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Telangana: Promises aplenty in the race to power

M Somasekhar Hyderabad | Updated on November 30, 2018 Published on November 29, 2018

Focus is on jobs, power sops, loan waivers in addition to good governance

As Telangana heads for Assembly elections on December 7, the main political parties are trying to outdo one another by promising sops and doles to cover almost all sections of the electorate.

If the ruling Telangana Rastra Samithi (TRS) and Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao have promised to waive farm loans up to ₹1 lakh, the Praja Kutami (Praja Front), a grand alliance of four parties, has offered exactly double that.

Even as the TRS which came to power in 2014 with a big promise of providing one lakh jobs, is still facing the flak for failing to fulfil the promise, the Front — consisting of the Congress, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), the CPI and TJS — has assured employment to one lakh people within the first year of coming to power.

A review of the poll manifestos of the rivals shows the focus on jobs, power sops, interventions to farmers, loan waivers and doles to under-privileged sections of society, as the main thrust areas, in addition to providing good governance. This time they have raised the bar with or without paying attention to the long-term implications on the State’s economy for narrow electoral gains.

Public debt, loan waivers

In this frenzy, the TRS and Praja Front have announced sops to the unemployed, free power under 100 units, monthly pension to single women and marriage of a girl child. With high population, the challenge is to find avenues to fund promises so that the debt burden does not spiral beyond control. The public debt of the State as on March 2018 stood at ₹1.51 lakh crore and is projected to reach ₹1.8 lakh crore by the end of fiscal 2018-19.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi in his political rallies charged the TRSgovernment of dragging the State into a huge debt from a budget surplus of ₹17,000 crore when it came to power. According to him, each family in Telangana is shouldering a burden of ₹2 lakh.

Despite that, he promised a waiver of ₹2 lakh per farmer in the party’s manifesto. He also announced an unemployment allowance of ₹3,000 per individual. The former Governor of the RBI, Raghuram Rajan, repeatedly cautioned State governments and political parties against loan waivers.

While the TRS has kept its promise of loan waiver of ₹1 lakh to farmers, the burden has been passed on to the banks, which had to wait for three years to get back the funds of ₹16,374 crore in five tranches. Similarly, the Rythu Bandhu scheme of providing ₹8,000 per acre of farm land runs up to a huge pile; the TRS wants to raise it to ₹10,000 if it comes back to power.

The initial estimate of the burden on the State exchequer due to loan waiver of ₹1to 2 lakh per farmer would be ₹22,000-40,000 crore, as approximately 40 lakh farmers would be eligible.

According to the State Level Banking Committee, the over-dues in agriculture for banks increased by ₹18,194 crore in the quarter ended June 2018.

Schemes and resources

KCR is using schemes such as Asara pension of ₹1,000 per month, ₹1,000 per month to single woman, support of up to ₹75,000 to aid the marriage of a girl child, to gain political mileage in his campaign across the State.

He is willing to go one step further by promising to hike the pension to ₹2,016 per month from the present ₹1,000 for those above 57 years and fall under the below poverty line category. Similarly, he wants to introduce an unemployment allowance of ₹3,016. The party manifesto moots a Market Intervention Fund of ₹2,000 crore to help in market support price interventions and other distress points for farmers. The insurance cover, Rythu Bandhu Scheme and several initiatives have led to a decrease in the number of farmer suicides year-on-year, claimed KT Rama Rao.

The Praja Front has come up with a 10-point common minimum programme with its Chairman as M Kodandaram, president of the Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS). According to this, in addition to one-time farm-loan waiver, interest free loans up to ₹2 lakh will be extended. For SC/ST candidates, concession of free power up to 200 units has been assured. For women, loans at 25 paisa interest will be given. In the education sector, fee structure in private schools will be regulated and reimbursement streamlined.

Addressing farm distress and suicides, the PF assures to set up a ₹10,000-crore Market Intervention Fund to tackle the entire gamut of issues in the agriculture sector.

Published on November 29, 2018
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