Thursday, 31 March 2005

YSR overtakes Babu in publicity blitzkrieg

2005
By Syed Akbar 
Hyderabad, March 31: Just read this: 45,159 press notes, 1,143 feature articles, 1,779 success stories, 4,018 press conferences, 3,125 press tours, 14,183 rejoinders, 29,824 photo coverage and 14,935 advertisement insertions in newspapers.
If you think that these statistics pertain to the publicity-friendly Telugu Desam government, you are 100 per cent mistaken. They actually speak of the "performance" of  the "low profile" Rajasekhar Reddy government in the State.
Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy has quite often criticised his predecessor and bete noire N Chandrababu Naidu for the latter's publicity blitzkrieg running into about Rs 350 crore. He even announced before Assembly elections that if elected to power the Congress would reduce the publicity expenditure and utilise the funds for free power to the farm sector.
Rajasekhar Reddy is no less publicity crazy than Chandrababu Naidu, if the figures available with the State Information Department are any indication. The Congress government issued 2987 advertisements with 14935 insertions while the previous TD government gave 3528 advertisements with 14112 insertions. The Congress government issues 823 insertions more than that of Babu's government.
During the year 2004-2005 the Rajasekhar Reddy government issued 14,183 rejoinders of which 9,445 were published. It issued 137 press notes daily to media on an average!
The information department "arranged" coverage for 29824 photos. Till January the department brought out 29 publications printing 29.21 lakh copies on various programmes and activities of the government. Thousands of hand bills, booklets and stickers were brought out and distributed all over the State to popularise Rajiv Pallebata and Rajiv Nagarabata programmes.
While the previous TD government issued advertisements on behalf of the government, the present Congress government is adopting a novel strategy of publishing advertisements in newspapers on "benami" names, as the TD would like to describe. Advertisements worth several lakhs were issued on irrigation tenders in newspapers.

Saturday, 26 March 2005

The "smoking" habits of YSR and Babu

March 26, 2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 25: Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy admitted to having smoking cigarette when he was just 11 years old. And what about his bete noire and predecessor N Chandrababu Naidu?
Unlike Rajasekhar Reddy, Chandrababu Naidu did not smoke during his school, college or university days. He also kept himself away from alcoholic drinks.
The official website of the Telugu Desam gives a vivid description of the "good habits" of the party supremo even as he was a young student leader. "Smoke?", asked a college gang. "I don't!", Babu replied and the gangsters laughed. The gang asked again, "Sometimes drink?" "Never", said Babu. They laughed again.
"But Babu knew... all great men were initially laughed at. The gang members did not ask any more questions. They knew Babu was different", the TD website points out.
"Whenever people asked young Babu, "What pleasure do you have in life?" he used to reply, "My vision is my only pleasure", his dreamy eyes already seeing the building of international cities all over the map of Andhra Pradesh. Such was the life of Chandrababu at Sri Venkateswara Arts College, Tirupati".
Young Babu would visit the Holy Shrine of Lord Venkateswara sometimes, in moment of loneliness, and his resolve would strengthen further.
"God, don't give me money... only the strength to create wealth for all... for every person in my State, and my country", Babu would ask. A smiling God might have granted the wish... but he still knew he had to work at it.
And what about Babu's vision on Naxalism when he was still in college? The website tells us this way: "The way to power is through the gun," some equally dreamy youth would tell him. He might have admired the passion of the comrades, but he knew their method was wrong, and could fetch no positive results".

