Is this ‘Bangaru’ (Golden) Telangana?
The adolescent State in its initial years of formation, had failed to achieve the mere purpose of bifurcation, which intend to prosper in self rule.
On 02nd June Telangana State celebrated statehood day and the people of the state also celebrated 06th anniversary of the formation. The Telangana state was formed, in 2014 to fulfill the regional aspirations of the people who were subjugated under the regimes of Erstwhile Andhra Pradesh. The mere purpose of bifurcation of the state was based on the theory that Self rule is better than alien domination, wherein the ethnic leadership of the Telangana region will be assertive towards the natives safeguards. However, the idea could not bolster the territorial interest of the state which envisioned to build a Golden Telangana or Bangaru Telangana.
The catchphrase Bangaru Telangana was coined by the first chief minister of Telangana, during run up to the State assembly elections in 2014, who promised to rebuild the state, which was under the clutches of alien rule. The populist slogan Golden Telangana had struck the chord with the voters’ aspiration and eventually electors gave brute majority to Telangana Rastra Samiti party in the last assembly elections. Ironically, the first government of the newly born state, formed by the TRS party has inherited the past legacy of the alien rule. The reports of the Comptroller and Auditors General (CAG) from 2015 to 2019, on the functioning of the Telangana Government decisively advances this argument.
According to the CAG report, the financial planning of the state economy has dabbled to achieve its targets due to non allocation of funds for the intended purpose. In its critical observations, the premier auditor of the state found that the State Government spent Rs.76,236 crores on capital projects out of which 50 percent was spent on irrigation projects and despite that the work is incomplete. The delay in the completion of projects, not only adversely affected the quality of the expenditure but also deprived the state of intended benefits and economic growth. As per the report the state government is undertaking 19 irrigation projects whose original cost was Rs.41,201 crore and delay in the completion of these projects led to the escalation of project cost to Rs.1,32,928 crore. The state government did not disclose financial results of any of the irrigation projects.
The Union Government allocated two smart cities for the State of Telangana. An amount of 183.46 crore was provided in the budget for the year 2015-16. Union Urban Development Ministry also released an amount of Rupees four crore for preparation of Smart City Proposal (SCP) under Smart Cities Mission (SCM) guidelines for the year 2015-16. The State Government re-appropriated the entire budget provision. Thus status of this smart city project is unclear till date. .
Better Health, Universal Education, affordable Housing and amelioration of Dalits are the key aspects of the social indicators. The approach of the state towards enhancing the social infrastructure and to full fill the gap between haves and have-nots remains ambiguous. In 2017 Most Backward Classes Development Corporation was established by the Government to improve social, educational and financial conditions of most backward classes amongst the OBCs. It could not take off due to non-approval of action plan by Government despite allocation of ₹1,000 crore. An amount of ₹995.94 crore was finally withdrawn through re-appropriation on the last day of the financial year. The State Government stated (January 2019) that expenditure could not be incurred due to lack of definition of the term “Most Backward”.
Under SC/ST Sub plan not even 50 percent of the allotted budget was spent by the government in 2015-16. As per Andhra Pradesh Scheduled Castes Sub-Plan (SCSP) and Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) Act 2013 (Planning, Allocation and Utilisation of Financial Resources), all Government Departments should earmark at least 15.44 per cent and 9.34 per cent of the total plan outlay in the Budget exclusively for the development of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, respectively, by designing schemes that directly benefit the SCs/STs individually or as a community with a view to improving the economic and social condition of the targeted groups. During the year 2015-16, 7,847.38 crore (15.58 per cent) and 5,035.50 crore10 (9.37 per cent) were allocated towards SCSP and TSP. It would be evident that the intended purpose was not achieved due to non-release of funds for the SCSP and TSP.
Decline in Education
Among the audit findings, the academic performance of the government schools showed declining trend during the years 2013 to 2016, which was mainly attributable to significant shortages in facilities and faculty, both in quantitative and qualitative terms. A majority of the Residential Institutions in the State lacked adequate accommodation and infrastructure facilities in terms of classrooms, dormitories, kitchens, dining halls, toilets, staff quarters, furniture and safe drinking water. The minority residential Schools and residential colleges in the state continued to suffer from the shortage of accommodation and infrastructure despite the provision of funds.
Housing Scheme in Veil
It was pre-poll promise of the ruling government to provide complete subsidized house to the poor in Telangana. A scheme was designed with an objective of providing two bedroom house to the poor and the target was 2.80 lakh houses (1.26 lakh rural houses and 1.54 lakh urban houses). In 2015, the Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO) also gave a loan of Rs.3344 crore to the Telangana State Housing Corporation Limited (TSHCL). The state government allotted ₹1,000 crore for this scheme. The target was not achieved as government spent only ₹75 crore, however state government has publicized much about this scheme.
IT Sector in Shambles
Government of Telangana enacted (December 2014) the “Telangana State Industrial Project Approval and Self-Certification System (TS-iPASS) Act, 2014” (Act). The objective was to provide single point approval on behalf of all relevant departments for setting up industrial undertakings. The objective of single point approval was not achieved as the software allowed selective approvals.
The Information & Technology Department did not ensure basic amenities before offering land parcels. Consequently, no land allotments were made during the last five years. Minimum use of allotted land for IT activities was not stipulated. There was no mechanism to monitor the development by IT firms within the time schedules. Prescribed procedures were not followed in the selection of consultants for T-Hub and Innovation in Multimedia, Animation, Gaming and Entertainment (IMAGE) Tower. Undue benefits were extended to the consultant and constructing agency in T-Hub. the entire process of selection of Consultant Architects for T-Hub and IMAGE towers was irregular and violative of Manual provisions. The tender process lacked transparency and fairness. This needs to be probed for fixing the responsibility.
The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Electronic Hardware (EH) policies provided for allotment of land to IT / EH firms. No land allotments were made from 2014 to 2017. There was resistance from IT firms to accept land parcels offered by the Government due to lack of basic amenities and distance from City or existing IT cluster. Besides Government did not ensured that utilisation of land allotted and investment by IT firms. As a result, the objectives of development through IT firms and employment generation could not be achieved.
In 2013, UPA Government approved setting up of Information Technology and Investment Region (ITIR) in Hyderabad in 202 square kilometres in two phases. Phase I was to be completed with internal infrastructure at a cost of ₹ 3,576 crore and external infrastructure at a cost of ₹ 942 crore by 2018. ITIR was to generate a turnover of ₹ 3,10,849 crore with employment to 68 lakh persons. It remained a non-starter.
The Requirement of land, commitment and capability of the IT firms to invest and to complete the projects were not ensured. As a result the intended objectives of IT projects were not achieved. Prescribed procedures were not followed in the selection of consultants for T-Hub and Image tower. Undue benefits were extended to the consultant and constructing agency in T-Hub.
Invariably, much of the excess expenditure was spent on self-glorification of the Chief Minister and also in projecting his son a Global Legend. Advertisement worth in crores was doled out to vernacular media houses to control the flak and to mould the content of newspapers in the interest of the government.
The overall findings of CAG reflects huge gaps between the rhetoric policy making and the realistic policy implementation of the State Government. The state economy is engulfed with deep fiscal imbalances with revenue deficits. As the loans and borrowings of the state government propped up in last five years, the burden of the interest repayments rise phenomenally and the debt sustainability of the state exchequer is shrinking gradually.
The adolescent State in its initial years of formation, had failed to achieve the mere purpose of bifurcation, which intend to prosper in self rule. The challenge ahead before the State, where the citizens feel let down by the government, is to move beyond the politics of freebies, which is bleeding the state exchequer. Behavioral change, as quoted by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Rajya Sabha, is much needed in the functioning of the government in Telangana State. The populist schemes designed by the government to appease various communities need a reality check. A pragmatic and action-oriented approach in policy making is much required to build a Bangaru (Golden) Telangana.
Dr. Chiguru Prashanth Kumar is a fellow at the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram.