Voices of India – Andhra Pradesh
Warning: Please keep in mind that some of the images in this post could be really disturbing, it was necessary keeping in view some of the issues we were examining. Also please note, this feature is to show the ground reality as it is, there is no ideological bias here. The attempt has been to capture what is happening, from the people themselves.
I had started the Voices from India series,first with Odisha, a state where I had spent around 4 years of my life. As i had stated earlier, the purpose was to gather the views from the ground level of the impact of the reforms in the last 20 years. Once again the process was the same, getting to know the views of the ordinary people, the ones who would directly feel the impact of the reforms.
Andhra Pradesh, apart from being my home state, was also the place where the reforms had shown their two faced Janus nature. One on hand was the IT revolution, which had pushed middle class youth straight out of engineering colleges, into a world of glitzy campuses, huge pay packets and a lifestyle their parents could only dream of. Hyderabad was transformed from a laid back Nawabi city, into a glitzy hi tech paradise, with swanky office buildings, malls, tech parks, luxury cars on the roads. And just a couple of hours from Hyderabad was Mahboobnagar, a district that seemed stuck in time, where farmers either migrated en masse to work as laborers in other cities, or Nalgonda where farmers were committing suicide.
There was one Andhra Pradesh, going into the 21st century, with hope, and there was another part of the state, stuck in backwardness, drought. It was the same kind of torn in between two feelings I experienced while talking to friends and colleagues of mine. On the one had, admiration for Chandrababu Naidu for his reforms, and the IT revolution, on the other hand, distress at the agrarian crisis in the state, the farmer suicides, the power cuts. Not surprising, a vast majority of the IT employees in Andhra Pradesh, hailed from small town, rural, mofussil backgrounds, and most of them had roots in their native places.
Surprisingly most of the respondents I had asked for this article were unanimous in their praise of Naidu, and they all held the Congress responsible for the recent deterioration. It may not be a comprehensive sample, but still some of the views hold food for thought. Kishore Geddam(kishore082 on Twitter) , a professional states it clearly “He recognized an opportunity to initiate the development of Andhra right after the economic liberalization of India. He dreamt of a bright future for AP and transformed Hyderabad into an international IT hub. Unfortunately, he was not able to transfer the development initiatives to other cities in the state.” Nagraj Pingili(nagpingili on Twitter), in his own caustic manner, summed it up well ” thanks to the efforts of YSR clan & congress, corruption sector got a major boom during the last decade. As a result, the Real Mafia, Liquor Mafia and Sand Mafia also got a boost.”. The same feeling echoed by Abhilash Madinenni(GetAbhi on Twitter) a student at Manipal who feels that while Hyderabad owes it’s development to Naidu, it was fully neglected during YSR’s time.
And that bought me to the next part of the question, did this IT boom benefit Hyderabad only, and has the development in Hyderabad trickled down to the rest of the state. Personally I always felt, that development in Andhra Pradesh, made the mistake of being too Hyderabad centric, and the rest of the state, had not really made much progressed. I must say the replies to this question were really revealing, made me reevaluate my earlier opinion in a way. Pradeep Reddy Anam(pranam1 on Twitter) , working as a lecturer of microbiology in Jodhpur, felt that while development was restricted to Hyderabad, it had not gone totally waste. As per his view the development had a trickle down effect, especially on the number of engineering colleges growth, not sure If I would fully agree with him on this, considering the quality of most of those colleges. But some valid points ” Thousands of engineering graduates who come out with flying colors every year would be in dilemma if there was not such a development of IT sector in HYD. The IT sector raised the life standards of many rural families (mostly farmers) by employing their children. The IT industry development also helped businesses like Hotels, Real estate. Not only the sectors like real estate where the turnover is in hundreds of crores,it is even helping petty businesses like cabs, hostels.” And that is a very valid point, being a part of the IT sector myself for the last 11 odd years, have seen many people, coming from remote rural, mofussil areas, and managing to have a decent lifestyle. You may sneer at them as cyber coolies or whatever, it does not matter, for many that cyber coolie job is what makes a major difference to their life. These are people who hail from modest families, small towns, not very good in communication skills either, but many managed to make it through their own hard work and skills. The same point has been put forth by Nagaraj who feels that the Hyderabad centric development has been a misconception, “The remote villages that haven’t any road connectivity, phone connectivity, power connectivity are majorly connected now. So infrastructure development has happened across. Each Tanda, village, town, city have relatively grown along. Since Hyderabad had an established infrastructure since Nizam times with industrial corridor & being the capital city, it definitely got a bigger share in the due course of time”. He also makes another valid point of the IT sector in turn fueling a growth in automobile and real estate sector. Vijay Kumar(kumar_vv on Twitter) also makes the same point about an increase in purchasing power and better inter connectivity to all the mandal HQ’s in Andhra Pradesh.
