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Vijayawada boat tragedy is more proof democracy is drowning in Andhra Pradesh

The TDP government ought to have anticipated the throngs of devotees they would have to attend to.

 |  4-minute read |   13-11-2017
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As the news of the boat tragedy in Vijayawada flashed across TV screens on November 12, one was reminded of the Rajahmundry stampede in 2015 during the Godavari Prushkaralu (akin to the Kumbh Mela) which claimed 29 lives. Like the disaster during the auspicious Pushkaralu — an integral part of Telugu culture — the Vijayawada tragedy too occurred on the last Sunday of the holy month of Kartheeka Masam (the Kartheeka month of the Hindu calendar) during which most Telugu people practise the tenet of piety.

The government, therefore, ought to have anticipated the throngs of devotees they would have to attend to. It, however, seems to have learnt no lesson from the Rajahmundry disaster. While it announced an ex-gratia of Rs 10 lakh for the victims in Rajahmundry and ordered an inquiry by the state CID, the home minister, N Chinna Rajappa declared that the victims of Vijayawada will be given Rs 5 lakh. It is likely that they will order yet another inquiry.

As the tragedy and the apathy of the government sinks in, the theatre of the absurd being played out in the politics of Andhra Pradesh goes unnoticed. Miffed by many MLAs of the principal opposition party defecting to the ruling TDP, the YSR Congress party chief, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy has called for a boycott of the Assembly session.

The defectors include the tourism minister Bhuma Akhila Priya under whose watch the tragedy at Vijayawada occurred. There will, therefore, be no hard questions posed to the government except, perhaps, by one BJP (TDP’s ally in the government) MLA who says he is willing to "play" the part of the Opposition.

This is not the first instance when the ruling and the main Opposition party have let the people of Andhra Pradesh down. Despite both of them extending support for the bifurcation of the state and the subsequent announcement of the Special Category Status, they have both not been able to convince the BJP to honour the electoral promise which the BJP too made. It is, perhaps, this lack of opposition that has led the CM to display his insolent streak when, in June 2017, he said that those who criticise his administration should not use the roads laid by the TDP government or claim pension.

If the lack of opposition wasn’t enough, the Naidu administration has gone on to airbrush its image by outsourcing the publicity work of the government to journalists. Perhaps, in a first for any state in India, the government of Andhra Pradesh in December 2016, (with retrospective effect from September 2016) appointed 25 journalists to cater to the publicity work of the government. The financial implication of this decision is felt by the state exchequer which bears about Rs 12,86,000 a month.

Fiscal indiscipline sticks out like a sore thumb in a state whose finance minister is considering a reduction of 10-15 percent in revenue expenditure. Yet, the government of Andhra Pradesh — after scrapping the Vijayawada metro project — has signed a deal for the futuristic Hyperloop Transportation Technology.

The cost of its six-month feasibility study hasn’t been disclosed. Meanwhile, the secretariat that the government built in the new capital at a cost of Rs 512 crore developed leaks in the very first year during the monsoon, leading many to joke that Naidu delivered Venice after promising to make Amaravathi another Singapore.

The TDP administration appears to be living in a bubble of grandiose fantasies of hyperloops while looking down upon revenue expenditure with contempt. What it needs to realise is that if tragedies like Rajahmundry and Vijayawada are to be avoided, the state needs to spend on enhancing administration even if it incurs revenue expenditure.

An efficient administration should be treated as an asset as it creates the ecosystem for the capital expenditure to realise its full potential. Of what use is a glittering capital, if it is built on the sorrows of its citizens? If Nero played the fiddle as Rome burned, Naidu is fiddling with finances as Andhra drowns.

The globetrotting Naidu, who often claims that he will make Amaravathi the best city in the world, should visit Paris the next time he is in Europe and take a walk down the catacombs beneath the city. Perhaps, he will then realise that for all its beauty and romance, Paris holds a macabre secret in its underground tunnels.

If Naidu’s administration continues to bungle, his delusional capital will be founded on the lives lost to his nonfeasance. The TDP administration will, however, be culpable for the catacombs of Amaravathi, if any.

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Rakesh Kotti Rakesh Kotti @rakeshkotti

Rakesh Kotti is an educator, aspiring writer and amateur drummer.

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