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Harness the potential of Rayalaseema

Harness the potential of Rayalaseema
Highlights

As the Andhra Pradesh government pursues a capital-centred model of development, discontent is brewing in Rayalaseema region. Given the historical fact that this region hosted the state capital when the first linguistic State of Andhra was carved out of the composite State of Madras, the sense of alienation is further simmering. 

United Andhra Pradesh had bitter lessons from centralised model of development resulting in making Hyderabad a bone of contention. The new State of Andhra Pradesh is treading a similar path without drawing proper lessons from history.

The Singapore-type capital is super imposed on the state comprising regions like Rayalaseema and North Coastal Andhra Pradesh which are the victims of worst regional disparities. While unveiling the capital Amaravati plan in State legislature, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu announced a host of measures for Rayalaseema region. No worthwhile beginning has been made so far to realise these promises of industries for the region

As the Andhra Pradesh government pursues a capital-centred model of development, discontent is brewing in Rayalaseema region. Given the historical fact that this region hosted the state capital when the first linguistic State of Andhra was carved out of the composite State of Madras, the sense of alienation is further simmering.

The Rayalaseema cauldron has the potential to throw up yet another movement for a separate State unless the discontent is addressed through concrete measures. Rayalaseema acquired a pride of place during the rule of Vijayanagara kings, giving it the name of Ratnala Seema or land of diamonds. But, subsequently, the British rule and the independent India left Rayalaseema deprived.

Despite the fact that this region has produced the highest number of illustrious politicians including many Chief Ministers, the plight of Rayalaseema still continues. The region has the distinction of representing leaders who became country's Prime Minster and President. Yet, the region is condemned to perennial backwardness, drought and deprivation.

A separate state for Rayalaseema is in fact unsustainable given its resource base, but, the perception of neglect coupled with unprecedented hype given to Amaravati as political strategy is bound to create further feelings of discrimination and neglect among the people of Rayalaseema.

The irrigation schemes in the region hardly account for one-tenth of the cultivable area in the region. The region does not have at least one industry that can provide 10,000 jobs. Perhaps, the only cottage industry that provides employment to a large number of people is factionism patronised by politicians who thrive on the unemployment in the region.

As observed in the editorial , ‘Industrialise Rayalaseema,’ dated January 7, 2016, the region is endowed by nature with valuable minerals including barytes, iron ore, gold, diamonds, lime stone , asbestos, quartz, mica, copper, china clay , granite, dolomite, uranium. Besides, the region has large presence of highly valued red sanders.

Such an abundant availability of minerals should have ensured massive industrialisation through value addition. Such a development would have ushered in impressive employment opportunities for the youth of the region who need not have fallen prey to the decades of faction politics. But, the precious mineral wealth is appropriated by the faction mafia actively aided and abetted by politicians of all hues to the detriment of this region.

The utter neglect of Rayalaseema is illustrated by the fact that this region hardly had any worthwhile addition to the rail network since independence. Rail connectivity is vital for promoting industrialisation which appears to be the main input for development due the backward agriculture haunted by acute water scarcity.

Not just a big industry or a major rail network, the Rayalaseema region has not seen any significant development in irrigation potential since independence. There is not a single major irrigation project that serves the requirements of this water-starved region to any reasonable extent.

Agriculture is largely rain-fed, though the region is one among the lowest rainfall regions of the country. This renders Rayalaseema agriculture unsustainable and unremunerative. With agriculture offering no surpluses, the demand for industrial goods and services is also constrained, limiting overall demand-driven development.

Despite Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) suggesting alternate agricultural patterns like cluster beans cultivation, especially in districts like Anantapur known for lowest rainfalls, any significant effort still eludes the region. The average rainfall in Rayalaseema is little over 600 mm whereas it is below 600 mm in Anantapur.

The region has a dubious distinction of facing drought in two out of three years. As a result, the region accounts for the highest number of farmers committing suicide in the state of Andhra Pradesh.The Rayalaseema region suffers from historical discrimination. The region would not have experienced this kind of drought-stricken situation if Siddeswaram project was taken up along with Nagarjunasagar.