Monday, 21 March 2005

Maoists feel YSR is not soft towards them

March 21, 2005
From Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 20: The "soft stand" of the Congress government notwithstanding, Maoist leaders feel that Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy has cracked the whip on Naxals with almost twice the force applied by his predecessor N Chandrababu Naidu.
"Rajasekhar Reddy is treading the path of Chandrababu Naidu but the only difference is that the former is using more force on Naxalites. In the last 70 days as many as 70 Naxalites have been gunned down. This means one encounter death every day since January this year. It was not the case during the previous TD regime. At the micro level Rajasekhar Reddy has easily beaten Chandrababu Naidu", Maoist emissary Varavara Rao told this correspondent.
"YSR has betrayed people. The government used talks as a mask to beat Naxalites and supress people's movement. Right from day one we knew the government's real intentions. But we sat across the table for talks as it was people's wish", Virasam president and Maoist representative Kalyana Rao observed.
The anguish of Naxalites is not without reason. Statistics available with the State Home department support the Maoists' claim that the Congress government had actually hit hard at the Naxalites during the past 10 months. "There was no violence from Maoists from June 16, 2004 to January 16, 2005, but the government arrested thousands of people. Innocent villagers are rounded up in the name of curbing Naxalism. The police are now targeting the Naxal district leadership. This way YSR is worse than Babu", Varavara Rao observed.
During the past one year, 12 Naxalites are arrested every day in the State on an average. This is in contrast to eight arrests per day in 2003. While the Chandrababu Naidu regime arrested 2874 extremists including 2354 Peoples' War Naxals (now Maoists) during 2003, as many as 4110 Naxals including 3775 Maoists were put behind the bars last year.
Kalyana Rao squarely blames Rajasekhar Reddy for the break down of talks. "We hold him solely responsible. We do not find any difference between YSR and Babu. They may have differences among themselves. But when it comes to repressive politics, both are one", he said.
And since January this year police arrested more than 300 Naxalites, besides killing 70 Maoists in "encounters". In all about 100 people including 15 politicians died in Naxal violence and police encounters so far this year.
There were 1035 surrenders, 175 Naxal deaths, 173 exchanges of fire, seizure of 287 weapons in 2003. However, the number of surrenders came down to 351 and deaths to 52 in 2004. There were only 71 exchanges of fire and seizure of 103 weapons. The Congress government went slow on "encounter deaths" during the initial days of peace talks.
According to officials, neither the police nor the Naxals kept quiet even during the "cease-fire" period. Between May 14 and November 18 (peace period), the Maoists indulged in 255 violent incidents including four murders and 1007 unlawful activities like wrongful confinement, intimidation and holding of praja courts.
"Since the process of "peace talks", Naxalites committed 1762 violent and unlawful activities including about 50 murders, 18 attempts to murder, 107 assaults, 15 arsons and 24 blasts", points out an official document.
Asked if the Maoists will resume the peace talks process in the wake of AICC president Sonia Gandhi's statement that the State had kept its doors open, Varavara Rao quipped, "the government had opened the doors for the police to kill". The government has played a cruel joke and it is ridiculous to hold talks unless it restores the pre October
2004 atmosphere, he added.

Sunday, 20 March 2005

Naxalism in Andhra Pradesh: YSR hits out the most

2005
From Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 19: His "soft stand" towards Naxalites notwithstanding, Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy actually hit hard at the extremists during the past 10 months, if official figures are any indication.
An analysis of statistics available with the State Home department reveals that the Rajasekhar Reddy government cracked the whip on Naxals with almost twice the force applied by the previous Telugu Desam regime. The Naxals, on their part too, hit harder after the change of guard in the State despite the new Congress government extending an olive branch.
During the past one year, 12 Naxalites are arrested every day in the State on an average. This is in contrast to eight arrests per day in 2003. While the Chandrababu Naidu regime arrested 2874 extremists including 2354 Peoples' War Naxals (now Maoists) during 2003, as many as 4110 Naxals including 3775 Maoists were put behind the bars last year.
And since January this year police arrested nearly 250 Naxalites, besides killing more than 20 Maoists in "encounters". In all about 100 people including 15 politicians died in Naxal violence and encounters so far this year.
There were 1035 surrenders, 175 Naxal deaths, 173 exchanges of fire, seizure of 287 weapons in 2003. However, the number of surrenders came down to 351 and deaths to 52 in 2004. There were only 71 exchanges of fire and seizure of 103 weapons. The Congress government went slow on "encounter deaths" during the initial days of peace talks.
Neither the police nor the Naxals kept quiet even during the "ceasefire" period. Between May 14 and November 18 (peace period), the Maoists indulged in 255 violent incidents including four murders and 1007 unlawful activities like wrongful confinement, intimidation and holding of praja courts.
Since the process of "peace talks", Naxalites committed 1762 violent and unlawful activities including about 50 murders, 18 attempts to murder, 107 assaults, 15 arsons and 24 blasts.

