The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Performance rap for funds-rich Naidu

New Delhi, June 23: Chandrababu Naidu is good at wangling funds from the Centre. Each time he visits Delhi, he extracts cash for Andhra Pradesh’s shrinking coffers. But the benefits do not seem to trickle down to the people.

According to a report of the Department for International Development, Andhra’s “standards of governance” in several crucial areas “are low and have even in some cases deteriorated over the last decade”.

The DFID — a department of the UK government — operates in many states in India and aims to promote development and reduce poverty.

Its report on Andhra says: “The state government has a proven capability to develop policy frameworks but capacity in all levels of public service and local government is weak. And consequently, implementation is poor.”

Despite chief minister Naidu's claims of achievement, Andhra has an extremely high incidence of suicides among farmers. In recent months, over 400 homeless people died due to a severe heatwave.

The report says Naidu has adopted a highly “centralised approach” of governance and the “process of reform is highly dependent on him”.

In 1999, he had released a document encapsulating his vision of a “SMART” government — “simple, moral, accountable, responsible and transparent”. He had then assured that his government would eradicate poverty by 2020.

He also held up Andhra’s progress in information and technology as his trump card, drawing former US President Bill Clinton and Microsoft guru Bill Gates to visit Hyderabad.

“The Andhra Pradesh government has been pro-active in establishing IT infrastructure. They now wish to expand these pilots to ‘anytime-anywhere’ services,” says the DFID.

“These plans, however, will require considerable financial and human resource investments if their impact is to be state-wide.”

The report stresses the difficulty of sustaining grand plans without corresponding savings in establishment costs and other service charges.

The state’s performance chart in the social sector reads like a catalogue of failings. “Women and children remain particularly vulnerable,” says the report. This is reflected in the decline of the sex ratio in the state — from 986 in 1981 to 972 in 1991.

Andhra has the largest number of child labourers. Most of them work in households.

“The cycle of disadvantage for young females is complete with under-age marriage and early pregnancies,” says the report.

Naidu’s policy of incentives and disincentives has led to a rapid decline in fertility rate. But the incidence of communicable diseases is high along with a low health status for women and children.

“The continued impoverishment of many rural households has encouraged the flow of migrants to towns and cities. Andhra Pradesh has a 50 per cent growth in urban slums,” says the report.

Andhra has the highest number of female workers in the country but they are also the most marginalised section.

Their wages are 30 to 40 per cent less than that of men. They have a high degree of dependence on moneylenders and rarely own resources like land.

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