Kuppam, June 18: If there is an Amethi in Andhra Pradesh, it has to be Kuppam.
. Chandrababu Naidu’s constituency in Chittoor district is thriving proof of how a chief minister’s attention can change the face of an area.
Nestled between the borders with Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, Kuppam is the laboratory for all the Andhra Pradesh chief minister’s development and reforms initiatives.
Its situation can be compared to that of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, which has been carefully nurtured by the Congress’ Gandhi family.
From a den of excise defaulters and a haven for rampaging elephants from nearby Tamil Nadu, Kuppam today has become a paragon of Naidunomics — boasting its own Kuppam Assembly Development Authority, monitored by a special officer in the Chief Minister’s Office.
Kuppam’s march from neglect to Naidudom started when the chief minister fought the polls from here in 1989 as a Telugu Desam Party candidate, after his defeat as a Congressman at Chandragiri in 1983.
Since 1995, when Naidu first became chief minister, almost Rs 360 crore has been poured into Kuppam, Andhra Pradesh’s Amethi.
“Under the Janmabhoomi work launched in Kuppam since 1996, we completed nearly 1,300 drains, roads, school buildings, community work and other work estimated at Rs 96 crore,” Rangaswamy, a former MLA from Kuppam, said.
No official or legislator, however, has dared criticise the apparent excess of focus on Kuppam.
“While the entire state reeled under a drought, without drinking water and fodder, Kuppam farmers did not face any such problems. Our groundwater table, which is 46 metres, had not gone down despite the deficit rainfall over the last two years”, Krishnappa, a farmer in Gudipalli, said.
The constituency’s farmers were even taken to Delhi and Israel, several times, to interact with agricultural experts and get tips on drip irrigation.
“What I strived to prove is that every farmer can earn a minimum of Rs 2 lakh per annum if he manages the water resources properly,” Naidu said.
The Israeli technology of drip irrigation is now being implemented in all districts. In Kuppam, the system is conspicuous in the cabbage- or tomato-dotted green stretches.
“Not a drop is wasted. We save nearly 50 per cent of water for each crop,” said Ramakrishna Reddy, a farmer in Gudipalli who has converted 5 acres to the new technology.
If officials are to be believed, Kuppam’s rapid strides can be attributed to the cooperation of the residents who, they say, were ignored for decades.
“We were not cared for by all the governments. No one was interested in us. Thanks to Naidu, there is some economic activity and official attention towards us,” says Baheeruddin, a tea-shop owner at Shantinagaram.
The prosperity of Naidu’s constituency has made news enough for President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to award a certificate to Thimmakka, a 70-year-old woman farmer, for daring to experiment with new technology.
A farm labourer in S. Gollapalli village till recently, she used drip irrigation in 1 acre of her 10 acres to hit gold with a crop of gerkins, onions and beans.
“I used to get hardly Rs 20,000 from either paddy or ragi crop. But now with gerkins, onions and beans, I am earning Rs 40,000 per crop, thrice a year,” says Thimmakka.
The Israeli know-how has helped Kuppam farmers treble their annual income by introducing European crops such as gerkins, sweet capsicum and white-silver onions.
“We are bringing around 40,000 acres under contract farming, including the current 20,000 in the segment,” says Pat Rao, managing director, BHC (India) Pvt Ltd, the Israeli company implementing the irrigation project here.
Contract farming, that increases output by cutting operational cost, is a smaller version of Russia’s collective farming.
Naidu has also sought inspiration from Samuel Undung, a South Korean document that encourages development through people’s participation.