Wednesday, 16 March 2005

Muslim madarasas introduce peace subjects to wean away youth from terrorism

2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 16: Perturbed over Muslim youth falling into the hands of cross border terrorist organisations, over 100 Islamic madarasas in the State have introduced subjects on "peace, brotherhood, patriotism and social service".
The 135-year-old Jamia Nizamia has taken the lead by introducing a subject on patriotism in the "Alim" training course. The study material is based on a 200-page book, "Apna-e-watan se tahalluqat" (relations with co-countrymen) written by Moulana Mufti Sadiq Mohiuddin. The book was published two years ago in Urdu and now most of the madarasas have introduced it in their curricula.
According to Moulana Anwar Ahmad of Jamia Nizamia, 20 marks have been allotted to questions based on the new subject. "There will be several questions on various subjects. And we will make it a point to include a question on `Islam and patriotism' carrying 20 marks. The entire paper carries 100 marks," he pointed out.
In all, 105 madarasas spread all over the State have introduced the subject and all of them have decided to follow the curriculum of Jamia Nizamia. Says Hafiz Muhammad Ubaidullah Fahim of Anwarul Uloom Habibiya, "Islam teaches brotherhood and there are various Islamic traditions that tell us about the importance of love for the motherland. Muslims in India enjoy the highest freedom. The judiciary is independent and impartial. It is the duty of every Muslim to love the country he or she resides in. We have also introduced a subject, "Watan se Muhabbat" (love for the country) in our regular course," he told this correspondent.
Darul Uloom Nomania and Madarasa Anwarul Uloom Latifiya in Hyderabad and Darul Uloom in Jedcherla (Mahbubnagar) as also other madarasas in the State have decided to prevent "stranger Moulvis" from interacting with their students. "There is a saying of the Holy Prophet that love of one's country is part of Islamic faith. As part of the new curricula we are arranging lectures on patriotism, friendship with fellow citizens, kind heartedness, helping the poor whether Muslim or non-Muslim, non-violence, peace and brotherhood of man. Passing in the subject is a must for each and every student of our madarasa," Moulana Anwar said adding that the Jamia Nizamia had instructed all its affiliated madarasas to follow its curricula on patriotism.
The Deeni Madaris Board with an affiliation of 250 madarasas has also instructed its members to highlight the importance of peace and patriotism in teachings to their students. "Our curriculum is already loaded heavily with subjects on peace, patriotism and love for fellow human beings and animals," says Board secretary Muhammad Rahimuddin Ansari, who also runs the famous Jamia Islamia Darul Uloom Hyderabad.

Monday, 14 March 2005

Women in Andhra Pradesh not safe from kidnappings

2005
Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 14: The crime-hit Laluland seems to be safer than Andhra Pradesh at least when it comes to kidnapping of people, particularly women and girls.
If statistics are any indication, for every person kidnapped in Laloo Prasad Yadav's Bihar, three persons are abducted in YSR's Andhra Pradesh. This simply means Andhra Pradesh is 200 per cent worse than Bihar in kidnapping incidents. And the number of cases of "missing persons" is steadily increasing by about six per cent in the State.
According to State police records, as many as 1014 persons including about 800 women and girls were kidnapped during 2004. This is in contrast to around 350 incidents of abduction reported in Bihar. So far this year, about 250 cases of kidnapping were reported all over the State.
Last year Hyderabad city alone reported 60 cases of kidnapping and if the incidents within Cyberabad police limits are also included the number goes up to 130 cases. Twin cities are followed by Warangal with 70 incidents. Former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu's native Chittoor stands third among districts in the State in terms of total number of abductions.
Andhra Pradesh is notorious for its specialised kidnapping gangs which employ kidnapped children in forced child labour and begging. The abducted women are forced into prostitution. The CID maintains a list of such gangs but quite often fails to curb abductions. On an average 20 kidnappings take place every week in the State.
While the incidents of "missing persons" went up by seven per cent, those of kidnappings remained constant between 2003 (1029 cases) and 2004 (1014). If all types of "bodily offences" are put together, the total number of cases shoot up to 2892 during January 2005 alone. This is in contrast with 2570 cases in December 2004.
Officials attribute to the high incidence of kidnapping and other offences in the State due to lack of sufficient manpower, particularly women in the police department. The police to population ratio in the State is 1:1000 as against 1.6:1000 for all-India average. Ironically, women police staff make just 1.6 per cent of the State's total police force.
MIM floor leader Asaduddin Owaisi on Friday took the "friendly" Congress government by surprise in the State Assembly when he said the rule of Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy was worse than that of Lalu Prasad Yadav's in Bihar. "Not a day passes without three persons kidnapped in the State. The government has utterly failed to control kidnappings", he pointed out.