Now if Hyderabad had developed really well, what prevented the growth of alternative economic centers. Yes there was Vizag, but remained primarily an industrial center, and Vijayawada, Rajahmundry remained business trading centers. Question again arose, what made educated working class professionals migrate in large numbers to Hyderabad, why were these cities not developed as alternative growth centers. An interesting viewpoint was given by Pradeep, of Hyderabad being easier to develop as there was no agricultural land nearby , in his words “The areas surrounding Hyderabad are not as dependent on farming as compared to Vijayawada, Vizag and Rajahmundry. For every business, land acquisition is a major hurdle. Establishing heavy industries in Vijayawada/Rajahmundry has many limitations. One such limitation is land. The land surrounding these places is the most fertile in the entire state of Andhra Pradesh. This region is fondly called as the”rice bowl of AP”. Acquisition of land in these areas adversely affects farmers and the grain production of this state.Hyderabad is already an established brand and I feel, MNCs don’t want to experiment on new places.” Vijay Kumar feels “easy availability of human resources, being a capital city, make Hyderabad still the first choice for MNC’s”. Kishore whose home town in Rajahmundry and had to shift to Hyderabad for better opportunities, speaks for many like him ” Hyderabad is still attracting majority of the investments from politicians and businessmen associated with politicians, there is a high probability for good returns in the short term from these investments in Hyderabad. Any private investment in other parts of the state which lacks good infrastructure like roads is not going to bring returns in the short term and you are not sure when you will get good returns. Investors know where the people are migrating to and they will invest in that particular city. This might be one reason for the lack of development in other cities. Government should take serious initiatives to attract the private investment in these cities, first they should improve the basic infrastructure and maintain a clean environment to stop the migration of the educated professionals and rich spending families to big cities.” Nagaraj felt that the standard obsession to jump to the US at first given opportunity could be a reason, but makes a very valid point here ” Lack of other industrial corridors in any other cities. The Pataancheruvu to Medchal industrial corridor has been the biggest not IT industrial corridor of AP. So it becomes a natural destination even for ITI trainees.”
The next issue I had bought up was of the distress migration from the backward pockets of Andhra Pradesh, Anantapur in Rayalaseema, Mahaboobnagar, Khammam in Telangana, Srikakulam, Vizianagaram in Uttarandhra, regions that count among the most backward ones. Pradeep feels it is due to the “persistent drought and famine in Anantapur, Mahboobnagar that accounts for the backwardness of these places, and Srikakulam, Vizianagaram being predominantly tribal areas, and the Maoist factor too”. Having visited Khammam he states “The tribal people are the most affected due to Maoists. Maoists never allow the tribals to get educated; their villages are deprived of electricity and roads. Maoists recruit young men from those tribes to their guerilla warfare. Since the people are illiterate, they have nothing else to do other than participating in warfare. Once they become physically unfit, they come back to home with nothing else to do. Due to the deforestation, the traditional occupations of the tribes are adversely affected. This is one main reason for their migration. The remedial measure is the real empowerment of the people. The politicians are stealing the contracts meant for the tribal people. Sand mafia in khammam dist is an example for that.”. Well quite a revelation about the Gandhians with Guns who fight for the oppressed there . Kishore accounts for the lack of infrastructure in the rural areas hampering their progress as he states “Majority of the middle class and upper middle class families today have money from their children’s job earnings. They are ready to do farming on a medium scale or start small cottage industries, small scale industries etc,
but due to the lack of basic infrastructure they are afraid of going forward and take the risk of investing in the small towns or rural areas. My brother-in-law and I want to start a big poultry farm, but many people with the small poultries warned us about the lack of electricity which can generate great loss for the business. Unless the upper middle class from these places is given an opportunity to invest their money in agriculture or small industrries, there is no way to stop the migration due to poverty.” Some more interesting insights by Nagaraj on these areas “Adilabad, Vizianagaram & Srikakulam are majorly inhabitated by tribals who has their own mother tongue & live in remote & scarcely connected areas. Leave aside higher education, even primary education hasn’t fully reached them yet. Seeds of education are sowed in the recent past while they are forced to move along at the pace of the rest of the world, buy their groceries at the same price of what a high paid IT employee buys. Mahboobnagar & Anantapur are majorly dry lands with scantiest rainfall. Farmers of these districts bankrupted themselves digging bore-wells. A mini non-IT based industrial corridor may help the people of these regions.” A very sobering statement comes from Naveen(kn3rg on Twitter), “IT ensures high living standard for educated middle class family and a very few who earns decent livelihood as support staffs in these IT parks. But dont forget the majority is still outside waiting for the village officer to sanction their fertilizer grant or their bank loan to be passed. The government schemes like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act should be implemented with the real spirit. Corruption atleast in PDS system should be curbed.”
