Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy faced several post-bifurcation challenges during his three years in office, and had been announcing several development schemes. In an interaction with a team from The Hindu, the Chief Minister explains in detail about his government’s initiatives in key sectors, the State’s financial management and his vision on the three capitals plan. Edited excerpts:
Pitching Visakhapatnam (Vizag) as an administrative capital is a practical and pragmatic decision, says Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy. Commenting on the welfare schemes, he says it is a comprehensive package aimed at development of human resources, be it farmers, women or children.
In an exclusive interaction with The Hindu, Mr. Reddy opines that financial viability, spirit of decentralisation and administrative convenience were behind the decision on Visakhapatnam as administrative capital. “Vizag is a practical and pragmatic idea as it is the lone biggest and beautiful city with infrastructure needed for a capital city. With ₹5,000 crore to ₹10,000 crore investment, we can convert it into a full-fledged capital,” Mr. Reddy asserted.
Responding to opposition to his Visakhapatnam choice, he questioned as to how is it fair that somebody else tells the Chief Minister where to sit and where not to sit. “While Amaravati continues to be the Legislative Capital, we will have Executive Capital at Vizag and a Judicial Capital at Kurnool, evenly distributing the governance so as to give a sense that everybody is involved in the whole process,” he reasoned out.
The Chief Minister further said, “We need ₹1,08,000 crore to develop Amaravati and it may take 20 years and the financial burden will multiply each year.” It will be like chasing a never-ending dream according to him. He alleged that his predecessor and former Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and his followers indulged in insider trading by buying land in Amaravati and they are now worried about their own real estate.
Regarding the massive and expensive welfare schemes, especially Amma Vodi, Nadu-Nedu and Rythu Bharosa and Arogyasree among others, Mr. Reddy said they were a part of comprehensive package to enhance the human development index. On the latest additions in the health sector, he said, “We are increasing the number of procedures covered under the Arogyasree scheme from 2,446 to 3,255 from next week. All important surgeries and all kinds of cancers are covered.”
Full text of the interview
‘Governance will be evenly distributed across capitals’
Q / What have been your core initiatives since assuming power, especially in areas such as agriculture, education and health?
A / In all three sectors, there is a huge difference between what was there earlier to what is currently put in place now. All three sectors have taken a huge leap forward — health, education and agriculture. Firstly, in agriculture, we have 10,778 RBKs (Rythu Bharosa Kendras) which are present in every village, acting as one-stop centres at the farmers’ doorstep, hand-holding the farmer right from seed to crop sale. There is an agriculture graduate sitting at each RBK. There is a kiosk which facilitates farmers to place orders for fertilizers, seeds, pesticides etc. The quality is guaranteed by the government, and supplied at the doorstep.
A / So, all the elements of spurious seed, spurious fertilizer and spurious pesticide are totally removed from the equation. The entire village is e-cropped, geo-tagged and the list is displayed for social audit. In Sachivalayam, there is a village revenue assistant along with the Village Revenue Officer (VRO) and the agriculture assistant. They together conduct e-cropping and digital and physical acknowledgement is given to the farmer. Post e-crop, the list is displayed at every RBK for social audit.
A / If any kind of advisory role that the farmer requires, there is a dedicated group of scientists available through RBK, through a call centre and the number is available to farmers through a phone. Farm mechanisation equipment are given to the group at discounted rates — 40% bank loan, 50% subsidy and 10% is the farmer’s contribution. The farm mechanisation equipment are available to the community hiring centres. Going forward, we are planning to convert Sachivalayam into a sub-registrar office. A huge survey is going on to ensure the ownership of land without any dispute at the village level. There is a volunteer for every 50 houses to handhold and connect to Sachivalayam and every household will get every service without any corruption.
A / In another step, schools are changed and upgraded and ramped up with English medium and CBSE syllabus. All the schools have been upgraded, the process is on through the Nadu-Nedu programme (the past and the present which we named as Nadu-Nedu), where every school will have 12 types of basic infrastructure that ought to be present in every school, be it furniture, compound wall, painting, finishings, kitchen sheds or digitalisation of classrooms. You have the mid-day meals menu, which is nutritious and changed every day and week, ensuring variety. Students don’t eat the same menu every day. While the previous government had a budget of ₹500 crore per annum, the present budget is ₹1,900 crore per annum.
A / At the time of opening of schools, the kids are given a kit which is called Vidya Kanuka, comprising a bag, bilingual textbooks (one page Telugu and one page English), notebooks, uniform, shoes, socks, and an Oxford dictionary. And we have tied up with Byju’s, and all the students starting from Class 4 are entitled to have Byju’s content. We will integrate Byju’s content into school curriculum. Eighth class students will be given tabs with Byju’s content free of cost. Teachers who are teaching eighth standard students will also be given free tabs. Free tabs will be given every year to students of eighth standard to prepare them to face 10th standard CBSE exam. To ensure all the students study well in English and come to school, be it private or government school, mothers are motivated. If they were to send their children to school and if they were to comply with 75% attendance, mothers are given a motivation of about ₹15,000 per year, connected to the attendance under Amma Vodi.
A / We have introduced subject teacher concept. During the previous government, 18 subjects of 1st to 5th standard were taught by a single teacher... Pathetic situation prevailed wherein students from classes 1st to 5th were made to sit together in one place and taught..
A / To develop physical, psychological and intellectual abilities of students, steps are being taken to have separate teachers to teach each subject from 3rd class itself.
A / Moving further to higher education, there is 100% fee reimbursement. The entire convener quota (we have 70% convener quota in the engineering and 50% quota in medicine). Not only reimbursement, we also give ₹20,000 for the kids to take care of lodging and boarding every year in two instalments. So this would give a huge boost to GER (Gross Enrolment Ratio), both at primary and college level.
A / And coming to health, the transformation is so much so that we handle both preventive care as well as curative care. Speaking of which, we have no tier-1 cities, thanks to the bifurcation, we lost out Hyderabad to Telangana. Because of the fact that we don’t have tier-1 cities such as Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai, we are short on super-speciality hospitals. Obviously, the private investment will not come in small cities as it is not viable. We are short of super- speciality facilities. The only way super-speciality services could be enhanced is through teaching medical colleges. We had 11 medical colleges, now we have 17 more, making the total to 28 to ensure medical facilities to each of the 26 restructured districts. Earlier, we had only 13 districts. All the 17 medical colleges are under construction and they will come into operation in two years.
A / This apart, we are building over 15,000 village clinics and urban health clinics. And there is a major upgradation going on in all Primary Health Centres (PHCs), Community Health Centres, Area Hospitals, District Hospitals and the 11 Teaching Hospitals to national standards. We have recruited almost 44,000 people just in health sector, imagine the kind of dearth of staff in our hospitals in all categories, doctors, paramedics and nurses etc.
A / There is a family doctor concept that is coming up, where every mandal has two PHCs and each PHC has two doctors and one ambulance – 104. There are 20 villages in each mandal and four doctors take five designated villages each and nothing more. One of the doctors sits in the PHC and is available for consultancy, the other doctor hops into the ambulance and goes to the designated villages.
A / And the village clinic has digital interface through which doctors are available. Whensoever the midlevel health practitioner wishes to speak to a doctor, the PHC number is available and doctors and specialist doctors are also available through videoconferencing. Teaching hospitals are connected to village clinics, taking care of preventive care and curative care.
A / The Aarogyasri scheme will now have about 3,255 procedures from next week. Earlier it was only 2,446 procedures. Before our government came in, we had only 1,059 procedures. So, from 1,059 to 2,446 and now we are stepping up to 3,255 procedures. All types of cancers are covered and practically 99% of procedures are coming under Aarogyasri purview now.
Q / What about the finances? How did you find the resources?
A / That’s a very important aspect. It’s the same government and same budget and if one were to see the increase in the percentage of debt and debt growth rate, we are less when compared to what was earlier.
A / During the tenure of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government, the State’s liabilities (aggregate of debt and contingent liabilities) grew at a CAGR of 19.55% and as against that, the CAGR growth of the State government liabilities (aggregate of debt and contingent liabilities) from the time of formation of the present government to 31st March, 2022 stood at 15.43%.
A / During the tenure of the TDP government, the State debt grew at a CAGR of 17.45% and as against that, the CAGR of the State government debt from the time of formation of the present government to 31st March, 2022 stood at 12.73%.
A / The debt growth rate was also less but how is it that we are doing? All these things, why is that the previous government could not do is a million dollar question.
