Monday, February 10, 2014

It's not just Telangana that was messed up!

The following article was written for Niti Central. Pasting it here for reference
In a move that surprised pretty much everyone in the State, the India Today Group selected Andhra Pradesh as the best governed State. One of the reasons being that Cabinet Ministers of Kiran Kumar Reddy themselves opposed the manner in which the schemes are announced and implemented!
Much before this award was given, I have written an article Cabinet Ministers of this Chief Minister themselves opposed the manner in which the schemes are announced and implemented! explaining the various schemes of Chief Minister, for which this award was now given! While receiving the award, the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister made a significant statement. “When I took over as the Chief Minister three years ago, the first priority was to“restore normalcy”, because of agitations… and there was a huge debt that the Government had to pay to the tune of 9000 crore. We were in a financial crisis.
What the anchor and later the media simply ignored was that for 6 years before Kiran Kumar Reddy took over as the Chief Minister, the State was ruled by the Congress only! For 5 years, YSR was the Chief Minister. For a little over an year, Rosaih was the Chief Minister (after YSR’s demise). So according to the Chief Minister’s own admission, his party messed up the State so badly that it took him very long to overcome the mess.
However, the crucial point is that did he overcome the mess as he claims? With and without the Telangana and United Andhra agitations, the people of the State have suffered so much; governance was literally halted for so long that partymen of the ruling party themselves rue this massive failure. Let’s take a look at some of the crucial incidents that will merely reinforce what the CM himself has agreed upon.
1. The electricity supply crisis
On November 26, 2011, we woke up to read the following item in the newspapers:
“The AP TRANSCO and the distribution companies have decided to continue the present 12-hour power cut (6 am to 6 pm) in rural areas till the middle of next year, attributing it again to power shortage again. If any village gets supply for one or two hours during daytime now, it may be by mistake of the field staff. ”
Remember this news item was in 2011 – the decision was to continue the existing power cut policy till the mid of next year, i.e., 2012. The crisis started in August-September 2011. It continued till about September of 2012. Nearly an year. There was a 4-14 hour power cut in the entire State during this period. Note the statement by the TRANSCO – “If any village gets supply for one or two hours during daytime now, it may be by mistake of the field staff.”
Now you might say, the problem was there for an year – so what? The problem cropped up in early 2013 again! Two to 12 hour power cuts across the State (depending on city, town, village). The Chief Minister is on record saying that it is true that the State is going through a power crisis. He told industralists that if there is a good monsoon then the crisis will be resolved by June. If not, he assured them that he will resolve it by October of 2013. Thankfully, we had a good monsoon and power problems were resolved by July. Wait, don’t jump the gun by feeling good yet. Because guess what – the problem is back to haunt us again! “Starting last week (we are in now in 2014)”, 2-8 hour power cuts have been imposed across the State. So, a crisis that started in 2011 continues till date – and we are to believe that Andhra Pradesh is the best governed State in the country?
Domestic consumers will still survive these power cuts. But what about industries? The power situation turned so bad that the Government, at one point of time, had to tell industries to have a four-day power holiday every week! That’s right — industries were running only 12 days per month! Their situation is still precarious. All small industries have been hit badly since they cannot afford to have more manpower than required for those 12 days and layoffs had to happen. It takes no genius to understand that fewer working days lead to lesser production which lead to slower growth!
2. The electricity billing crisis
In 2010, the Government increased the cost per unit, which was understandable since no increase has happened since 2004. But before the hapless consumer could grasp the repercussions of this increase in power cuts, another bombshell was dropped. A new concept called Fuel Surcharge Adjustment (FSA) was introduced! Many consumers were unaware of what this FSA even meant. All we knew is that an inflated bill started showing up and we had no option but to pay.
Simply put, distribution companies are transferring fuel charges incurred in 2009-2010 to the hapless consumer in 2012-2013. So even if someone did not stay in a house in 2009-2010, one still had to bear the burden of tax on electricity consumption that one was not responsible for! This concept continues till date – we get to pay FSA, i.e., additional charges for consumption incurred three years back.
Before you come back saying – so what if you have to pay a little extra – take a look at this earlier article in Niti, which explains in detail the FSA. For those who don’t want to click on the link – in 2012, for energy charges of Rs 468, an additional surcharge of Rs 1079 was imposed. Nearly twice as high as the original bill. The quantum of charges have come down in recent times, but that does not offer any relief to the hapless consumer.
3. The resignations/strikes by the Ministers
Yes – you read it right. Ministers of the Government, at various times, have either submitted their resignations (which were seldom accepted) or simply refused to visit the Secretariat to work. Much before Arvind Kejriwal came into picture, Ministers of Andhra Pradesh have set the precedent of protesting against their own high command!
