Monday, June 22, 2015

One year after Bifurcation - Part2

The following article was written for Niti Central. Pasting it here for reference.

Part-1 of this series discussed the contentious issues between both the Telangana (TS) and Andhra Pradesh (AP) states. This part will discuss the various policies that both the governments have introduced/implemented so far.
Mission Kakatiya
Whenever new governments come, we have often heard about them announcing/sanctioning irrigation projects that often involve constructions of dams. These projects are seldom completed within 3-5 years; and face a lot of legal and logistical difficulties – and are therefore often stuck at the foundation stone level only!
In contrast to announcing such projects that will never be constructed, KCR’s government has announced a feasible and much larger scale project – “Mission Kakatiya”. Through this, the goal is to restore nearly 50,000 lakes and tanks across the state! The government has invited participation from the general public, as well as from various departments.
This is the key flagship program of this government – if this succeeds – we are looking at a very long haul of KCR at the helm. More importantly, if this succeeds – many woes of farmers and also drinking water problems will be resolved. Mission Kakatiya deserves all the support one can give – in its success lies Telangana’s and India’s success.
Education sector
This 5 minute speech by KCR in the Assembly accurately captures the dismal state of engineering education in both the states. One of the biggest complaint of many industry bigwigs is that the quality of engineering students passing out is very poor. In a very bold step, KCR government has sanctioned the raiding of as many as ~150 colleges and show cause notices were issued to all of them. It is important that engineering colleges don’t take students for a ride – if KCR succeeds in streamlining the faulty system, many students and parents will be indebted to him!
However, early during his tenure, he came up a controversial scheme – FAST (about which we have written earlier). The High Court has struck this scheme as illegal, in the later half of the year, bringing an end to a lot of (unnecessary) confusion.
No government jobs announced
Another big reason for disenchantment amongst the people of Telangana, in the undivided AP, was that there is severe injustice meted out to them in government jobs. Employee Unions played a big role in the success of the Telangana movement. However, due to many administrative problems, the new government has not been able to announce any new government posts. Students are a bit disenchanted because of this – it’s been a year and no notification for jobs has been issue. Hopefully, this year will bring in better tidings.
Students belonging to Osmania University are also regularly protesting at the government’s move to regularize contract employees of the government. The students contend that they stand to lose if this is done. There is a no resolution yet for this demand.
Swachh Bharat
The TRS government has picked up Swachh Bharat in earnest. Infact they have picked this up in more earnest than the state party unit of the BJP! The program has just begun – so we will need to wait a couple of years. But like they say, well begun is half done :).
“Ban” on media
This topic was also written about here, so won’t dwell into details. Unfortunately, one news channel, ABN Andhra Jyothy, is still not telecasted by the cable operators (nearly 11 months) in Telangana. Hopefully the ban will be lifted soon, because the intolerance to dissenting opinion is surely not a good thing in a democracy.
Capitalizing on Hyderabad
One of the biggest reasons for the Telangana state doing well on finances is Hyderabad. KCR has done well to allay all fears regarding Hyderabad. Pre-bifurcation, there was this lurking fear that all “Andhra people” will be asked to leave etc. All such fears have turned out to be false, and Hyderabad is fast regaining its status as a big employment hub. Multiple MoUs have been signed by various companies to setup factories/offices in and around Hyderabad. KCR did well to capitalize well on the gold mine that is Hyderabad. The sheen that was in the danger of wearing off is back.
Improved Power Supply
For the past 4-5 years, we have been subjected to long power cuts in the summer (and sometimes in winter too!). The situation has improved by leaps and bounds this year. KCR is promising a power surplus state by 2017. If the going is as smooth, rest assured, KCR will back 2019. 24 hour power and Mission Kakatiya are the key to re-election. KCR knows this, and therefore the supreme focus on these two.
Andhra Pradesh
Hudhud devastation
Andhra Pradesh had the worst possible beginning any state could imagine of. The massive devastation caused by the Hudhud cyclone could not have come at a worse time. The AP government received all round appreciation on how it handled the entire tragedy. The CM camped in Vizag for a week to put all systems in place – the ministers were directly supervising relief works for weeks after the cyclone too. The region is still recovering from this. The city of Vizag is back to normalcy, but it is the farmer who is still recovering.
