We are an ‘Equal Opportunity Employer.’ One sees this poster in every company in the United States (US). The statement means that the company does not discriminate against its employees or potential employees on grounds of race, creed, colour, religion, age, gender, pregnancy, disability etc.
A similar statement, ‘Equal Opportunity Betrayer,’ best sums up the BRS leadership’s attitude towards the people of Telangana. The CM’s nine-year rule shows that the Chief Minister has shown no discrimination while betraying every section of society. The only exception to the rule is his family.
While equal opportunity employment applies only to working-age adults, the BRS’ equal opportunity betrayal, on the other hand, extends to every section of the population. One’s caste, religion, region, gender, age, profession, education, employment or financial status is immaterial. The betrayal is so universal that even existence – whether one is already born or is yet to come into the world – does not matter.
Let’s take the case of caste. The very first to be betrayed by the Chief Minister were the Dalits. His very oath-taking as CM was an act of betrayal towards them. He had earlier promised that the first Chief Minister of Telangana would be a Dalit (SC). After political opportunity, it was the turn of promised economic opportunities, be it the three acres promised to every Dalit family with an agricultural background or Rs 10 lakh under the Dalit Bandhu scheme.
The BRS did not treat the Scheduled Tribes (STs) any differently. Be it the promise of a 12% reservation or the commitment to provide of three acres of agricultural land, betrayal was uniform. Even when they turned the ST ‘thandas’ and ‘gudems’ into panchayats the change was only in name and they were denied even basic infrastructure.
The story of the Other Backward Castes (OBCs) is no different. One example is enough to prove the point. While the government allocated Rs 2,500 crore to the MBC (Most Backward Castes) Corporation, it spent only Rs 7 crore from 2017 to 2021.
While portraying the BRS as the dearest friend of minorities, especially Muslims, the Chief Minister actively curtailed opportunities for them. The BRS did not just renege on promises made, like an exclusive industrial estate and information technology (IT) corridor for Muslims, he actively curtailed developmental projects like the Metro Rail from reaching the Old City, a predominantly Muslim area of Hyderabad.
Women had it even worse. The first Cabinet was all-male. After much criticism, when the CM appointed two women ministers in his second Cabinet, he ensured they had no real power. Even students, like those of IIIT Basara, understood this and wanted to talk only to someone with decision-making power, that is, the CM or his son, the IT Minister.
The same goes for the lone Muslim in the Cabinet, a Home Minister, without any control over law and order.
Similarly, the BRS did not discriminate regarding age. The CM promised school-going kids the same quality of food that his grandson has at home, but they had to eat sub-standard mid-day meals that put thousands of them in hospitals. The budget allocation for education was slashed from 10.89% in 2014-15 to 6.57% in the latest 2023-24 budget, threatening our next generations’ ability to succeed in an ever-competitive world.
The youth, considering their critical role in the Telangana statehood agitation, were no exception. ‘Niyaamakalu’ (jobs) drove the youth’s participation during the agitation. The CM ignored both – the Universities, which were the hotbeds of the Telangana agitation and the filling up of vacant government posts – which the Biswal Committee had put at 1.91 lakhs.
The unemployed remained unemployed and the CM denied them even the dole of Rs 3,016 he had promised.
The employed suffered too. For the first time, people no longer believe a government job means financial security. From the housemaid to the milk delivery person, no one knows when a Telangana ‘Sir-Car’ babu will get his salary so that they will get paid.
While the education budget’s evisceration robbed children’s futures, the stoppage of Arogya Sri–Ayushman Bharat treatments by effectively stopping payments to private hospitals has put senior citizens in dire straits.
The poorest of the poor, who did not even have a good shelter, faced the worst betrayal. The BRS actively stoked their hopes by promising them a double-bedroom house. After building a few and distributing even fewer, he shattered their hopes claiming that there was no land with the government to build houses.
The betrayal appears to be driven by contempt for the poor, considering the CM continues to raise thousands of crores by selling government lands to mostly real-estate companies building posh villas and apartments for the rich.
It’s time Telangana ends the equal opportunity betrayal and fills it with equal opportunity development. Only voters have the power to do so.
(The author is BJP TS spokesperson)