Hyderabad: Caring little for the stressed exchequers of their respective states, the governments of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have carved a spendthrift path for themselves splurging public money on sappy projects. The 125th birth anniversary of BR Ambedkar has offered another opportunity for extravagance as both the chief ministers have decided to install 125-foot-tall bronze statues of the father of the Indian Constitution.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu was the first to announce that the state would install a 125-foot Ambedkar statue, a Buddhist centre and an Ambedkar museum and library on the banks of the Krishna. The project is estimated to cost around Rs 250 crore, according to Minister Ravella Kishore Babu.
Naidu's Telangana counterpart Kalvakuntla Chandrashekar Rao went a step ahead and laid the foundation stone on 14 April on the banks of the Hussain Sagar Lake at Hill Rock in the NTR Memorial Garden, besides Prasad’s iMax theatre. This will be in line with the 75-foot-tall monolithic Buddha statue on the Gibraltar Rock amid Hussain Sagar Lake. The cost of the statue project is not revealed, though sources indicated that it could be around Rs 30 crore (just the statue).
Rao also promised a 15-storeyed Ambedkar Towers (cost not estimated as yet) and a Centre for Dalit Studies. KCR announced that the project would be complete within one year – by next birth anniversary of Ambedkar at an outlay of Rs 10 crore.
Naidu on Thursday unveiled the plan at convention centre in Vijayawada on the occasion of Ambedkar’s birth anniversary.
The competition between the two states occasionally come across as cut-throat when it comes to seeking funds and projects from the Centre.
Telangana has taken up the development of Yadadri (formerly known as Yadagirigutta)by creating a Temple Development Authority on par with Tirumala spending huge amounts, including the extension of Rs 330 crore MMTS railway line mentioned in the recent Railway Budget, and the allocation of Rs 200 crore grant.
Similarly, Andhra Pradesh has taken up the development of Vontimitta Kodandarama temple in Kadapa district competing with Bhadrachalam Sri Sitaramachandra Swamy temple in Telangana with a two-pronged plan – short-term and long-term. The State Government is proposing a Vedic University there. The Tirumala-Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) has also pitched in to fund the project. However, the authorities are yet to arrive at a ballpark figure.
On Friday, KCR, after participating in the Sri Sitarama Kalyanam ritual at Bhadrachalam on the occasion of Srirama Navami, announced that Bhadrachalam temple would be developed at an outlay of Rs 100 crore.
In fact, soon after the bifurcation of the states in 2014, Telangana raised the salaries of its staff by 43 percent, forcing the Andhra Pradesh government to follow suit. Ditto with the revision of pay for Road Transportation Corporation staff.
Although the opposition parties in both the states are seeking a check on the spending spree, the governments have simply bulldozed their objections, thanks to their massive majority in their respective Assemblies. Among the projects that have earned the opposition ire are the Telangana government's plan to redesign massive irrigation projects while the Andhra Pradesh government's extravagance on the capital region is under the opposition scanner.
Frequent foreign jaunts including that of the chief minister and the profligacy of the state in Godavari and Krishna pushakarams are facing coming under severe criticism of the Opposition parties.
Following is the list of five issues raised by Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka, working president of Telangana Congress Committee and MLA and Buggana Rajendranath Reddy, chairman of Public Accounts Committee in Andhra Pradesh Assembly and YSR Congress MLA in their respective states.
Vikramarka laced his criticism of KCR government with an attack that it did not have any respect for the Constitution. He pooh-poohed the government for attempting to take cover under the shadow of 125-foot-tall Ambedkar statue for all its follies.
1. The total expenditure proposed on the irrigation projects alone works out to Rs 2 lakh crore. This includes the new projects envisaged by the TRS government and the redesigning of projects that will cast a heavy burden on the exchequer, only to quench the rapacious thirst of contractors.
2. The government is redesigning Pranahita-Chevella irrigation project, which was originally an Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) Project given on a turn-key basis to contractors for Rs 36,000 crore of which work costing Rs 8,000 crore was already completed, leading to escalation of the estimates to Rs 83,000 crore. Similarly, Dummugudem-Rajiv Sagar and Dummugudem-Indira Sagar projects, estimated to cost Rs 2,500 crore originally, will now cost Rs 8,000 crore with the altered plan and abandoning of some of the works. As it is half the work was completed.
3. The Rs 25,000-crore ‘Mission Kakatiya’ – dredging and deepening of 45,000 tanks in 459 mandals – and aligning them with major irrigation projects might leave the Rs 42,000 crore ‘Mission Bhageeratha’ – creating a raw water pipeline grid -- redundant. Vikramarka was at his derisive best when he sought to know if each mandal (with 30-35 villages) would have 100 tanks.
4. On the move to construct a cluster of residential villas for the officials of the Chief Minister’s Office with huge expenditure, Chief Secretary and the DGP and other important functionaries of the State Administration behind the Chief Minister’s residence, Bhatti Vikramarka said that KCR was following the monarchic style of administration akin to Nizams and Kakatiyas.
5. Suggesting that KCR had scant respect for democracy, the Congress leader was of the view: “KCR, who took oath of office and secrecy under the Third Schedule of the Constitution, doesn’t respect the 10th schedule in which Anti-defection Law is enshrined. He has usurped the MLAs of other parties.” Would the 125-ft Ambedkar statue ward off his “disrespect for the Constitution?” he asked.
Rajendranath Reddy has come down heavily on the Chandrababu Naidu government saying that it is indulging in either wastage or injudicious spending of funds. The extravagance is taxing the fund-starved truncated state that inherited huge revenue deficit of over Rs 15,000 crore on account of bifurcation. He points out major realms of extravagance or misuse of funds.
1. The expenditure on Pattiseema Lift Irrigation project is a case in point for its injudicious spending of money. He pointed out that the Rs 1,600 crore spent on the project that would serve its purpose was nothing but irresponsibility. Because, the government wanted to shift the pumps elsewhere after two years. The entire spend on the work would go to waste. It’s still being debated whether the Lift Irrigation Projects were viable at all. And, Pattiseema meant for just two years is part of Polavaram Major Irrigation project.
2. A large section of population is devout. And, we respect the religious sentiments of every person. However, how wise is it on the part of the state government to have spent Rs 1,600 crore on Godavari Pushkarams. Have they really spent so much, and if so on, what remains still a moot question. Now the AP government is planning to spend Rs 1,000 crore for Krishna Pushkarams. Is the government going to create any tangible and sustainable asset with that kind of a spend? A government that’s citing paucity of funds for drinking water and sinking borewells is ready to spend any amount on luxuries. Isn’t this an attempt to “satisfy” the pleonectic urge of vested interests?
3. Take the expenditure of the chief minister: He has spent tens of crores of rupees for refurbishing his offices at Secretariat in Hyderabad twice, guesthouse, camp offices in Hyderabad, temporary offices in Vijayawada. And, it is not stopping. The new full-fledged secretariat, CMO and CM’s residence would all be built in the new capital. Nobody is questioning their construction. Why should he indulge in lavish expenditure on temporary refurbishments is what bothers people. All this aggregates to around Rs 250 crore to Rs 300 crore.
4. The Andhra Praesh government has 10 years of time to stay in Hyderabad and use it as common Capital. Even the secretariat is divided between the states. So, the development activity could have been staggered to 10 years with perfect plan. But, the spendthrift administration is splashing around money to create temporary structures. The temporary secretariat coming up at Velagapudi is estimated to cost Rs 300 crore. What were the plans of the government for its reuse was not known. Another Rs 300 crore is paid to consultants for the construction of the Capital city so far. Why should he hire Singapore and Japan companies. Aren’t Indian infrastructure majors capable?
5. Chandrababu Naidu travels everywhere by chartered flights. Look at the way the government itself has admitted to having spent a bomb. He could have travelled business class, or first class. Naidu’s visit to a place in Kadapa district would typically go this way: A chartered flight to Tirupati, a helicopter from there to Kadapa and returning the same way. Why does he need to take an entourage along with him wherever he goes? Even Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar travels by commercial aircraft.
The profligacy of the governments came under sharp criticism by the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India too.