Voices of India - Andhra Pradesh

Arun Joshi

Feb 23, 2012, 05:27 PM | Updated May 02, 2016, 04:08 PM IST

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 developmentinitiatives 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.

Vizag Port and Harbor
Vizag Port and Harbor

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 aclean 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.”

Farmers who commited suicide in Anantapur
Farmers who commited suicide in Anantapur
Migrants from Srikakulam lying on a road divider in NH5
Migrants from Srikakulam lying on a road divider in NH5

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 mindNot 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 inreturn 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.

Protests in Srikakulam District over a Thermal power plant.
Protests in Srikakulam District over a Thermal power plant.

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.



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