So why has Andhra Pradesh, not been able to attract sufficient investment in railway or industrial projects, with most of them going to neighboring Tamil Nadu or Maharashtra was the next issue in my mind. Not surprisingly the political leaders and the Congress party, take the stick, for their bungling and inefficiency. Pradeep is up front about this ” Every year we see, for railway projects, the proposals must be sent at least 3 months before the railway budget is planned. But our politicians get reminded of railway budget just a week or so before. Nevertheless to say, the ruling party praises the railway budget though it hasn’t brought any new trains or new projectsto the state. Coalition politics are responsible for this. Gifting industries/railway projects in return to the support they are giving to the government. Congress party is more interested in giving money to states which are ruled by their opponents and forget the states which are ruled by their own party.” Nagraj believes the major problems is the “Labor unionism in the state, the Naxal issue in certain parts” but most important ” Lack of industrial vision which establishes providing skilled labour thru established ITIs, more number of engineers thru engineering colleges”. Abhilash is blunt on this ” Lack of political will and the percentage shares for political leaders”, while Vijay feels that lack of proper lobbying by legislators from Andhra Pradesh is a major factor.
Next topic was the balance between development and industrialization, all the more critical in Andhra Pradesh, that has a primarily agrarian base and had seen large scale protests against SEZ’s and some of the industrial projects. Pradeep feels the balance is necessary, the kind of development where SEZ’s are established on fertile land, and cause deforestation in tribal areas is not to be encouraged. Vijay Kumar makes a valid claim “most of the victims have not got enough compensation. I don’t know why to grab farming land for SEZs. Lemme quote an example Infosys got 430 acres of land near Ghatkesar (Pocharm, east of Hyderabad. They have 50 acres of land in Gachchibowli ) whereas the same company happy with 11 acres in Shanghai. What I mean is many of SEZs are not fulfilling their promises. Many thousands of acres are allotted in Kadtal, Brahmani are example for abusing land acquisition. Grabbing farm land for golf course, villas is also not justifiable.What I feel is make factories, SEZs in poramboku, infertile land (e.g BHEL, ECIL, Hi-tech city, ordinance factory, Cherlapally, Balnagar industrial corridor. KPHB housing) Govt. should make sure to take land back if any SEZ violates agreement, and not gives employment up to mark.” Naveen makes a case for sustainable development here “Nature is very fragile,and the balance of ECO-system should be a prime concern. Hundred years from now once the entire agricultural land been converted to concrete jungles, we can’t go to these giant mansions or industries to get our daily supply of food grains. So development should be sustainable enough. Proposals like planting ten new trees for every single tree been uprooted for infrastructure projects should be implemented. More and more encouragement should be given to usage of renewable source of energy for these buildings.”
