Revanth Reddy: Breaking the mould and throwing it away
States 360º, Telangana: A. Revanth Reddy's performance as CM in the one month that he has been in office has sent out several positive signals
Former British prime minister Harold Wilson had once famously said, “A week is a long time in politics.” Going by that yardstick, Telangana chief minister A. Revanth Reddy, who completed one month in office recently, can take comfort in having broken the mould and launched several initiatives that are widely seen as ‘people-friendly’.
Holding a ‘Praja Durbar’ at his camp office to receive applications directly from the general public to redress their grievances, launching a string of welfare schemes for women and farmers, focusing on integrity and honesty of officers while effecting a bureaucratic reshuffle and directing the police not to stop the general traffic for his convoy — these are some of the measures that made a positive impression on Telangana’s citizens.
Soon after taking over the reins last month, he had signed two files, one implementing the Congress’ ‘six poll guarantees’ — free bus travel for women, pension for widows, stipend for single women, free power, financial aid and loan waivers for farmers — and another providing a job to a physically disabled woman as per a personal promise during his election campaign.
Reflecting on his performance in the last one month, Revanth Reddy said his government has “broken the shackles on the people” and was fulfilling their aspirations by “distributing freedom”. Looking ahead, he announced that his government would soon reorganise Telangana’s districts for administrative convenience. Most people feel the current 33 districts are an unwieldy arrangement.
Blame the name
What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Well, try telling that to politicians smarting from an election debacle and looking for scapegoats. For some, the very name of their party could be the culprit!
A section of BRS (Bharat Rashtra Samithi) leaders argue, with the party having lost power in the recent elections, that the party’s rechristening failed to resonate with the voters. It should revert to its original name, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) to regain its identity and glory, they demand.
“Telangana is our core identity. People equate us with the statehood movement and credit us for realising the statehood dream,” senior party leader and former minister Kadiyam Srihari said.
The party had changed its name to BRS in October 2022, to reflect supremo K. Chandrashekar Rao’s national ambitions. Two months later, the Election Commission of India approved the name change, paving the way for KCR, as the former chief minister is popularly known, to expand the party’s footprint beyond Telangana.
However, the recent defeat in the assembly elections poured cold water on his ambitions. Many senior leaders now say the party lost its connect with the people of the state once it started projecting itself as a national party. “It was one of the key reasons why we lost the elections. We could not invoke the Telangana sentiment as we had done in the past,” senior leader Srinivas Yadav said.
In the past few weeks, the demand to revert to the party’s original avatar has been gaining momentum. The matter has been coming up during meetings conducted by BRS working president (and KCR’s son) K.T. Rama Rao and former minister T. Harish Rao, as they encourage introspection on the party’s performance in the assembly elections and try to motivate the cadre for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
“The party leadership has been apprised of the sentiments of the leaders,” Harish Rao said. The TRS, founded in 2001 to fight for the statehood cause, spearheaded the agitation, culminating in the bifurcation of undivided Andhra Pradesh to carve out Telangana in 2014.
The weight of an education
Celebrated author R.K. Narayan, who was a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha, spoke only once in Parliament — in 1986. The issue he chose was the weight of school bags and their impact on the health of children. The writer made a fervent appeal for ‘abolition of school bags’ as a national policy.
More than three-and-a-half decades later, school-children across the country continue to bear the burden, despite concerns voiced by doctors and educationists. Many schools still prioritise academic pressure over the well-being of students. As a result, overloaded backpacks are causing a range of health problems, including back pain and spinal deformities.
The new Congress government has finally taken the first step to reducing the load. From the next academic year, school bags will be lighter by at least 25 per cent, per a State School Education Department proposal to bring down the thickness of paper in textbooks. From 90 gsm, the paper grammage will be reduced to 70 gsm — resulting in school bags becoming 25–30 per cent lighter, depending on the class. Preliminary estimates suggested that Class 10 textbooks, which now weigh around 4.5 kg collectively, will come down by more than a kilo.
Apart from alleviating the burden on children, the department will save big on paper purchases as the procurement will come down from the present 11,000 tonnes to 8,000 tonnes. This will help save Rs 30-40 crore on raw paper, officials said.
The proposal, which awaits the state government’s approval, is therefore both child-friendly and environment-friendly.
Asset turned albatross
Neellu, nidhulu, niyamakaalu (water, funds, jobs)’ was the defining slogan of the Telangana statehood movement spearheaded by KCR, who was hailed as the architect of India’s youngest state and subsequently became its first chief minister in 2014. No wonder irrigation was given top priority during the two terms he had the helm.
The most talked-about among his initiatives was the Rs 80,000 crore Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project (KLIP), inaugurated in 2019 and projected as the world’s biggest lift irrigation scheme. Billed as his own brainchild, KLIP was positioned as a virtual panacea for all: it would irrigate 45 lakh acres of farmland across 20 of the state’s 33 districts, help generate power and provide water to industries, which in turn promised to employ youth, many of them fresh graduates.
However, in a cruel twist, the flagship project that was to be an enduring symbol of BRS achievement has turned into a millstone around its neck. The new Congress government has vowed to expose irregularities in various irrigation projects, particularly KLIP, which is allegedly marred by grave financial and technical irregularities.
Three barrages constructed as part of the mega project have since suffered structural damage. The project cost escalated by Rs 40,000 crore to become Rs 1.20 lakh crore, with at least six commercial institutions funding it at high interest rates.
Experts have raised questions over the viability of the project in the long run. “Everything about the execution of this mega project was wrong. Besides fiscal profligacy, technical compliance, adherence to ecological and topographical principles were all casualties,” said R. Avadhani, senior journalist and author.
Irrigation minister Uttam Kumar Reddy said his government would soon order a judicial inquiry into the project. The CAG probe into KLIP has already established that substantial amounts of the increased project cost were pocketed by the contractors, giving credence to the Congress and BJP accusations of a nexus between contractors and BRS brass. "Audit analysis revealed that the re-engineered Kaleshwaram project was economically unviable and ab-initio," the CAG report said.