Saturday, 12 March 2005

Local body elections: It's "wooing" time in Andhra Pradesh

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, July 5: It's "wooing time" for political parties in the State with municipal elections just two months away.
All major political parties including the ruling Congress have geared up to consolidate their electoral bases in urban areas by selecting a particular section of society. The Congress is wooing Muslims since they play a decisive role in at least 40 towns while the main Opposition Telugu Desam is looking at college students and youth for support.
The BJP, which has thus far kept Dalits away from its political agenda in the State, is now trying to win their hearts. The TRS, after its fresh differences with the friendly Congress, has decided to rake up the Telangana sentiment to appeal to die-hard Telanganites.
Joining the bandwagon is film actress and Telangana protagonist Vijay Shanti. She has set her eyes on tribals living in towns in the backward region. Vijay Shanti, who is all set to form a political party, has prepared ground to contest municipal polls on her own. She is also wooing Dalit and women voters.
The Congress government has issues orders increasing quota for Muslims in the urban housing programme from 10 per cent to 20 per cent. The GO issues last week directs district collectors to allot houses to poor Muslims and other minorities living in towns in proportionate to their population. The earlier TD government had fixed a reservation of 10 per cent for minorities and the YSR government wants to win over them by doubling the quota ahead of municipal polls.
Former chief minister and Telugu Desam president N Chandrababu Naidu has readied the student wing of the party to popularise the TD's policies and programmes in colleges and universities. The Telugu Desam's idea is to garner support from the uncharted vote bank of students. Chandrababu Naidu revived the Telugu Vidhyarthi only recently for the purpose.
He has also launched a movement to win back the support of government employees, APSRTC workers and those employed in public sector companies. The TD had lost base among these sections because of its privatisation policies which it pursued vigorously for nine years when in power.
The State unit of the BJP has published a book on Dalits describing it as a "soul-mate" of weaker sections. The 32-booklet attempts to convince Dalits that the BJP had done a lot for them and they would progress only if they sailed with the party. The BJP document even goes to the extent of saying that the Dalits are the foundation stones of Hindutva.
With all political parties playing their "woo cards", it is to be seen with whom the voter will sail at the hustings.