A new Capital City
One of the first tasks of the AP government was to identify a region for capital city; come up with a policy to acquire land for the capital city; ensure that some progress is made in the next 4 years in building of the city. First, the region near Vijayawada-Guntur was identified, and the Assembly unanimously accepted that this region would be the capital city region of the new state. The state government has come up with a land pooling policy, and has so far acquired a whopping 30,000 acres of farm land in this region (more specifically in the Tullur Mandal). The government has decided the name the capital as Amaravati.
One of the campaign ads of TDP was that Chandrababu Naidu will construct a capital that will resemble Singapore in its growth. The CM visited Singapore and had discussions with various folks before announcing that Master plan for the capital will be provided from Singapore – the CM and ministers keep telling us that the master plan will be developed by Singapore for free. As we know, nothing comes for free :). We are yet to know what benefits Singapore is going to get from this.
Some controversies have erupted regarding land pooling because few farmers are not willing to let go of their land. Film star Pawan Kalyan made a fleeting appearance and said that he will stand by these farmers – his argument being that no single farmer should suffer. With the opposition in tatters, one must say that the land pooling has been relatively a smooth affair.  There have been questions raised on why such a massive land bank of 30,000 acres – the government is justifying this by saying this is needed to build a world class city.
State Finances and special status
The precarious financial situation of the state government was known from the word go. To add to the woes, the TDP has promised a full loan waiver to all farmers. There was a lot of churning within the government and the RBI to somehow make this happen. RBI was not ready to restructure the loans, and the government could not afford to not give a full loan waiver. A compromise formula was worked out, and the full loan waiver is now being implemented in stages and not at one go. The upper limit is 1.5 lakh rupees, which the government claims will cover 96% of the farmers. Long queues are still seen outside govt. offices to get the loan waiver – clarity is yet to emerge on the scale of implementation yet.
And then the Hudhud devastation happened. This further emptied the coffers. And then in an ill-advised move, the government has increased the salary of it’s employees by a whopping 43% (This happened because the TS government increased for their employees. Immediately, AP employees were up in arms). The central government was extending help in bits and pieces, but there was a major flareup in AP when nothing substantial was announced for AP in the budget.
The anger against the central government was so high that even a 1,78,000 crore additional grant for the next five years, and an additional 22,000 crores for bridging of the revenue gap for the next 5 years was considered inconsequential. The media spin was massive on this – Modi has failed the people of AP! Take a look at the image below to understand the spin by the media.
The unlimited doles being announced is adding to the financial crisis – there is a huge perception that a “special status” category will solve all of AP’s financial problems. On BJP’s urging, the then PM made a statement on the floor of the house that “special status” will be granted to AP. Now, Venkaih Naidu keeps telling that such a status will have to be ratified by the NDC and it’s not an easy task to do it, given the demands pending from other states too. This has further angered people – if this status is not granted in the immediate future, the going will get quite tough for the ruling coalition.
Swachh Bharat
Chandrababu Naidu has been one of the earliest proponents of cleanliness. It was in the fitness of things that he was made the chair of the sub-group of CMs on implementing of Swachh Bharat. He has also taken up this program in earnest much earlier in AP. In addition to this, he is also spearheading a “Neeru-Chettu” program – basically aimed at planting more trees (he did something similar in his earlier stint as CM too).
Irrigation Schemes
The focus of the new government is two irrigation projects – Pattiseema and Polavaram. Polavaram has been declared a national project, and it is expected that the centre will finish it ASAP. This project has been lingering since decades. Hence, it is unreasonable to expect any completion before the next election. The Pattiseema project aims to bring drinking and irrigation water to the water-starved region of Rayalseema. The main opposition party, YSRCP, is strongly opposed to this project. Chandrababu Naidu has promised to finish this project within one year – if the promise is kept, then a generation will be thankful to him. If not, well… :).


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