Whilst the Delhi based English TV media chose to either ignore or give very little coverage to this farce, the people of Andhra Pradesh have been at the receiving end of this “best governance”. And no – this is not a recent phenomenon. Since 2011, someone or the other has either resigned or has not attended work. The full details about this “halt in governance” has been detailed here. For about a month in 2011, Ministers from the Telangana region did not go to Secretariat protesting against their high command’s decision of taking a decision on Telangana. Their chicanery is astounding – after a while, they started clearing files from their home offices instead of going to the Secretariat!
After the Congress Working Committee (CWC) announcement favouring the splitting up of Andhra Pradesh, the Ministers from Seemandhra joined the chicanery. They submitted resignations and vowed not to work for the Congress. Guess what – not a single resignation is accepted, and the Ministers are happily back to enjoying the perks and privileges of being Ministers! They are either clearing files from home or are busy participating in agitations or are busy plotting moves against their own high command.
And then there was different resignation saga by Ministers accused of corruption during the YSR regime. Please note that these Ministers are from the Congress, accused of corruption during the rule of one of Congress’s most favourite CM’s! We have documented this entire saga on Niti, earlier itself. Please visit the link to get more details on the same – will not waste space on reproducing the piece here.
4. The delay in conducting elections to local bodies
In his speeches, Rahul Gandhi doesn’t get tired mentioning about Panchayat Raj. He doesn’t get tired talking about “empowering the village pradhan”. He doesn’t get bored while praising the extremely abusive Mani Shankar Aiyar for helping in ushering the Panchayat Raj system into our dreary lives.
The elections to the Panchayat bodies in Andhra Pradesh were due in 2010. They were held in 2013. Just a wait of mere three years. There was a case in the High Court regarding BC reserved seats. The Government took it’s own sweet time in responding citing the absence of latest census data to notify seats according. Once that data was available, we were constantly bombarded in 2013 that the elections will be held in February; February went by, we were told that the lastest date is March, then April; then the Chief Minister finally told June. The Chief Minister told us that elections to Panchayats will take place in June- July; elections to municipalities will take place in July-August; and elections to Zilla Parishads will take place in August-September.
Elections to Panchayats were finally held in July 2013. On the last day of polling, the Congress announced it’s support to split Andhra Pradesh. And with this decision, everyone forgot about the decision to hold elections to the municipal bodies, until last week, when the Andhra Pradesh High Court ordered the Government to conduct elections within a month! So, how were these bodies governed over the last four years then? By executive officers!
On the one side, Rahul Gandhi shouts from the roof top about empowering “local bodies”; and on the other side, the State ruled by his party had scant respect to this whole process! We did not have elected bodies, as mandated by the Constitution for about four years – if this is not a crisis, then what else is?
5. The crisis of strikes by Employees
The Government employees belonging the non-gazetted officer cadre of the Telangana region resorted to a 44 day strike in 2011. The Government employees belonging to the non-gazetted officer cadre of the Seemandhra region resorted to a nearly 70 day strike in 2013. The participating employees during each of the strikes ran into lakhs of employees! Lakhs! Both these times, the crisis was precipitated due to the Congress itself. Lakhs of people had to undergo severe hardships due to the strike by these employees. We have documented the details of this hardship in detail on NitiCentral.
IAS officers were arrested on charges of massive corruption – some of them were targetted unfailry too. An earlier blog details why they are unfairly targetted. Do you want to know the end result of this targetting? “Decision making in State takes a hit“!
6. The by-elections
Since the 2009 elections, the AP Assembly has witnessed bye-elections to more than 40 seats in the Assembly. At various times, these elections were either a result of some political crisis or because of the resignation caused by the AP bifurcation struggle. More than 40 seats went to poll at various times! Sometimes, there was also a question mark on the continuance of the Government too! Even today, 15 seats are lying vacant in the 294 seat Assembly – primarily because the Congress made sure the resignations of these 15 legislators was accepted only in June 2013, despite being submitted in February, 2013. Because the resignations came into force at a time when the life of the current Assembly is less than a year, the Election Commission was under no obligation to conduct bye-elections! And because of this strategy, the constituents of 15 Assembly seats do not have a representative in the Assembly!
The mess in Andhra Pradesh is primarily because of the hide and seek played by Sonia Gandhi after YSR’s demise. As illustrated above, under the present and past Congress Governments, governance has taken a major hit. These accusations are being made by the Congress folks themselves, so no one can even accuse of an “Opposition conspiracy” here! If such horrible governance were to happen in a State close to Delhi, or in a BJP-ruled State, the “national media” would have been baying for the blood of the parties in power. But AP is the “abandoned” one!
Amidst all this, Sonia Gandhi has not once, not once visited the State to assuage our feelings. Not once has she even issued a statement to the people of Andhra Pradesh. Such is the state of affairs – no wonder many were baffled at AP getting the “best governance” award.


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