Hyderabad saw a major revamp last November during the Global Entrepreneurship Summit that had Ivanka Trump, the daughter of the United States’ President and advisor to the White House, visit Serilingampally - the 'smart city' in the making.
KT Rama Rao (KTR), son of Telangana’s former CM K Chandrashekar Rao, did everything in his power to create impressionable conditions for Ivanka Trump’s visit. So much so that he even got beggars and stray dogs off the roads. New roads laid and the entire city was given a facelift.
But all it took for the global city in the Serilingampally constituency to fall out of shape was an unseasonal thunderstorm and ensuing rains in April this year, which left its residents in the dark for almost a day, cutting off even drinking water supply. Netizens lost their cool and Twitter was filled galore with complaints of battered roads and stinking sewage connections. Residents reprimanded the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) for its unpreparedness to act under emergency. KTR chose to remain silent.
Serilingampally, one of the richest constituencies in Telangana, is home to IT giants like Google, Deloitte, Oracle and Infosys. The place also has the largest number of migrant voters and is one of the fastest growing areas in Hyderabad city. In contrast to the glitz and glamour that the IT hub promises, people living in the nearby areas have time and again protested against the myriad civic issues - an offshoot of the fast-paced growth the city has witnessed within a span of a decade.
Touted as a constituency that pays the highest amount of property tax, not even 50% of that money is being used to upgrade civic conditions in the constituency. The 10 divisions of the GHMC in Serilingampally have no drainage system; the old pipelines were installed by the gram panchayat decades ago and about 40% of the area has no roads, GHMC data says.
Plenty investment, zero planning
With high-rises mushrooming in every corner of the city, unregulated traffic, overflowing sewage and garbage mounts are becoming perennial issues. While KTR has done a commendable job as an IT minister, his pet project being the T-Hub, he has time and again being criticised for his lacklustre performance as an Urban and Municipal Administration Minister, heading a civic body that has been riddled with scams.
Speaking to TNM, Ramanjeet Singh, a former IT professional and activist, says that nothing much has changed in the past four years due to inadequate planning and implementation of projects in the city.
“The project implementation in the city is old wine in new skin. What the current government has done is package old projects as new ones. The quality and durability of roads are as bad as it was four years ago. For example, take the case of the Mindspace flyover, which cost around Rs 109 crore (to construct). The administration wanted to make it a signal-free junction. But a few months down the line, the junction is going to see a massive traffic block. There is no far-sightedness in implementing projects as the officials, who design these stretches, do not step outside to see what is happening on the ground, leaving behind the plush comfort of their office. The situation here is far from satisfactory,” Ramanjeet says.
However, residents say that the problems are only a part and parcel of the growth the city is slated to witness in the next 10 years. Raghavendra Reddy, a political analyst and a former corporate professional, calls Serlingampally among one of the fastest developing segments of Telangana.
“A major portion of Telangana’s wealth is concentrated in this region. The people living in this segment are witnessing ever changing contours around. Yet, there are numerous problems plaguing this constituency, and these are mostly related to infrastructure. Living and travelling in these areas is painful due to lack of proper roads or heavy and unregulated traffic snarls. But people must consider these pains as a part of the future development this region will witness soon,” Raghavendra says.
Destruction of terrain
Lack of planning has put the civic body in a tight spot in a city, which a decade ago, was only an arid piece of land. Anant Maringanti, founder of Hyderabad Urban Labs, says that housing in the area was initially solely meant for investment and was never for tenants who migrated to the city in the last 10 years.
“Ten years ago, people used to stay in the Old city and they travelled to the IT hub, which created a rhythmic pattern of private mobility in the city. Public transport options were minimal. So, people began relying heavily on share auto rickshaws. Slowly, informal modes of transport took over public and private modes, which changed the vehicular movement in the area. But as investment in this part of the city grew, private modes of transport also grew exponentially, which has thrown the traffic completely out of gear,”Anant opines.
The second most worrisome issue, according to experts, is the indiscriminate destruction of the terrain. For a region where farming was a source of income until recently, the change in the terrain and gradient has taken a heavy toll.
“The planning panels in the civic body have no experience in being sensitive to the terrain. Hyderabad, in the past, had tanks that were designed to tackle droughts. With agricultural land being converted to real estate, drainage patterns were altered, water bodies disappeared and bridges were removed. 165-year-old rock formations have undergone massive changes. Such change in demographics result not just in urban flooding, something which Hyderabad has been facing in the past couple of years, but it has also resulted in water contamination and diseases,” Anant says.
The political relevance of Serilingampally
Serilingampally is a constituency that will witness a local versus settler fight as it sees a huge influx of people from states all over India. The constituency saw a polling percentage of 53 in 2009, which fell to a dismal 47.5% in 2014.
While most of its residents complain of civic issues, one cannot undermine the fact that the English-speaking population in the area have been over-awed by the reach of the foreign-returned minister KTR, who maintains a good rapport with the people in the constituency via Twitter.
“IT employees of Hyderabad, who form a considerable part of Serilingampally voter base, are often seen impressed by the oratory skills of KTR. What ever part of India they have come from, the English-speaking TRS scion has fans among them. However, the pain of the people in the constituency, along with other influencing factors like nativity, might act as deterrents for them to vote for the ruling party,” says Raghavendra Reddy.
Arekapudi Gandhi (the former MLA) won the Serilingampally seat on a TDP ticket in 2014 and but soon defected to the TRS. According to sources close to the MLA, Gandhi is confident of winning a second-time and does not consider anti-incumbency an issue.
“Both Gandhi and KTR have admitted to a certain amount of laxity in constructing roads in the constituency but one cannot deny the fact that people here have been beneficiaries of many other projects like the Mission Bhagiratha which has supplied water to many homes in the constituency. Also, the government has done a commendable job in reviving the lakes in the area and people have already extended their support to Gandhi, as he is one of the few MLAs who has lent a hand to the problems of the people. His chances of winning are assured against the unholy alliance of the TDP and Congress,” Venkat, a source close to the MLA, says.
Serilingampally is one of the many constituencies that stands testament to the Prajakutami arrangement in the state. Congress’ Bikshapathy Yadav, has a strong voter base in the segment, however, the alliance has decided to pit Industrialist Anand Prasad against the TRS.
“Bikshapathy Yadav openly expressed his displeasure withh the alliance and Kutami would have feared that he would contest as a rebel candidate or join TRS. Transfer of vote from Congress cadre and sympathizers to a TDP candidate will be a tough task. This constituency will test the bond between two people, who are poles apart but have come together,” Raghavendra Reddy opines.
Leaders shift loyalties easily, but cadre and voters do not do so easily. “With TDP fielding a new face from this segment, backed by the Congress, Anand Prasad stands a good chance of winning this seat. With Congress and TDP joining hands, TRS & BJP may find it difficult to make a mark in the elections,” Reddy further adds.
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