Friday, August 26, 2005

Y S Rajashekhar Reddy government has little to show for 15 months

Aditi Phadnis / New Delhi August 27, 2005
The Y S Rajashekhar Reddy government has little to show for 15 months in power.

The mask is off. Before he came to power, Y S Rajashekhar Reddy was full of good intentions.

Naxalites are what they are because of a socio-economic problem, we will address that, he’d said at all his speeches during the Rajiv Palle Batta Yatra, the highly successful padayatra that got him 180-plus seats in the Andhra Pradesh legislative Assembly 15 months ago.

Last week, poet Varavara Rao and writer Kalyan Rao of the Revolutionary Writers’ Association were hauled off to prison, all the Naxal front organisations were banned and talks with the Naxalites were off.

The most important group, the People’s War, has been battling with successive state governments in Andhra Pradesh (AP) for the last 30-odd years. They were not at all surprised when their trade union arm was thrown into jail and their students’ wing got the midnight knock from the infamous AP Police.

But never in the history of Naxalism in AP has the Revolutionary Writers’ Association been banned. In their eyes, the present Congress regime is the most repressive ever.

You could argue that it was the Naxals who were opposed to democracy, who had, taking advantage of the opening offered by the AP truce, reverted to killing. But Reddy’s high-handedness is being discussed openly by his party colleagues as well.

Ask any of the senior party leaders from AP — AICC General Secretary M Satyanarayana Rao, former Union minister and deputy leader of the Congress Legislature Party, G Venkataswamy and former CLP leader P Janardhana Reddy — and they will confess that they had no idea that the state government was going to bring a government order on 5 per cent reservation of jobs for minorities (the order was stayed by the high court).

These leaders allege that Rajashekhar Reddy works through a small group of ministers and passes off decisions as consensus. The Telangana Rashtra Samiti has already quit the government, citing Reddy’s style as one reason for their decision.

After nine years of TDP rule, Reddy can be excused for the desperation and paranoia he must feel. All around him, is the legacy of Chandrababu Naidu — in the bureaucracy, in the police. He wants to move fast to put his stamp on AP, but is constantly being dragged down by irritating detail and whining colleagues.

But Reddy has only to see his own record of administration and he will realise some wise counsel from senior colleagues would not have gone amiss. The Congress’s campaign USP was irrigation projects. If farmers were committing suicide, it was not just because of want of credit but also because AP was not irrigated uniformly. A total of 26 water projects at the cost of Rs 45,000 crore were pending. These would be revived, the Congress had promised.

In his hurry to implement the plan, Reddy did not obtain mandatory clearances from the Central Water Commission and environmental permissions.

He called for tenders and gave contractors mobilisation advances to move machinery, men and materials. So theoretically work on the projects was deemed to have begun. But how could it have moved forward?

Only about 20 per cent of the land was acquired, there was no policy for the rehabilitation of displaced forest dwellers and while the canals were dug, they led nowhere.

The courts moved in swiftly. Stay orders on work started by the state government had been issued in 10 cases by the high court. Last week, it was the Pulichintala project. The week before, it was the Polavaram project, that the state had started without obtaining environmental clearance.

In his defence, the CM asked why the courts were issuing stay orders if the projects were neither going to pollute the environment nor damage ecology. The implication was that the tribals who lived in the forests that would be felled were an inconvenience that would be dealt with.

Farmers of AP, being used to working with lack of water would have excused Reddy, had he delivered in other areas. The cropping season in AP has begun.

But all over the state in Medak, Guntur and Ranga Reddy districts, farmers are holding demonstrations: the market is desperately short of seeds, leading to blackmarketing. Spurious seeds abound. If a farmer laboriously tills his fields and the seeds refuse to sprout, what recourse will he have except to kill himself?

Not even one unit in the industries closed down during the TDP rule have been revived. Instead, in order to bring capital to AP, the state government has been negotiating for loans with foreign governments, a practice the finance ministry disfavours.

The AP government had conducted protracted negotiations with the Government of Austria and had to suffer the embarrassment of calling them off, because the Centre refused to clear projects for which the loan was being negotiated. The sorry Volkswagen episode has seriously undermined Reddy’s authority.

There is more trouble looming. On September 5, a Joint Action Committee comprising 26 unions across the state — of teachers, municipal employees, doctors, PSU members, in short every government employee, from gazetted officer to peon — is going on strike.

Their demand is the implementation of the Commission on wage revisions. How will the Rajashekhar Reddy government handle this?

With such a massive majority, the Congress could have created a model state out of Andhra Pradesh. Sadly, the state is rapidly acquiring all the minuses that the Chandrababu Naidu government notched up, without any of the pluses. Nothing changes.

Aditi Phadnis

No comments: