Telangana is going to vote for its legislative assembly on December 7, 2018. Here are some significant issues in Telangana elections based on the people’s opinions on the performance of the government, their rating of the government in terms of implementing pre-poll promises, their assessment of the welfare schemes implemented
by the government and local problems.
Though several welfare schemes have been announced and implemented in the last four years and almost every household has one beneficiary of one scheme or the other, recall value of those schemes is inversely proportional. Out of more than 75 welfare schemes implemented by the government, people are able to recall not more than half a dozen. But then people have different and critical opinions on even the schemes which reached them. In many cases they have suggestions to improve the schemes, suggesting that even though they are beneficiaries they are not totally
satisfied. Some of these issues have the potential to become major election issues. The same issues may be used by the other contestants to dent the ruling party vote and even defeat the ruling party candidates. Thus it is necessary to go into the issues in detail.
RYTHU BANDHU: This is one of the flagship programmes of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) government providing Rs 4,000 per acre per crop in cash as input for farming. The scheme was announced by the government last year and the farmers have received one installment. Though more than 58 lakh farmers received this benefit there are disappointments. While this scheme is applicable to land owners instead of actual cultivators, the major purpose of providing capital input is not completely fulfilled. At least 30% of the actual farmers in every village are not land owners but are cultivating the farm as tenants. This entire section is opposing the scheme. Their objection is that it is only providing additional income for the title-holders but not helping agriculture. Another major section, who have marginal land holdings of two acres or less say they get a meagre assistance while the large land holders of 10 acres or more are getting larger amounts. They say that the government could have set an upper limit for providing this scheme. Another major objection from the farmers was that they are juxtaposing
this Rs 4,000 assistance with the rise in the prices of fertilisers and other agricultural inputs. They are drawing particular attention to the decrease of 5 kg in quantity and rise of Rs 400 in the price of complex fertiliser and saying whatever is being given with one hand is being taken away by the other hand. Farmers at several places
demanded remunerative prices instead of Rs 4,000 per acre per annum.
CROP LOAN WAIVER: Though farmers treat this loan waiver as a boon, they also think that the way it was implemented did not provide them any benefit. As the government provided the assistance in four installments, the interest on the remaining debt piled up and finally the farmers feel their crop loans remained intact. In almost
all cases they immediately recall the loan waiver scheme by the UPA government in 2008 which was a one-time settlement that completely relieved them from debt. When the scheme was announced then, there were a section of farmers who already repaid the loans. To see that they feel they were not shortchanged the state government gave
them an incentive for their prompt repayment. Now as the old loans are not cleared completely, farmers could not avail new loans.
UNINTERRUPTED POWER SUPPLY: Provision of 24-hour power supply was well received by farmers in several places and this was listed as one of the first achievements of the government. However, in some places where water table is low, some farmers said they never asked for 24-hour power. They explained it leads to more exploitation of water by the rich and those with larger landholdings thereby depleting water to the lesser large holdings.
IRRIGATION WATER: The irrigation projects, contemplated by the government, have come to fruition only in some constituencies and people in the other constituencies are hopeful.
DOUBLE BEDROOM HOUSING: This is a much touted welfare scheme of the government in which it planned to build about 3 lakh double bedroom for the homeless poor. However, by the government’s own admission it could complete only a little more than 9,000 houses by the time it went for early elections. The scheme has raised expectations and aspirations of the people and hence the disappointment was very visible. Almost in every village failure of this programme was on top of the respondents’ minds. Out of the 102 villages the team visited, the scheme was satisfactorily implemented only in three villages. Even here, people complained that the homeless in the village did not get it, or even when the houses were constructed they were given to people having houses just because they were close to the ruling party leaders. There were even bizarre situations. The house was constructed on a land belonging to the owner but was allotted to another person. In some cases, the failure was justified by TRS cadres and sympathisers that there was no government land to take up this scheme. In some villages, people recalled the housing scheme of the previous Congress government where people were given financial assistance to build their own house on their own land and therefore found it better.
PENSIONS: Most of the old and physically challenged people in villages are happy about the increased pensions. However, some people expressed that the earlier method of disbursal was friendly towards them as they were given the monthly pension amount in the village post office. Now the pensions are being deposited in a bank forcing
them to travel long distances and stand in queues to get their amount.
THREE ACRES TO LANDLESS DALITS: This is another important welfare scheme announced by the government where each landless Dalit family would be provided with three acres of land. This announcement reached almost all landless Dalit families in the state, but actually, by the government’s own admission its
implementation did not reach not more than 10,000 families out of about three lakh landless Dalit families. Except in one village out of the 102 villages surveyed this scheme was not implemented and people expressed their disappointment.
EMPLOYMENT: This was one of the major drivers of the separate state movement and during the 2014 elections the TRS promised reduction of unemployment by providing a job to each house. Even after the formation of the state the government promised to fill more than one lakh government jobs, but by the government’s own admission it could not fill more than 26,000 jobs. Most of the educated unemployed youth are very angry with the performance of the government in this aspect and they may influence all the votes in their respective households. In fact, a youth said in his father’s presence that his brother asked his father and all the other members to vote for TRS in 2014 and now will ask for voting out the TRS as he is still unemployed.
MISSION BHAGIRATHA: This is another prestigious programme where the government planned to provide drinking water to all the households across state. In fact the chief minister categorically said he would not seek votes if he did not provide water to each house. However, except in a couple of villages, Mission Bhagiratha drinking water has not reached households. In almost every village the team saw that pipelines were laid but water connections were not given. In several villages, people said they did not need such costly water in the first place as they had their own
potable water systems in place. This say that instead the scheme should have been implemented in select villages which suffered the fluoride problem, instead of applying it to all villages.
MISSION KAKATIYA: This important scheme was taken up with much fanfare during the first two years, but now has kind of faded from the peoples memory. They say that these days only contractors have benefitted forcing some to sarcastically dub it ‘Commission Kakatiya’.
KALYANA LAKSHMI & SHAADI MUBARAK: In almost every village people recalled this government scheme and said eligible families received this financial assistance when the girl is being married. However, there are some complaints of corruption and misappropriation.
SHEEP DISTRIBUTION: This scheme to provide sheep to the shepherd community to financially empower them was implemented in many villages, but in most of the villages people said it was the brokers and sheep traders who benefited instead of shepherds.
FISH DISTRIBUTION: This scheme was not much recalled by people though 90% of the villages had tanks and other water bodies.
BATHUKAMMA SAREES: The government in a novel way announced and implemented a scheme which provided a sari to each woman during the Bathukamma festival. This scheme in the process provided relief to problem-ridden weavers the by providing them work. However, almost all women the team met expressed displeasure on the quality of the sarees they received and said they felt insulted by the government.
RELATIONSHIP WITH BJP: The Muslim respondents felt the TRS has a covert relationship with the BJP and expressed their disappointment. There, however, was no major resentment as they chose to be indifferent to this.
SETTLERS FROM ANDHRA: In Khammam and parts of Medak and Nizamabad, settlers from Andhra play a significant role. In 2014 elections most of them voted for the TRS and even the ruling party provided space to the leaders from the section. However, during the 2018 election run-up, the chief minister in a couple of his speeches used highly intemperate language against N Chandrababu Naidu. As the speeches were fresh when the team was in the field, people from among the settlers took strong objection and said they may have to think twice about their support to TRS. Some settlers said the CM should not have spoken in that tenor. The settlers are more in favour of TDP and also questioned where the TRS would have been without the TDP.
OPINION ON LOCAL MLA: Most of the people were more concerned about the behaviour, relationship and performance of their own MLA than the overall performance of the government. Those MLAs who maintained good relationship with them, who were helpful and who brought welfare & development schemes to their village were seen as better leaders, irrespective of their party affiliation. In this way, most newcomers, particularly first time MLAs of TRS were dismissed as non-performers.