Many are appealing to CM Naidu, to not repeat his ‘mistake’ of developing only Amaravati, and ignore the rest of the state.

HC in Kurnool steel plant at Kadapa APs Rayalaseema wants what is dueImage: Facebook/Andhra Pradesh CM
news Development Tuesday, January 23, 2018 - 15:29

As Andhra Pradesh continues to debate on contentious subjects like the Polavaram project and Special Category Status to the state, there is growing turmoil in the Rayalseema region over the fear of being excluded from government projects.

Even as several protests have broken out in Kurnool, led by lawyers demanding that the state’s new High Court be situated in the city, the demand for a steel plant at Kadapa is also gaining momentum.

A brief history

The Rayalaseema region comprises four districts - Kurnool, Kadapa, Anantapur and Chittoor. The region has several drought-prone areas, and witnesses farmer suicides annually.

Tired of being unable to grow crops, several thousand people from the region migrate every year to the neighbouring states of Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, in search of daily wage jobs.

In November 2016, after the Kharif season, the state government declared 245 mandals, drought hit. Of these, 63 were from Anantapur, followed by 53 in Chittoor, 36 in Kurnool and 32 in Kadapa. 2017 was no better, as several areas were acutely drought-hit.

There is a strong sentiment among locals in the region, that the area has been historically underdeveloped, especially under the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh state.

The roots of this political turbulence, can be traced back to 1937, when leaders of Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra met to discuss the possibility of a unified Andhra, after splitting up from Madras state.

The Sribagh Agreement was signed as the Rayalaseema leaders expressed doubts if their region would develop as well. To allay their fears, the agreement stated that the new capital of the state would be in the Rayalaseema region, while the High Court would be located in one of the other districts.

As a follow up to the Agreement, in 1956, leaders of Telangana, coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema signed the Gentlemen's Agreement. One of the things that came up again, was the location of the Executive and Judicial branches of the state.

In accordance with these two agreements, when Andhra Pradesh was first reorganised from the Madras Province, Kurnool was made its capital and the High Court functioned from Guntur until 1956.

Following this, the capital and the High Court shifted to Hyderabad, leaving the locals of Rayalaseema feeling neglected.

When Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated yet again in 2014, the locals in Rayalaseema saw this as a chance to develop their region.

However, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu’s focus on the Krishna and Godavari delta regions has irked many.

A steel plant at Kadapa

Andhra was bifurcated in accordance with the AP Reorganization Act, 2014. According to provisions in the Act, the steel Authority of India (SAIL) had to form a committee and within six months of formation of the committee, to check the feasibility of setting up a steel plant in Kadapa district.

GV Praveen Kumar Reddy, President, Steel Plant Sadana Samithi, says that they have been demanding a steel plant for two years, but to no avail.

"The Act categorically said that the steel plant’s feasibility in Kadapa should be examined, but the state and Centre are trying go back on the promise,” he told TNM.

Following a meeting with Union Steel Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh, Union Minister of State for Science and Technology Sujana Chowdary had earlier said that there would be ‘a clear picture before Sankranti’.

On the other hand, Singh said that it had received a positive report and the government would hold discussions with MECON Ltd, a PSU that would make the feasibility study.

In the first week of January, a team of 15-member from MECON Ltd along with state Marketing Minister C Adinarayana Reddy visited Jammalamadugu in Kadapa for the study.

Despite this, many activists still fear that the steel plant may come up in some other part of Andhra. They pointed out that ‘development’ was being confined to only two or three districts, citing the example of AIIMS, which was promised to Kurnool, but given to Mangalagiri near the capital region.

According to activists, the steel plant would generate as many as 20,000 jobs directly and can provide employment to more than 80,000 people indirectly.

"We want the government to lay the foundation stone within six months. Students and unemployed youth are worried that promises are being ignored,” Praveen said.

Sumanth Reddy, another activist from the Steel Plant Sadana Samithi says, "Though the CM and Leader of Opposition hail from here, they are doing nothing to improve the region. Be it (Former CM) YSR or Chandrababu Naidu, they just centralised everything at Hyderabad. Now, Naidu is repeating the same mistake by focusing merely on Amaravati.

A High Court in Kurnool

Another government move that many in the Rayalaseema region are opposing is the setting up of the Andhra High Court in Vijayawada.

All Bar Associations in Kurnool district are taking to the streets and have collectively decided to boycott courts up to January 25. Some of them have even sat on a relay hunger strike.

Advocate Jayaraju Yeggoni, President of the Kurnool District Bar Association, who recently led a large protest, believes that decentralisation of power is necessary.

"When the bifurcation took place, there was clear injustice. Since a lot of administrative, commercial and industrial offices had been centred in and around Hyderabad, the residual Andhra state realised that there was lopsided development. This is the same mistake we should avoid now," he told TNM earlier.

While a ‘South Korean township’ is coming up in Anantapur town, to accommodate residents who need to work at an upcoming automobile manufacturing facility of car major, KIA Motors, near Penukonda, locals feel that it is not enough.

Many are appealing to Naidu, to not repeat his ‘mistake’ of developing a single region between Vijayawada and Guntur in the state, and ignore the rest of the areas.

With the bifurcation, the regions of coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema have returned to the initial status quo, and many argue that Naidu must not repeat what is being dubbed, a 'historical blunder.’