Anti-liquor movement in Andhra Pradesh

By Syed Akbar

The Congress government's new excise policy in Andhra Pradesh has stirred the hornet's nest. More than generating additional revenue, the excise policy has brought to the fore the anger of illiterate women, kicking off a sort of anti-liquor movement.
Small but powerful groups of illiterate women are on war path attacking wine shops and forcing Excise authorities to close them.
During the last one month these women have targetted over three dozen wine shops spread across the State including a couple of them in the heart of Hyderabad. Their slogan is simple: "We have enough wine shops and we do not want more".
The women, particularly in rural areas, feel that the new excise policy, which came into effect from April 1, will spell doom for their families. The new policy envisages sanction of liquor shops and bars even in small areas with 25000 people and women have chalked out their own strategies to thwart the government's plans: force local panchayat bodies to impose fines ranging from Rs 500 to Rs 5000.
A study of the attacks reveals that women are particularly angry with wine shops opened near schools, temples or street corners. In Guntur district, a group of women damaged a liquor shop set up right in front of the historic Mahalakshmamma temple. A peculiar tradition is followed in the temple. The priest is always a woman.
Says the temple priest Kambala Kamalamma, "how dare they set up a shop near the holy place. Officials should apologise and shift it from our place. Most of the devotees are women and a wine shop in the vicinity means trouble by inebriated men". Guntur town alone witnessed about a dozen protests. The women relented only after district collector in charge Rahul Bojja assured them that the shop would be shifted.
Groups of women sprang a surprise in Hyderabad earlier this month when they destroyed two wine shops in the thickly populated areas of Sanatnagar and Banjara Hills. The nuisance created by these two shops was such that the women did not lodge a complaint with the police but decided to settle "scores" on their own. They gheraoed local legislator P Janardhan Reddy and forced the Excise authorities to close down the shops.
Seeing the intensity of the movement, police and intelligence agencies have warned that the anti-liquor agitations, though sporadic, will have wider political and electoral ramifications on the Congress as municipal and panchayat polls are due in the next eight months. The State government, has, however, taken the movement rather lightly as the women groups are not backed by any political or social group.
It seems history is repeating itself in Andhra Pradesh after a decade. The anti-liquor movement, which rocked the State in 1994-95 forcing then Telugu Desam government to impose total prohibition, is gradually taking shape once again. And this time there are no politics involved and the people's ire is spontaneous, unorganised and widespread.
Like in the earlier movement, illiterate women without a fixed source of income are leading the protest. They have attacked dozens of wine shops and did not spare even the toddy outlets. A notable feature this time is that wine shops in Hyderabad are also not spared. Women in some villages have imposed total prohibition and punished those violating the code. Fine ranging from Rs 500 to Rs 5000 is being imposed with the active support of local panchyats.
What is surprising is that unorganised women groups in villages are enforcing total ban on intoxicants including toddy, the traditional drink in the backward Telangana region.
Though the AP High Court had struck down the new excise policy, the State government went ahead to award licences to about 400 new wine shops. Already the State has 7500 liquor shops up from a mere 1000 shops when prohibition was lifted in 1996. The previous TD government had issues licences to 7,609 shops in 2003-2004 and planned to permit 842 more. The Congress Government simply added to the numbers, besides relaxing the Excise rules to facilitate sanction of bar licences in smaller areas with a population of 25,000 or more.
The State government wants to generate more revenue through liquor to meet the finances for development works. In its anxiety to award licences, the government did not bother to verify whether the new shops are being set up in residential localities. Women now do not want any wine shop or bar in their areas or in the vicinity of schools and places of worship.
Women in the neighbouring Krishna district have taken up a different movement together. Their fight is against illicit liquor. A bunch of gutsy women in Atlapragada village of A. Kondur mandal in Krishna district have been discreetly raiding the illicit hideouts. The operation is simple: raid the illicit distillation point and damage the brew. Inspired by them, women from the neighbouring mandals went a step ahead and imposed total ban on consumption and brewing of arrack.
"Ban on liquor at the local level has brought prosperity to our families. Earlier, our men used to return home late in the night after consuming liquor under mango orchards. They splurged the hard-earned
money and returned home empty handed. With no alcohol around, now we could save a little from our daily earnings", observes middle-aged Udurubati Kamalabai of Kunapuraju Parva village with pride in her eyes.
Officials, however, do not want to attach much importance to these agitations as is evident from what Guntur deputy commissioner of Excise Vishnu Swaroop Reddy says. "The objections are very trivial. We received many complaints, but going by the rule we do not consider some places of worship at all. Only those in the notified category are taken care of", he argues. Strangely enough, Vizianagaram Excise superintendent G Koteswara Rao supports the argument of Swaroop Reddy.
In some place, the anti-liquor agitation, though spontaneous, has all the trappings of an organised movement. Women, whenever, they raid on liquor hideouts, take photographs as evidence. Young Budhamarthi Kankavajram of Kambhampadu village, does not want their case to become weak when it goes to court.
"We click pictures for evidence before taking away all their utensils and ingredients into our possession. We have also framed rules that all those who prepare and consume liquor are penalised heavily. And, the idea has thus far worked out well", she points out.
Taking a cue from their counterparts in urban and rural areas, even tribal women living in far-flung thandas have successfully stopped their men from consuming or brewing illicit liquor. Initially S Razia, a resident of Seetharampuram tribal habitation in Krishna district, faced trouble from forced boozers. They did not take her word seriously. As local tribal women joined hands with Razia, the movement grew stronger. "We are feeling the change though still some men go to the neighbouring Khammam to fetch liquor. Soon we will stop them too", chips in V T Kondamalli of Konathamatmakuru.
In the backward Warangal district too, women have put up a brave fight against the local liquor lobby. Today there is no liquor or toddy shop in Kamaram village of the Tadwai mandal. “We are slapping a fine of Rs 500 on those who break our law. The funds will go to our common good fund for development of the village like developing local PHC and school and repairing village borewell", points out S Rama Devi, who heads a self-help group.
-help group leader. Similarly, women in Babu Naik Thanda of the Mahabubabad division in the district also opposed the opening of liquor shop in their area, where many young people died due to liquor poisoning.
The anti-arrack campaign, which took off in the remote Nizamabad village in the naxal infested Konaraopet mandal a month ago, has now spread across the district. Village panchayats have been forced to adopt a unanimous resolution to impose a fine of Rs 5,000 on anyone caught selling or maintaining illicit liquor shop. The fine is not high considering that as many as 15 persons died in the district due to liquor poisoning.
Unlike their counterparts elsewhere, women in Nellore district have targeted Excise officials holding them responsible for the spurt in the liquor shops. Their argument is that officials have given a go by to all standing rules to please the strong liquor lobby in the district.
Middle aged Roshamma of Dubagunta in Nellore district created history when she revolted against the State government's excise policy in mid-1990s. Her agitation forced TD founder NT Rama Rao to impose total prohibition, which however, was lifted by his successor and son-in-law N Chandrababu Naidu.
A decade has passed since then. The government has changed. But the problem of liquor and families breaking up because of the bottle remain unchanged. Now Andhra Pradesh is witnessing dozens of Roshammas springing up all over. Is the State headed for a total prohibition once again? The Congress has promised total prohibition in its election manifesto. Let's wait and see.

