Sunrise state Andhra Pradesh makes slow but steady progress

Sunrise state Andhra Pradesh makes slow but steady progress

Dateline: Hyderabad

Over the past three years, the residual state of Andhra Pradesh has gained the critical moment it needed to take off. The state was carved on June 2, 2014 leaving it with a huge revenue deficit of Rs 16,000 cr and with no capital. This meant it had to fend for itself. The state with one of the longest coastlines is predominantly agricultural-oriented with hardly any industrial base to catapult it into a faster economic growth corridor.

Even as the state had an option of sharing Hyderabad for a decade, it took a decision to shift the state capital to Amaravati to bring its administration closer to its people. An interim government complex and assembly were built in a record time of 16 months even as efforts were made to select a master builder to construct the new, state of the art capital.

With the offices and staff shifting to Amaravati, the entire administration, for the first time, set foot on the soil of the residual state from Hyderabad from where the administration was run before June 2014.

There were initial hiccups as many of the secretariat staff had families in Hyderabad and had no base whatsoever in the tri-city region of Vijayawada-Tenali-Guntur that forms the Capital Area of the state.

A special inter-city train from Hyderabad to Guntur has been launched to ferry the Hyderabad-based staff to Amaravati on working days. Individual departments scrambled for the existing rental space in the thickly populated Vijayawada where finding a two bed-roomed flat at prices on par with Hyderabad is nearly impossible.

Despite the efforts of the government department heads and the Andhra Pradesh Non-Gazetted Officers’ Association to match the existing space with the staff, the issue of settlement of the first wave of `home-coming employees’ took a long time, impacting work in several offices.

The shifting of files from Hyderabad and its digitisation also took time. There were also issues with the space in the newly built interim secretariat where ministers and departmental heads vied for some decent space to set up their offices and to start working.

Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu shifted his base from Hyderabad to a rented accommodation on the banks of River Krishna near Velagapudi, showing way to his cabinet colleagues and his employees.

The initial challenge for the new state came in the shape of HudHud cyclone in October 2014 that ravaged the urban landscape of coastal city Visakhapatnam, the only industrial city of the residual state. The state administration and the chief minister himself had to direct their entire energy to bring back the city to its feet.

The success of Visakhapatnam’s re-construction has in one way given the Telugu Desam-led government in the state to set a model for the development of all the 13 districts of the state. Reconstruction and expansion of airports, particularly in Gannavaram and Renigunta, which were akin to mid-sized bus stands, has been initiated.

The Vijayawada bus station complex has been converted into the headquarters of the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation. Here, all offices were accommodated in the make- shift spaces and the administration was streamlined by 2016. Round the clock power supply replaced the power cuts while LED street bulbs changed the night life in most of the major cities.

However, on the flip side, the state failed to solve the pending bifurcation issues with its sibling state of Telangana. While the 2014 Bifurcation Act provided for some mechanism, the decades-long differences between the two major regions of the united AP has forced the leaderships of both the states to take very rigid stand regarding staff allocation, sharing of water, power and tangible assets.

All the institutions that come under Schedule 9 and 10 of the Act still need to be divided as per the Supreme Court’s directions like in the case of AP Higher Education Council. The delay in selecting a design for the state capital resulted in the continuation of the state High Court in Hyderabad resulting in bad blood among the legal fraternity.

While these are cosmetic changes, the real change came in the shape of problem solving through smart networking. Officials including ministers were encouraged to use technology in day to day work. The chief minister himself reviews progress of Polavaram project – a multi-purpose irrigation project across River Godavari in AP and whose reservoir spreads to Chhattisgarh and Odisha States - real time every Monday.

No popular support

While many of the government schemes such as Chandranna Bheema, Neeru Meeru, NTR Rytu Seva, increased pension for the old and the handicapped etc, have been implemented on a large-scale, none of them has earned any popular support despite of the hype created by the party and the government machinery.

Known for his penchant for a series of never ending meetings with the officials, many say the Naidu government is more into meetings than work on the ground or implementing the schemes.

The over-emphasis on Amaravati also earned the wrath of the backward regions of the state such as Rayalaseema and the northern coastal Andhra. They feel alienated from the development agenda of the state government and have demanded yet another bifurcation.

However, the state, during the past three years, has shown progress in certain sectors. Agricultural production and per capita income are on the rise. All the major institutions such as AIIMS, IIT and IIMs promised by the Centre through the Act are progressing while a few are in the pipeline.

Two CII partnership summits yielded investment proposals to the tune of Rs 17 lakh crore. While Naidu’s pet sector IT refuses to take off as envisaged, the state has its strength in core sectors such as petrochemicals, food processing, defence manufacturing including ship building and above all, education.
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