Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Ratna Column : Administering overdose of welfare at the cost of development!

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Everybody would welcome a welfare state. But none would countenance what is happening in Andhra Pradesh in the name of matchless welfare measures. In view of the umpteen welfare schemes launched by the YSR Congress Party government headed by YS Jaganmohan Reddy, lakhs of poor people and those from disadvantaged sections do feel much relieved, even if they are not content.

They no longer have to worry about getting two square meals a day. Community pensions have changed the attitude of most people; many think it is no longer necessary to toil for meeting their daily needs.The availability of food grains and money for meeting various needs at regular intervals, regardless of one’s labour, has made many people complacent.

The AP government has placed on record that funds to the tune of Rs.1,92,938 crore have been distributed among lakhs of beneficiaries across the state by crediting their bank accounts. This has made poor people happy. But what is happening to the state’s fiscal position? The present debt burden in itself cannot be tackled in an easy manner for several years to come. The AP government appears to be in an extremely precarious state.

It has to make requests to the Union government to relax the restrictions and limitations placed on borrowing of loans by States; for, AP’s borrowings have reached an alarming stage, as stated by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Parliament recently. In this backdrop, further borrowings might deepen the financial crisis, though the Jagan government wants to retain power in the 2024 elections ‘at any cost’.

The development of the state has been relegated. The promised Special Category Status could have helped, had it been incorporated in the AP Reorganisation Act 2014.  Political blame game for not securing SCS for AP apart, even major projects, including the multi-purpose Polavaram, are not getting their due.The Polavaram project is designed to meet both agricultural and drinking water needs of the entire state Andhra Pradesh. Apart from inter-state issues, fund crunch has stalled the project, which is considered the lifeline of AP.

The state government has failed to keep its promises on early completion of the Polavaram project, though it has been pumping huge funds for welfare schemes to secure vote banks.

The total estimates for the Polavaram project have reached Rs.53,000 crore. If one takes into account the sum of Rs.1.92 lakh crores already deposited into the accounts of lakhs of beneficiaries of the AP government’s ongoing welfare schemes, and if the state government’s priorities had been right, it is clear that the state could have completed the Polavaram project even without seeking financial assistance, irrespective of its national project status. The State government might still be in a position to complete the project by shifting its focus from welfare measures to infrastructure. Thrust on infrastructure can take the state to new heights.

The common man may soon come to the conclusion that the state government has spent on welfare programmes Rs.1.92 lakh crore, which could have otherwise funded the Polavaram project. The maxim ‘A politician would think about the next election, while a statesman would think about the next generation’ is particularly relevant in Andhra Pradesh.The government seems to have no enthusiasm to complete the project before the completion of its tenure. Such lack of zeal and commitment will not serve the purpose of the state.

Despite mounting political accusations day after day, the crucial subject of thrust to infrastructure seems to have no place in the agenda of the present rulers. People really want statesmen, not mere politicians.Soon this could be the strong message from the electorate to the warring factions on the political landscape in the state.

Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy, by portraying himself as a lion and describing his political opponents as wolves, has escalated political heat besides inviting criticism from the general public.Terming opposition leaders as wolves is nothing but degrading the stature of fellow politicians; it is wholly unwarranted! Voters, given their wise thinking, are capable of turning the tables on both lions and wolves tomorrow.

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