: Flight of capital from a State that has been drained by the misplaced priorities of the YS Rajasekhara Reddy and N Chandrababu Naidu regimes.
The Telugu-speaking State enjoys a great advantage over destinations like Tamil Nadu and Kerala owing to a relatively lower language barrier. The otherwise oppressive Islamist expansion in India came with a blessing in disguise in the form of Dakkani, making Hindi easily comprehensible to the people whose first language is Telugu. The YSRCP government will do well to note that this linguistic advantage was already somewhat frittered away by the more phenomenal rise of Bengaluru and Chennai going easy on imposition of Tamil on ‘outsiders’. Whatever is left of the leverage cannot be sacrificed on the altar of sectarianism. If politicians see electoral dividends in parochialism, there ought to be statesmen who explain to the people how it is counterproductive. If no such visionary personality who is ready to initiate the socio-economic education is found, the exclusivist rule can be challenged in a high court or the Supreme Court, where convincing the judges of the need to uphold every Indian’s right to movement will not be difficult. This despite the truism that our courts are now as socialist as the state that does not appreciate that government interference in the functioning of private enterprises is wrong.