A / Everything is DBT [Direct Benefit Transfer], touch of a button. There is no middlemen, no corruption and there is no discrimination. You have a Sachivalaya institution, you have a volunteer for each of 50 houses, lists are displayed for social audit at the village level and ward level. If any beneficiary’s name is missing out, they know where to go and they know how to get the application rectified.
Q / The issue of situating the capital might have taken a lot of time and slowed down the administration. Is it that both the judicial delays and political opposition hit most of your plans?
A / Basically where a Chief Minister sits is not a matter of concern for anybody. It should not be. Wheresoever Chief Minister sits, his Cabinet colleagues sit. Wheresoever the Cabinet colleagues sit, there their secretaries sit. And whersoever they sit, you have a secretariat also in place. So this is basically the prerogative of the CM where one sits. How is it fair that somebody else tells the CM where to sit and where not to sit. As far as Amaravati is concerned, I’m not against anything or anybody. If I’m against Amaravati, why would I say, Amaravati would continue to be a capital, as one among the three. I’m not against it, I’m just saying while Amaravati continues to be the legislative capital, we will have executive capital at Vizag (Visakhapatnam) and a judicial capital at Kurnool, evenly distributing the governance so as to give a sense that everybody is involved in the whole process.
A / And another important aspect is, the so-called Amaravati as one single capital is not a viable proposal. Reason being, Amaravati is neither in Vijayawada nor in Guntur. It is 40 km away from Vijayawada and 40 km away from Guntur. It is on a virgin land wherein you don’t even have a drainage, proper electricity and water. For you to provide basic infrastructure alone, according to the previous government’s detailed project reports, they themselves have projected ₹2 crore per acre, which is going to be the minimum basic cost it would take to provide this basic infrastructure such as roads, electricity and water.
A / Vizag — the biggest city available in the State of Andhra Pradesh — has all the basic infrastructure that is needed. You don’t need any money to spend on basic infrastructure. If you spend ₹5,000 crore or ₹10,000 crore in a span of five years or so; 10 years or so, and build basic buildings, you already have a beautiful capital.
A / This is practical, this is being pragmatic, not against anybody. Unfortunately, somebody cannot understand the definition of pragmatism, I think it’s just a big goof up. Before the announcement of the capital there, all these people have bought land there while they showcased that capital was coming elsewhere. Silently they and their cronies have bought land here. Now they are just worried about their real estate, their individual real estate. They are not worried about the State. That itself is an insider trading. What should not have been done, they’ve done. But unfortunately, that’s the state of affairs.
Q / What about the Navaratnalu Scheme?
A / Everything is an independent and needed scheme. For instance, Rythu Bharosa, under which we give ₹13,500 per annum to farmers, because in Andhra Pradesh 68% farmers hold less than 1.25 acres of land. This is reality. For these people, ₹13,500 will ensure 80% of the cost is supported. Minus the support, there is shortage of institutional financing. They resort to private lending, people exploit them in credit, there are cheaper fertilizers, cheaper quality of seeds and there are atrocious agreements for sale of crop. We give this ₹13,500 in three spells. We give ₹7,500 in Kharif (season starts in June) in the month of May. And in October, the cutting takes place, we give another ₹4,000. And the last ₹2,000 we give in the month of January, before Sankranthi. This actually takes care of 62% of population engaged in farming. Whether you accept it or not, agriculture is the biggest employment generator.
A / And 68% of farmers hold less than 1.25 acres of land. This is reality. If I were to say, this scheme is not important, then I would not be doing justice.
A / Then, Amma Vodi. To send their kids to school and if they clock 75% attendance, to motivate the mothers, we give ₹15,000. If I don’t do this, in 2018, the Ministry of Education released the data officially on GER ratio and primary education. A.P. State clocked 84.45% and national average was 99%. We were out of 29 States, were 28th, last State. That was reality. All this is a comprehensive package. It’s not just mother sending children to school. Conversion of schools into English medium, upgrading schools in Nadu-Nedu programme, digitalisation of classrooms, upgrading the menu, giving them bilingual textbooks, tying up with Byju’s, giving them the Vidyakanuka kit — all are a part of the comprehensive package towards education sector. What we are doing is investing into human development index and human resources. Be it the wellbeing of the farmer or wellbeing of the child and through their mothers. Most important part is all our schemes have central focal point as mothers. Women are the central focal point.