By Mohammed Shafeeq
As 2016 comes to a close, it was the second full year in the onward march of Telangana, which appears to be making rapid strides in different sectors despite being the youngest of India's 29 states.
With political stability, no law and order challenges and a good monsoon, it was a smooth year for the revenue-surplus state.
Carved out of Andhra Pradesh on June 2, 2014, Telangana has already attracted national attention for some of the initiatives taken over the last two-and-a-half years.
It claims to be the No.1 state in the country in welfare with an annual expenditure of Rs 30,000 crore ($4.5 billion) on various schemes.
The flagship programmes of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government include Mission Kakatiya, aimed at restoring over 46,000 tanks at a cost of Rs 20,000 crore in five years.
With good rains this season, the scheme seems to be yielding good results. After restoration of 8,000 tanks in the last fiscal, the government has taken up revival of 9,000 tanks during the current financial year that ends on March 31, 2017.
Another ambitious programme is Mission Bhagiratha, a water grid to provide piped drinking water to every household. Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the first phase of the project on his maiden visit to Telangana in August.
The Rs 42,000 crore project involves laying 150,000 km of pipelines and the government plans to lay optic fibre cable along the pipelines to provide broadband connectivity to every house to achieve its vision of a digital Telangana.
The leader of the Telangana movement, K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) had always highlighted the injustice to the region in the undivided state in the irrigation sector. It was no wonder that, after assuming office as the first Chief Minister, he embarked on some massive irrigation projects to utilise the state's full share of the Krishna and Godavari river waters.
To pave the way for building projects across the Godavari, Telangana this year signed an agreement with Maharashtra to end inter-state disputes.
However, problems remain with Andhra Pradesh and upper riparian states Karnataka and Maharashtra over sharing the Krishna river's waters.
Setting aside all apprehensions raised in some quarters at the time of the state's formation, Telangana overcame an electricity shortage.
It launched some major power projects at an estimated cost of Rs 90,000 crore which are expected to add about 20,000 MW by the end of 2018 to the state's current 4,365 MW capacity.
Capital Hyderabad continues to drive Telangana's growth. The information technology hub attracted some big- ticket investments during the year with tech giant Apple opening a new office. Apple CEO Tim Cook visited the city in May to launch a map development centre that will create 4,000 jobs.
KCR's son and IT Minister KT Rama Rao is elated that Hyderabad is now home to four of the top five most-valued tech companies' largest offices outside the US. Microsoft, Google and Amazon are the other three companies.
In March this year, e-commerce giant Amazon began work on the facility, which is expected to be ready in 2019 and can house thousands of employees.
Hyderabad was placed on the start-up map late last year with the launch of T-Hub, billed as the country's biggest technology incubator. It now plans to launch the second phase of T-Hub.
The city achieved a 13.26% growth in IT exports at Rs 75,070 crore in 2015-16. It created a little over 35,000 new jobs during the year, taking the total workforce to 407,385.
The IT Minister pointed out that IT exports were Rs 57,000 crore when Telangana was born.
Telangana also earned accolades for launching a new industrial policy, giving investors the right to timely clearance of their proposals.
Under the new policy, the state has so far cleared 2,929 proposals involving investment of Rs 49,463 crore with a direct employment potential for 195,000. Officials say 1,138 industries have commenced production.
The initiatives helped the state jointly top with Andhra Pradesh in "Ease of Doing Business" index during 2016. This was a huge jump for Telangana, which was at the 13th position last year.
The year also witnessed the Telangana map being redrawn with re-organisation of districts. The number of districts went up from 10 to 31. Notwithstanding criticism in some quarters for creating too many districts, KCR defended it on the ground that this will improve governance and enable better targeting of welfare schemes.
(Mohammed Shafeeq can be contacted at email@example.com)