The Krishna Pennar project eluded the region. The Pattiseema and the Polavaram projects are preceding the important Seema projects like Galeru Nagari and Handri Neeva. Early completion of these projects would deliver maximum gain for the Rayalaseema region.

Rayalaseema accounts for about 30 per cent of Andhra Pradesh population and 40 per cent of state's geographical area. But, the discrimination towards this region is exemplified by the fact that the region never gets proportionate allocations in successive budgets, at least in key areas like irrigation.

Half of the Rayalaseema region reels under literacy lower than the state's average, constraining the development of human resources potential. The region has geographical disadvantages, too. The Eastern and the Western Ghats hinder the onset of monsoons, resulting in low rainfall. Meanwhile, reckless deforestation is aggravating climate change which is inducing drought conditions.

The early completion of all the pending irrigation projects and embarking upon agriculture suitable to the concrete agro climatic conditions of the region can only be an effective antidote to the agrarian and rural distress in Rayalaseema.

The united Andhra Pradesh had bitter lessons from centralised model of development resulting in making Hyderabad a bone of contention. The new state of Andhra Pradesh is treading a similar path without drawing proper lessons from history.

The Singapore-type capital is super imposed on the state comprising regions like Rayalaseema and North Coastal Andhra Pradesh which are the victims of worst regional disparities. This is not to negate the importance of rising Amravati, but it cannot be the cynosure of development at the cost of Rayalaseema and North Coastal Andhra.

The city state like Singapore does not suffer from such humongous regional inequalities to offer an appropriate model for a State like Andhra Pradesh. Despite the Andhra Pradesh State Reorganisation Act explicitly assuring liberal central assistance for the backward Rayalaseema region, what has been given so far is only precious little.

In fact, industrialisation is vital not only for revitalising the Rayalaseema economy but essential for even democratising social and political culture in the region inflicted by decades of feudal forms of oppression. But, leave alone the new industries, many of the existing industries are sick. They include Kadapa Sugar Factory, Nizam Sugars, Railway Loco Shed, Guntakal Spinning Mill, Ramagiri Gold Mines, AP Lightings, Kurnool Carbide, etc.

While unveiling the capital Amaravati plan in State legislature, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu announced a host of measures for Rayalaseema region. They include a steel plant under SAIL in Kadapa district , cement industries in Kurnool and Kadapa districts, railway wagons factory and textile cluster in Kurnool, Bangalore , Chennai industrial corridor for Anantapur, besides electronics and hardware cluster, horticulture project and IT hub in Chittoor district etc.

No worthwhile beginning has been made so far to realise these promises of industries for Rayalaseema region. Rayalaseema has impressive industrial potential. This region accounts for over 70 per cent of world's barytes which is useful for setting up pulverising units, chemical industries. Value addition to red sanders can provide not just employment but can even prevent smuggling of this precious resource.

The Hindupur, Tirupati belts, Madanapalle, Rayachoti, Gurramkonda are considered to be suitable for development of Information Technology and Information Technology-Enabled Services (IT & ITES), given their geographical proximity to Bengaluru or Chennai international airports.

The rich mineral base can be optimally harnessed for development of mineral-based industries and ancillary units. Kadapa and Anantapur districts still have large untapped wind power potential. Though the region has abundant production of crops like tomato, papaya, banana, mango, etc., there are no agro-based and food processing units worth naming.

Despite having such an enormous industrial potential, thousands of acres of lands in Rayalaseema regions were alienated in the name of special economic zones which did not ground in reality. Still the government talks about acquiring land to create massive land banks.

The sale of even a proportion of red sanders or iron ore available in this resource-rich region alone is sufficient to complete all the irrigation projects and for even setting up industries. Rayalaseema is not backward region. But it has been pauperised due to years of governmental neglect and unscrupulous appropriation of resources for private gain depriving the public at large.

This is an opportune time for asserting the right of Rayalaseema to development. The competitive and populist politics would do more harm to the people of Rayalaseema by harping over a separate state thus diverting the basic issues confronting this region.

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