The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief and the first Chief Minister of the State of Telangana, K. Chandrasekhar Rao, is reticent when it comes to engaging the media. So, it was a pleasant surprise for The Hindu editorial team on the evening of May 28 when he chose to spend over 90 minutes talking about the one-year journey of his government. A relaxed and jovial Mr Rao urged the photo journalist to enjoy ‘chai’ before getting on with his job. Excerpts from the interview:
You fought for a separate State of Telangana for several years and now it is a reality for exactly a year with you at the helm of affairs. What has the separate State meant for the people of Telangana?
First and foremost self-respect of the people who were yearning for decades for a State of their own has been restored. Employment opportunities in the new State are bound to benefit the unemployed. Finances for Telangana would be spent within the geographical territory of the State. Now Telangana will get its due share in river waters. These are the main things. Cultural renaissance will take place in a very big way.
You are talking about five criteria. What forward movement do you see in these spheres? For instance you talk of creation of employment opportunities for the locals. Are you talking in terms of quotas?
Now suppose I am going to declare 20,000-25000 employees’ recruitment in the course of week-long celebrations, it will certainly go to the unemployed youth of Telangana once the Telangana Public Services Commission starts recruitment.
What do you think are your achievements on the parameters you have identified?
There were financial years when even 6 per cent of the plan allocation for the erstwhile State of Andhra Pradesh was not spent in Telangana. Though Telangana contributed much, much more revenue, the expenditure in the region was very less. One such indicator of change is the way the government of Telangana has increased allocation to the welfare sector. The government is giving top priority for the welfare of the poor. For instance, previously 25 lakh people used to get pensions. Now 37.62 lakh people are getting them. Pension earlier was Rs. 200, now it has gone up five-fold.
There is no cap on supply of PDS rice. Total expenditure on welfare earlier was Rs. 4,500 crore, now we have allocated Rs. 27,000 crore. This is the highest in the country.
We have kept broadly 4-5 parameters. Of these, welfare is Number 1, Number 2 is agriculture, then power and industry. This year we ensured uninterrupted power supply. People feel it is a magic. This is the only year in the Assembly in the last 30 years where there was no uproar over erratic power supply.
We have pooled about Rs. 91,000 crore. Now Telangana can forget about power cuts. Production of power would go up to the level of 25,000 MW by 2018. From next March, nine hours of power will be supplied to the agriculture sector at a stretch from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
This we will certainly achieve in time. Towards this end we have acquired forest land of about 5,000 acres in Damaracherla of Nalgonda district and ensured clearances from the MoEF within a record time of two-and-a-half months. I thank the Minister for MoEF, Prakash Javadekar. We have passed the Telangana State Industrial Project Approval and Self Certification Bill, the first of its kind in the world. I am going to launch the Industrial Policy on June 12. It will be a good policy, a single window without grills. This is one of the great achievements which is expected to bring lakhs of crores of investments. Your party manifesto talks of free education from KG to PG.
I would come to that later. Let me take it up one by one. Take Mission Kakatiya. Of the 46,500 tanks identified for renovation, about a fifth of them will be taken up every year. In major irrigation, the life of Telangana in the long journey of Andhra Pradesh is very brutal. It was a brutal denial to the region. Projects, which were initiated and started, were never completed, with an ill-will. A good example could be Srisailam Left bank Canal (SLBC) which is pending for the last 45 years. The Kalwakurthy Lift Irrigation Scheme is pending for decades. Joint projects which were expected to be completed will be completed now. We are taking up two major lift irrigation projects — one on the Godavari and the other on the Krishna. We are spending Rs. 70,000 crore.
One will be the re-engineered Pranahitha-Chevella and another will be the Palamur Ethipothala Pathakam. We will undertake these works on a war-footing. We approached the LIC and other funding agencies to fund one project. One project can be funded on our own, the other has to be funded by others. Two days back the LIC chairman came to Hyderabad, we had a meeting, and the response was quite positive.
We are also trying to prevail upon the Centre to make special allocations for either of the projects. Declare one as a national project and take it up as a Central project. I think we will succeed. We hope GoI will come to our rescue or else we will complete them on our own.
We will make use of our Bayyaram steel mines. I personally requested Mr. Thomar, the Steel Minister, to establish a steel plant at the place. If they come forward it is fine, otherwise, we will mine it through Singareni Collieries and make the iron ore available. Many private sector industries are ready to set up steel plants.