Saturday, 5 March 2005

Steep Fall In Water Levels In Andhra Pradesh

2005
From Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 5: Ground water levels have fallen by about five metres indicating the severe water crisis in the State as the summer advances in the next couple of weeks.
The State is now faced with the lowest ever ground water levels recorded in the past one decade. Rayalaseema and Telangana are the worst affected regions where the average fall in ground water is as high as five metres. Never in the past the State had witnessed such a phenomenal fluctuation in the ground water levels in a span of eight months.
If one looks at the water levels so far this water year (May 2004 and January 2005), there is a fall of more than five metres in parts of Prakasam, Chittoor, Kadapa, Anantapur, Kurnool, Mahbubnagar, Ranga Reddy, Medak, Adilabad, Warangal and Nalgonda districts.
People in as many as 167 mandals, mostly in Rayalaseema and Telangana, will literally crave for water if official statistics are any indication. Anantapur district will be in real trouble with 28 mandals going dry. It is followed by Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy's native Kadapa and Telugu Desam supremo N Chandrababu Naidu's native Chittoor districts with 17 mandals each. Mahbubnagar in Telangana and Prakasam in Andhra have also been declared as "severe water shortage areas".
According to P Srinivas Prasad, joint director, ground water department, the average depth to water level in the State had come down from 7.60 metres in January 1999 to 12.36 metres in 2005. During the same period (1998-99 and 2004-2005) rainfall came down from 1128 mm to 611 mm, while the exploitation of the ground water resources had gone up upsetting the delicate balance.
"The State is in the grip of severe water shortage. Against the normal rainfall of 940 mm the State received just 611 mm till January-end, recording a deficit of 35 per cent. Only Khammam, Nellore, Nalgonda, Srikakulam and Mahbubnagar districts received normal rainfall", he pointed out.
Ground water levels in Thimmaiahgaripalli village in Chitvel mandal of Kadapa district have gone down to 72.85 mts, the deepest water level for any place in the State. Deep water levels of more than 20 metres were recorded at the end of January in parts of Medak, Hyderabad, Mahbubnagar, Anantapur, kadapa, Chittoor and Praskasam districts while wagter levels between 10 and 20 mts were recorded in almost the entire Rayalaseema and Telangana regions and in parts of Prakasam and West Godavari districts.

Tuesday, 1 March 2005

Fall in agricultural production: Pro-farmer image of YSR gets a beating

2005
Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 1: The "pro-farmer" image of the Congress government has received a severe beating what with farm production and total cropped area going down during the past nine months.
The promises of Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy notwithstanding, the State government failed to achieve even the targets touched by the previous TD regime, widely accused of neglecting the crucial agricultural sector for a decade. The farm sector registered a negative growth during the Khariff season. Total yield is likely to come down in the ongoing Rabi season.
The area under food grains in the State was 43.03 lakh hectares at the end of the Telugu Desam rule in 2003-2004. After the Congress came to power the area came down to 38.91 lakh hectares, registering a fall of 5.12 lakh hectares. This constitutes a negative growth rate of about 12 per cent in total cropped area of food grains.
The only solace was the groundnut crop. The total cropped area went up from 12.58 lakh hectares in 2003-2004 to 15.51 lakh hectares in 2004-2005. Officials attribute the increase in groundnut area and produce to timely, though deficient, rainfall in Anantapur district.
The total production of food grains decreased to 77.80 lakh tonnes last Khariff from 86.49 lakh tonnes in 2003-2004. Paddy production also came down during the Congress rule from 58.42 lakh tonnes when Chandrababu Naidu was the chief minister to 56.97 lakh tonnes.
The government also failed to provide minimum support price to farmers during the Khariff season. Cotton farmers lost as much as Rs 1200 per quintal as compared with that of the previous year. Chilli farmers sold their produce for Rs 2400 per quintal during 2003-2004. The prices have now come down to around Rs 1700 per quintal.
All-India Kisan Sabha leader S Malla Reddy blames the State government for the crisis in the agriculture sector. "We have been demanding market intervention by the State government. So far there has been no response. Farmers are resorting to distress sale. Unless the government comes to their rescue, it cannot put an end to suicides", he pointed out.

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