So what exactly was the progress made by the state in Infrastructure, Education and Healthcare in the last 20 years, the most comprehensive reply came from Pradeep with a detailed analysis of each. “Decades old govt buildings, defective power supply and water supply lines are examples for the
poor infrastructure. Not even half of the state population has access for pure drinking water. The less we talk about our education system, the better. It is really in a pathetic condition. Not even 20% of govt schools have toilet facility. Some schools have 1 teacher for 100 students and some schools have
10 teachers for 10 students. This disproportionate teacher to student ratio is much more pronounced in the remote areas. Education system is the most neglected sector by the govt, the reason is obv. ious,school children don’t have voting right!.” Pradeep also gave some great insights on the healthcare sector ” Hundreds of people dying due dog bites
every year. How pathetic it is. The vaccine for Hydrophobia/Rabies was discovered in the 1880’s by Louis Pasteur. Now we are in 2012. Still we are not able to produce enough vaccines for our citizens. Inefficient and less recruitment in the municipal departments may be a cause for this menace. Stray dogs must be vaccinated to eradicate Rabies. But the municipal authorities are swallowing the money to be used for the vaccinating programs. Another major cause for deaths in AP every year is Malaria, Chikungunya, Japanese Encephalitis and Dengue. All are transmitted by mosquitoes. You know this; Sir Ronald Ross discovered that mosquitoes are responsible for Malaria and was awarded Nobel Prize. He has discovered that fact while working in Hyderabad! Still we are not able to eradicate malaria. Every year govt. spends crores on public health, but it is not yielding any significant results. Public must also be made aware of the importance of cleanliness of the surroundings. The greedy govt. doctors who are more interested in earning than the health of fellow citizens is also responsible for this.” Naveen also has the same views on healthcare and infrastructure “Decent healthcare is still in the dreams of common people in the state. Like in Karnataka, Government here also govt should implement mandatory health insurance at least for those below poverty line. Infrastructure development is happening at snails pace even in the economically potential areas of Hi-tec city. I feel roads in the villages of Vikarabad is far better than the road connecting DLF cyber city with Kondapur and Madhapur. ”
And that bought me to the major issue in Andhra Pradesh, the situation of agriculture, with farmers in Konaseema recently declaring a crop holiday, drought in a large number of Mandals, there was a crisis on that front. Was agriculture fast becoming a losing proposition, with many opting out from it. Pradeep , son of a farmer himself, once again gave one of the most comprehensive views “There will never be recession in agriculture and healthcare. We need them and there is never a fall in demand of the supplies from those two fields. The demand for food is increasing day by day. The demand and supply rule is not being applied in agriculture. Whatever the demand may be, the price which farmers get for their products is not increasing in proportion with the demand. The govt. is blindly following the fact that increase in food price lead to increased inflation. It should be changed. Majority of Indians are dependent on agriculture.” Pradeep however makes a strong case for privatization in agriculture, giving the case of Palair Cooperative Sugars, “Leftists oppose privatization, but thousands of families were benefitted by the privatization of Palair Cooperative Sugar factory. Khammam MP Nama Nagaeswara Rao bought that factory which was in heavy losses. Now the factory is named Madhucon Sugars. The new factory management sanctioned the sugar cane growers with loans to dig wells and bore wells. Also they provided working capital. The sugar cane production increased, factory came out of losses, and farmers were benefitted. This is one example for which my family is a witness for the improvement of farmer’s financial status provided the farmer is encouraged with necessary help in time. Govt. must absorb such ideas and implement. Instead of supporting the farmers, govt is making their lives even harder by not streamlining the supply of fertilizers, pesticides and authentic seeds. The confidence levels of the farmers decrease every season when they are made to stand in unending queues for buying fertilizers and seeds. In which country can we find this kind of situation? Farmers are forced to buy a particular brand of fertilizers or seeds at a higher price as a result of the creation of artificial scarcity. Many know about the limited reserves of oil but very few know that fertilizers like phosphorous and potassium are being depleted much faster than oil reserves. African countries are the leading producers of raw materials for making fertilizers. Countries like China are aggressive in striking off deals with African countries for uninterrupted fertilizer supply to their farmers. Whereas, India is not at all concerned about that. 6870 million tones was the demand of Phosphorous based fertilizers in 2010-11. But the supply is limited to 4795 million tones. 2075 million tones of deficit. The fact is that, not even a single gram of phosphorous is produced in India. We import every gram of our Phosphorous requirement. And its price is increasing every year and demand is rising by 5.5% every year.”
The source for the fertilizer statistics was from this site here
Kishore feels that Agriculture is no longer a viable proposition in the State ” It is expensive, labour not available and lack of good supply of electricity. Cereal crops are mainly not profitable these days, majority of the farmers grow the cereal crops only for the family requirement and all those middle class families with their children in cities are putting an end to farming. The next generation lower middle class probably has to take over the farms from those families leaving agriculture, but the big question is will they be able to bear the expenses?”. Vijay makes the point of middlemen being one of the major issue for farmers , with poor farmers being particularly vulnerable, even though FCI does provide the support.