Roads were grossly neglected in the last 10 years of administration. We have allocated Rs. 20,000 crore to the departments of Panchayati Raj and R &B. All the bridges which were constructed decades ago were neglected. Now this government is spending about Rs. 2,500 crore for construction of bridges across various rivers of the State. Tenders have already been called, work is under way. Hyderabad Metro is on the way. Acquisition of land has been completed. It is progressing very fast.
What is your funding pattern?
As I told you earlier, funding for a government is not a great problem these days. It all depends on the wisdom of the government, how you tap funds. The expenditure which is going to be incurred in the power sector is already tied up. Telangana Genco got funds from REC and PFC to the tune of Rs. 40,000 crore. Another Rs. 50,000 crore is in the pipeline from REC and PFC. They have already promised construction of evacuation lines. All these are funded by REC and PFC on hypothecation basis.
On the drinking water grid, we are planning to spend about Rs. 30,000 crore. Of this, funds to the tune of Rs. 20,000 crore have already been tied up in the form of a loan, Rs. 15,000 crore from the HUDCO and Rs. 6,000 crore from NABARD; Rs. 13,000 crore sanctions have been accorded and they have promised us Rs. 5,000 crore and Rs. 3,000 crore more. We are also contemplating getting another Rs. 10,000 crore from the Allahabad Bank and Bank of Baroda. I think they will be through.
How helpful is the Centre and how do you assess the first year of the Modi government?
The principles of Prime Minister Narendra Modi by and large are not bad and he is in favour of the States. He has improved the devolution of Central resources to the States which is laudable. He also changed the functioning conditions of the Planning Commission and made it NITI Aayog. Earlier, the Chief Ministers of States used to go to the Planning Commission. Today, I attended a meeting of NITI Aayog held in the capital of Madhya Pradesh. Now NITI goes to the States and this is a good sign. The approach of the Government of India is very good. But certain things are a little painful to me. Coal allocation has not been made so far to the NTPC, which is mandated by the Act to provide power to the State of Telangana. One year has gone by. The Government of India should have allotted coal to the NTPC by now. We have been consistently requesting the Government of India to take up one national project. There is a principle that the Centre takes up one national project for one State. We are requesting that one such project be taken up. They are dilly-dallying.
Do you think that is due to partisan attitude or bureaucracy?
I don’t know. You can ask the Government of India. We don’t feel that the Centre is hostile to us.
People who have been actively involved with you during the separate statehood movement are distancing themselves from you.
This kind of fragile element can be seen everywhere. When N.T. Rama Rao formed his party, so many joined it very fast and so many also left very fast. TRS is no exception. People level baseless allegations. I never said that I will raze Ramoji Film City with one lakh ploughs. I never said that, somebody raised that slogan before TRS was born. Now they ask me what you are doing. What should I say? Like this there are so many things, I never uttered such words. I was running the movement with utmost caution peacefully for 14-15 long years.
There were fears when your government ordered household survey in Hyderabad.
Actually census does not speak the facts. Broadly it is okay but there are no accurate statistics. That was why I conducted the Samagra Survey. It was a successful programme. Those statistics are helping us out like anything, in so many aspects. Having been associated with the government for very long time, 35 plus years, no proper statistics were available so far.
Is there any possibility of your party joining the NDA govt?
So far, no. No such move. No such discussion has been there.
When AP was bifurcated, there were apprehensions among people from the Andhra region living in Hyderabad? How has it played out?
All that I say is forget this regional approach. As people of Mumbai say Amchi Mumbai, my only appeal to the people of Hyderabad who continue to live in Hyderabad is to be part of Hyderabad and be a proud Hyderabadi and KCR is with you. Whatever you are and wherever you are, stamp yourself as a Hyderabadi. Feel proud to be part of Hyderabad city which has a lot of growth and lots of opportunities.
What will be the role of Governor in maintenance of law and order in the 10-year-long joint capital?
Things are functioning smoothly. Initially, there were some aberrations. Now everybody is doing their own work. There were a lot of apprehensions. Nothing has gone wrong. Two Assemblies held their budget sessions simultaneously without any hindrance.
I say forget this regional approach.
Now we are close to 4 crore population. Every year 10 million is added to Telangana, the migration to Hyderabad is such. The Centre should develop these mega cities.