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February 8, 2000
The Rediff Interview/ Nara Chandrababu Naidu
'The Vajpayee government have to do much better'
Part I: 'I have left politics behind in the last millennium'
Your critics and Opposition parties say there is so much hype about Hyderabad. For instance, last year, IT exports from Hyderabad amounted to just Rs 30 million compared to the Rs 300 million from Madras.
There is no hype in Chandrababu Naidu. I am following a pragmatic reform policy, which my critics are jealous of. When you compare Hyderabad with Bangalore or Madras, kindly remember that we started our information technology mission only four years back. Whereas IT was there in Bangalore and Madras years back. But look at our growth rate in the IT field. We have been achieving 150 per cent growth in IT every year. It is a fantastic growth.
You have been borrowing money from the World Bank and other sources. How will you manage your increasing debt? Every year, you are paying back Rs 40 billion as debt servicing.
This is one area I have been concentrating on very meticulously these days. Yes, we have been borrowing money for infrastructure projects like roads, irrigation and for social projects for employment generation programmes. We have not only to borrow but repay the money. That is what I am working on now because the results of the projects that I have executed with borrowed money will start pouring in. I am going to augment additional resources for better governance. I know we have to take certain tough decisions to mobilise resources. I am always reviewing the revenue flow and the expenditure.
Despite the revolution that you are creating in information technology, Andhra Pradesh is one state with the highest rate of poverty, unemployment and illiteracy. Do you think your plans and reform processes are not going in the right direction?
My plans to eradicate poverty, illiteracy and to improve the healthcare of the people are in the right direction. These are areas which I am actively engaged in. If you look into the past, these are problems that I inherited. When I took over as chief minister, the state's finance was in a mess. I launched an economic reform process with the people's participation.
In my first term as chief minister, I undertook reforms with welfare objectives in mind. In my second term, the second generation reforms that I am implementing will be to achieve harmonious growth of all sectors -- financial, natural, human and technological -- to root out poverty, illiteracy and unemployment from the state. I am confident I will be able to do it in the next five years.
In 1995, you came out with an industrial policy document. Are you planning an agricultural policy for Andhra Pradesh because the state is largely dependent on agriculture for its economy?
I have already initiated a number of agriculture programmes. We are proposing to introduce the crop insurance scheme for the farmers. We have already set up 90 rytu (farmers) bazaars across the state. All the agriculture markets in the state will also be connected through the wide area network and the internet. The rytu bazaars will be a one-stop shop for the farmers. We are planning to spend Rs 30 billion on irrigation alone. We are also talking to the farmers and their associations to assess whether we need to come out with a separate agricultural policy this year.
Are you in favour of taxing the farming sector?
In fact, before deciding on taxing the farming community, we need to evolve a national consensus on the issue. Right now, I am not in favour of taxing agriculture. No country in the world gets much revenue out of taxing the farmers. We want to promote the agriculture sector so that the proceeds from farmers increase. Small and marginal farmers constitute nearly 80 per cent of the farming community in Andhra Pradesh. I want to invest in extension services and institutional credit flows at low interest rates for the farmers. I want to impart training to market committees, supply farm products at a competitive price and control quality.
On the industrial front, despite reforms, many of the infrastructure projects that you planned have been grounded due to various reasons. How do you propose to help these projects take off?
This is one area of concern for me. I have been successfully marketing the state as an attractive place for investment, especially foreign investment. But some projects have been grounded due to various reasons. We are assessing why and how these failures occurred. We are also planning to evolve a more attractive investment package to the industry by fixing project targets and strict time schedules for file clearance.
We are talking to the industrialists for suggestions and recommendations in various industrial aspects. I am also planning many other programmes to attract investment. Irrigation development is one area of my concern. Harnessing water is the key to developing our rural economy. We have estimated that only 120 per cent of rainwater is used meaningfully in the state. Our effort is to trap rainwater and enhance its usage to about 40 per cent.
One of your areas of development is the empowerment of women. But incidence of women and child labour is the highest in Andhra Pradesh when compared to other states in India. Doesn't it show that your women empowerment programmes are yet to take off effectively?
I agree that Andhra Pradesh has the highest rate of women and child labour in the country. The problem is actually poverty. Women comprise nearly 50 per cent of our population. Therefore, any reform process and development initiative has to be done by involving women in it. All our social and economic programmes were meant to bring women into the mainstream.
We have already provided one-third quota for women in education and jobs. We have launched a number of projects focusing on their health, clean and better facilities in villages, provision of drinking water, encouraging thrift movement. Our social schemes like Deepam are entirely for the benefit of women. In the last election, we have given more party tickets to women candidates and I have inducted more women into my cabinet. I will fight hard for 33 per cent reservation for women in politics and in Parliament.
Despite your development initiatives, Naxalism continues unabated in the state.
Earlier, the Naxals said they are fighting because the government is doing no social and economic development activities in their areas and villages. In fact, we have launched a number of developmental schemes in the Naxal areas. But now the Naxals are opposing the development work because they want their areas to remain backward.
Naxals stand not for development. Therefore, people do not support them these days. They have refused any negotiation with the government also. So, I am treating the Naxal menace in the state as a law and order problem and we taking strict measures to ensure that their killings stop.
One accusation is that you are pro-rich.
Opposition parties like the Congress say I am pro-rich because politically they have been decimated and they have no issue to fight with me. But look at my social and economic programmes. All of them are for the poor people. So how can the Opposition accuse me of being pro-rich?
You are the TDP president as well as the chief minister. Do you plan to delegate power to your party colleagues?
True, I am for total delegation of powers. I am implementing that in my party. In fact, I am training my party functionaries to equip them to be an efficient and excellent team. I am remaining just as a supervising authority. In my team of party workers, everybody has to work -- myself, my ministers, members of the legislative assembly and the local party leaders.
Is the legacy of former chief minister N T Rama Rao over in Andhra Pradesh?
NTR was our leader and he will remain our leader forever. He will always be remembered by the people. People cannot forget him because he has done so much for the people of the state. My political opponents always wanted to create confusion and rift between me and NTR. NTR laid the foundation for our party and it will only grow on that strong foundation.
Are you happy with the Vajpayee government's performance in the last 100 days? Do you think the government will last for the next five years?
It is not yet time to examine the performance of the Vajpayee government. They are doing OK now. But they have to do much better. I am confident that the Vajpayee government will last for five years.
Do you see yourself as the future prime minister of India?
No. I don't have any such ideas in my mind. Right now I am interested only in Andhra Pradesh.
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