During his padayatra (walkathon), the then young leader of opposition YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, noticed that welfare schemes were not reaching the needy and the names of majority of the eligible persons were missing from the lists of beneficiaries. Several people complained that only those who greased the palms of the local officials made it the list and that they had to walk several kilometres to reach the nearest bank to claim the benefits.
He assured them that he would make it hassle free after coming to power. Withstanding the unrelenting attempts by the then TDP regime to weaken him, Jagan Mohan Reddy interacted with crores of people during the walkathon criss-crossing the 13 districts of residuary Andhra Pradesh after bifurcation of Telangana.
When the time came, the people of Andhra Pradesh handed a thumping victory to YSR Congress Party by giving 151 of the 175 Assembly seats and 22 of the 25 Lok Sabha seats with fifty per cent of total votes polled. With a massive mandate, Yeduguri Sandinti Jagan Mohan Reddy took as the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh on 30 May 2019.
The Telugu Desam Party headed by N Chandrababu Naidu barely managed to win 23 Assembly and 3 Lok Sabha seats. Naidu’s son Nara Lokesh himself tasted defeat. Within a couple of months of coming to power, the Chief Minister introduced Village Secretariat to systematically monitor welfare and development programmes sanctioned to the village.
Over 130,000 permanent staff was recruited to man the village secretariat. More than 230,000 village volunteers, half of them women, were appointed to ensure smooth implementation of welfare schemes. Each village volunteer would be responsible for 50 households. He or she would monitor these houses and extend assistance needed, right from monitoring the health situation to supporting people in times of crisis.
The volunteers would personally visit houses and distribute welfare pensions in cash to beneficiaries. During the first two-months of the Covid-19 crisis, village volunteers played a crucial role in assessing the health situation, maintaining hygiene and alerting officials when the situation warranted. Village secretariat and village volunteer system caught the attention of the country and Chhattisgarh is in the process of adopting the same.
Soon after taking oath, Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy listed out his priorities thus, “Election manifesto is my Bible, Geeta and Quran. Unlike the past rulers, I will fulfil each and every promise made to the people of Andhra Pradesh during my padayatra and electioneering.” As part of fulfilling his promises, he announced increase of the old age pension to Rs 2,250 per month. In tune with his social philosophy, he constituted a “sociallyinclusive” Cabinet with 25 Ministers including seven from Backward Classes, five from Scheduled Castes and one each from STs and Minorities.
Three women also made it to the Cabinet. Health, education, farmers, irrigation, welfare and infrastructure remained the focus areas for the State Government. Jagan Mohan Reddy is also striving for zero tolerance insofar as corruption is concerned. From the first signature until date, the Chief Minister has fulfilled 90 per cent of the promises made within one year of assuming office.
Probably, Jagan Mohan Reddy is the only Chief Minister in the country who has displayed his election manifesto – ‘Navaratnalu’ – in his chambers, which according to him, would keep reminding him that he is bound to fulfil them. As many as 15 welfare schemes were implemented during the last year benefiting 3,57,51,614 individuals by spending Rs 40,139 crore.
The schemes ranged from old-age persons to auto rickshaw drivers, from handloom weavers to fishermen, from women of self-help groups to poor parents, from students to junior advocates. Every sector and every section was covered. Providing free and quality education to the children of in the state is top on his agenda. During an interaction with students and educationists recently, Jagan Mohan Reddy insisted that he is spending thousands of crores of rupees on education as it is his “investment for better tomorrow”.
No child should be left out of school for want of money or food, the Chief Minister has often said. Though his efforts to introduce English as medium of instruction hit some roadblocks, the Chief Minister is determined to implement the policy at any cost. Be it Amma Vodi (Rs 6,349 crore), Jagananna Vasathi Deevena (Rs 1,220 crore), Jagananna Vidya Deevena (Rs 3,857 crore) and modernization of school infrastructure with over Rs 1300 crore, his interest in imparting quality, hassle-free education from first standard to PhD is manifest.
Jagan Mohan Reddy extended financial assistance of Rs 25,000 crore to over 80 lakh farmers to make agriculture viable to the poor farmers of the state. Carrying his father, late chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s legacy, Jagan Mohan Reddy continues to focus on farming sector. Providing pensions to all eligible and needy persons – including senior citizens, widows, toddy tappers, weavers, single women, fishermen, HIV affected persons and traditional cobblers – meant giving them each a pension of Rs 2,500 per month.
The pensions are door delivered Interest-free loans to selfhelp groups, improvising universal health scheme Arogya Sree, financial assistance to fishermen during off-season, one-time financial assistance to handloom weavers, auto rickshaw, cab and taxi drivers were among several welfare schemes that were introduced and successfully implemented by the YSRCP government. The State government is working towards total prohibition in a phased manner. Number of liquor shops was drastically reduced while liquor prices have been doubled.
Illegal liquor outlets have been shut. By the end of his term, Andhra Pradesh will become a liquor-free state, the chief minister has asserted on several occasions. Protection of women ranks high on the agenda of the chief minister. Crime against women is viewed very seriously. When after the gruesome rape and murder of a young doctor on the outskirts of Hyderabad, there was outrage nationwide, the State government brought out Disha Act.
As many as 18 Disha police stations were set up in the State. Under the new Act, from filing FIR to investigation to completion of trial will not take more than 21 days. While focusing on welfare, Jagan Mohan Reddy is equally concentrating on the irrigation sector. At the same time, infrastructure creation is being taken up seriously. Besides, a Rs 904-crore special package was announced for minor, small and medium enterprises which suffered very badly due to Covid. Andhra Pradesh has become a role model in combating Covid 19.
Whether it is in number of tests, recoveries, low mortality rate, quarantine facilities, providing transportation and shelter to migrant labourers or showing compassion towards Covid victims, Andhra Pradesh has shown the path to other states. When Jagan Mohan Reddy said that we have to learn to live with Corona, political rivals mocked him.
Few days down the line, everyone from the Central government to the World Health Organisation said the same. The Chief Minister was the first to propose the Green, Orange and Red zones concept. The same is now being followed nation-wide. Jagan Mohan Reddy strongly believes in having cordial relations with the Centre and also neighbouring states which were badly strained during the previous regime.
Be good to all and focus on overnance seems to be the motto of the chief minister. Despite the main Opposition TDP desperately trying to distract the chief minister from his path by creating roadblocks, Jagan Mohan Reddy is brushing them aside and moving ahead with his welfare and development agenda for creating a better Andhra Pradesh.
(The writer is a senior journalist and national media advisor, Andhra Pradesh government)