A new chapter is prepared by Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekara Rao for party and governance to make sure his political moves, plans and strategies should not disturb by any external actions.
After his fortnight-long retreat in his favourite getaway, the farmhouse at Erravelli, immediately following his return from Delhi, Chief Minister K Chandrashekara Rao has made many about-turns in policies and climb-downs from positions on key issues. Heralding the New Year, these resets are welcome, though they may have been forced by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi’s setbacks in by-election to the Dubbaka Assembly seat and the GHMC polls.
Not a word worth trusting has leaked about KCR’s back-to-back meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister in Delhi, but the results on the ground are louder than words. He has not spoken any further on his proposal for floating a Third Front, which he revived ahead of the GHMC elections, while the fulminations against the Centre for underfunding Telangana have lost their edge.
At the first available opportunity when the Prime Minister addressed Chief Secretaries of States, the Telangana government agreed to dovetail its flagship health scheme, Aarogyasri, with the Centre’s Ayushman Bharat. After vehemently arguing all along that Aarogyasri, serving 85 lakh families, was far superior to the Centre’s health insurance scheme which would cover 26 lakh families, it fell in line post KCR’s Delhi visit.
In a way, the rollback of the much-vaunted farm sector reforms at the nascent stage indicated that KCR, who fancies himself as a progressive farmer by claiming that an income of Rs 1 crore can be generated from one acre of land, had made a U-turn. Just a few weeks ago on December 8, the TRS Ministers and other leaders had staged sit-ins on highways in solidarity with the farmers’ call for a nation-wide bandh.
He reversed two farm policies that signalled not only lack of adequate foresight and planning but also an unambiguous admission of the soundness of the Centre’s new farm laws. Firstly, the decision to procure paddy, sorghum, maize and red gram directly from the villages at the minimum support price (MSP) drained the exchequer. Secondly, the move to impose regulated farming in order to wean them away from paddy evoked anger and resentment among large sections of farmers.
The first decision was a realisation that direct procurement from the villages at MSP was in conflict with the controversial farm laws, which sought to provide an opportunity to the farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country. The government is toeing the line pushed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh that the new farm laws should be given time for 1-2 years to know their effect before moving either forward or repealing them.
The Chief Minister has also thrown open the gates of his 9-acre official residence, Pragathi Bhavan, serving as his de facto secretariat for several years, to MLAs and to hike salaries, retirement age and pensions to the government employees. Yet, all these New Year’s Eve reforms are cosmetic. These are barely sufficient to stem the erosion in the government’s credibility for failing to fulfil key promises like creation of more jobs and building two-bedroom houses it made before the 2018 Assembly elections. They provide no rebuttal to the charges of crony capitalism in real estate and engineering sectors, besides corruption in departments helmed by important Ministers.
What is needed, apart from easier access to the Chief Minister, is delegation of greater authority to Ministers and MLAs. The freer access to the fortress-like Pragathi Bhavan — into which even Home Minister Mahmood Ali reportedly could not enter with prior clearance — will work for the party’s own good. Three decades ago, there were special grievance cells in the Secretariat meant for the public, while former chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy went a step further by holding daily praja darbars.
The KCR government can rightfully lay claim to credit for mega-projects like Kaleswaram LI scheme, Mission Bhagiratha, 24X7 electricity supply, to name only a few, though a whole new set of changes are required for the TRS to face the Assembly elections in 2023, possibly even earlier if the Modi government opts for simultaneous Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha polls.
Urban governance is in shambles as evidenced by the October flooding in Hyderabad, government offices which have regular interface with people like revenue, municipal administration and health need sensitisation and semblance of honesty. There must be an end to the British-era notion of ‘mai-baap sarkar’ where the babus are the rulers and people mere subjects to be lorded over. It is senseless to reduce property tax and turn a blind eye to corruption and collusion of municipal officials with land-grabbers.
It is not enough for the KCR government to turn over a new leaf in select areas. There is a notion among some influencers that ease of doing business is only for businesses, especially those in glamourous sectors like information technology. Reforms must be tied to the larger goal of improving people’s lives in every sphere of activity. #KhabarLive #hydnews