The curtains have finally come down on the issue of granting special category state (SCS) status to Andhra Pradesh with the Centre announcing a special package for the state. Merely according SCS status to Andhra Pradesh will not help in removing the state’s backwardness. It will also not address the problems Andhra Pradesh has been beset with after Telangana was carved out. However, had the Centre not been constrained by legal and administrative factors — the non-inclusion of the SCS provision in the AP Reorganisation Act and the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission — it would have made Andhra Pradesh a SCS state. The government has worked out the best possible alternative.
Andhra Pradesh does require special treatment. The NDA government recognised that at the outset. At its very first cabinet meeting, this government passed an ordinance approving the transfer of seven mandals in Telangana to Andhra Pradesh. This was necessary for the speedy implementation of the multi-purpose Polavaram project, Andhra Pradesh’s lifeline. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has declared that the Centre will bear the entire expenditure for the project.
SCS states have an advantage when it comes to the funding of centrally-sponsored projects. The Centre bears 90 per cent of the costs of such projects in SCS states; it gives them loans to fund the remaining 10 per cent. The funds-loan ratio for non-SCS states is 60:40. The finance minister has assured Andhra Pradesh that the Centre will plug the state’s funding deficits in Centrally-sponsored schemes. In other words, Andhra Pradesh will get the money it would have been entitled to had it been made an SCS state; it will probably get more. Such handholding will continue till Andhra Pradesh achieves all-round development and is on par with developed states in the country. The protests by the Congress, YSR Congress Party and the Left Parties are politically-motivated and aimed at misleading the people.
Section 93 of the AP Reorganisation Act notes, “The Central government shall take all necessary measures as enumerated in the 13th schedule for the progress and sustainable development of the successor states within a period of 10 years from the appointed day”. In this context, it should be noted that the Centre has sanctioned 13 national-level institutions in Andhra Pradesh of which 10 have started functioning. It should also be mentioned that the Polavaram project was started way back in 1982, but there was no progress on it till the NDA came to power. The NDA government has, in fact, gone beyond the provisions of the AP Reorganisation Act when it comes to creating new institutions in Andhra Pradesh. These include the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) at Nellore, Central Institute of Plastics Engineering and Technology (CIPET) at Vijayawada and Indian Culinary Institute at Tirupati.
The act was drafted in a casual manner and that is impeding the speedy execution of development projects in Andhra Pradesh. One sentence notes, “The SAIL shall examine within six months of the appointed day, the feasibility of establishing an integrated steel plant in YSR Kadapa district of the successor state”. Another sentence notes that the Centre would examine the feasibility of establishing a Vizag-Chennai industrial corridor, while yet another sentence mentions that “Railways shall examine establishing a new railway zone in the successor state of Andhra Pradesh”. SAIL has stated that it is not feasible to start a steel plant in YSR Kadapa District. But the NDA government has not given up the matter and has constituted a task force to look into the issue. The sanctioning of a railway zone is also under consideration.
Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has announced three projects worth Rs 52,000 crore for Andhra Pradesh: The expansion of HPCL, a petrochemical complex and a petroleum university. Union Minister for Road Transport Nitin Gadkari has announced national highways projects worth Rs 64,000 crore. Defence projects are also coming up in the state. These include DRDO’s Rs 3,266-crore naval air station at Bobbili in Vizianagaram district, Rs 1,000-crore missile test facility at Nagayalanka in Krishna district, BEL’s missile integration and manufacturing unit at Palasamudram in Anantapur with an investment of Rs 600 crore. Work is also in progress on the Vizag-Chennai corridor and Chennai-Bangalore corridor (passing through Andhra Pradesh).
Three smart cities —Visakhapatnam, Kakinada and Tirupati — with an outlay of Rs 1,500 crore have been sanctioned. Rs 1,000 crore has been sanctioned for underground sewerage and stormwater drainage systems for Guntur and Vijayawada. The list of sanctioned projects is a long one but suffice it to say that all these projects and institutions will create employment, generate wealth and ensure equitable and all round development of Andhra Pradesh.
I have taken personal interest and interacted with Central government ministers to expedite projects that have been sanctioned. Our political detractors, particularly those from the Congress, have no moral right to criticise us after having betrayed the interests of Andhra Pradesh. It would be apt to recall the statement of senior Congress leader and former Union minister Veerappa Moily, who opposed the incentives to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. During a debate in the Lok Sabha in March 2015, he said that additional investment allowance and depreciation allowance for Telangana and Andhra Pradesh would lead to a flight of capital from Karnataka, Kerala and Bihar. How can you create such inequalities between states, he asked.
It is true that SCS would have brought some benefits to Andhra Pradesh. But a patently false impression has been created that it is the panacea for all problems. Some of our political detractors went to the extent of saying that each district in Andhra Pradesh would become as developed as Hyderabad if the state gets SCS status. Nothing is farther from truth. Hyderabad did not evolve into a throbbing, developed metropolis overnight and its development is the result of the cumulative efforts of successive governments over the past many decades. Let us not forget that the city has a history of more than four centuries.
The NDA Government will continue to help the Andhra Pradesh government realise its dream of building a “sunrise state” with a world class capital. There will be special attention, special support and special assistance for Andhra Pradesh.
The writer is union minister for urban development, housing and urban poverty alleviation.