Saturday, June 25, 2011

TELANGANA 23: Andhra politicians - Politics part-time, Businesses full-time!

India Today carried a report “Andhra Industrialists turning to politics to protect their interests” and reported on the myriad businesses sitting Andhra MPs/MLAs are engaged in, that directly benefit from their positions of power. Besides the well known businesses of YS Jaganmohan Reddy, N Chandrababu Naidu and Lagadapati Rajagopal, the magazine named others mentioned below.
MPs in businesses
T. Subbarami Reddy - heads multi-crore industrial group, Gayatri Group of Industries
Eluru MP Kavuri Sambasiva Rao - owns Progressive Constructions, which is involved in large- scale infrastructure projects across the country.
Guntur MP Rayapati Sambasiva Rao - heads Transtroy Constructions, which is involved in similar multi- crore road projects.
Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy, Congress MP from Ongole, is associated with United Breweries Group and is also chairman of Balaji Hotels, headquartered at Chennai.
Khammam MP N. N. Rao, TDP's parliamentary party leader, owns Madhucon Group of companies - involved in irrigation projects, highways and granite units near Bellary in Karnataka.
Nellore MP Mekapati Rajamohan Reddy and his MLA- brother Mekapati Chandrasekhara Reddy are also big- time contractors in the name of KMC Constructions.
Narasaraopet MP Modugula Venugopal Reddy is associated with Ramky Group, an infrastructure company.
State ministers in businesses
T. G. Venkatesh of Kurnool is a big industrialist who runs Rayalaseema Paper Mills and Rayalaseema Alkalis
Galla Aruna Kumari is the wife of Ramachandra N. Galla, chairman of Amararaja Group of Industries.
MLAs in businesses
Former minister P. Ramachandra Reddy - owns PVR Constructions
Adala Prabhakar Reddy - heads APR Constructions
Balineni Srinivasa Reddy - granite business
Adinarayana Reddy, G. Srikanth Reddy and Gurunath Reddy  - various contracts and sub- contracts in irrigation and road works.
Uninterrupted power to this elite, especially for the MPs who have been around for decades in politics, have emboldened them to bend and break laws, especially in real-estate and government sponsored irrigation and infrastructure projects. They amassed the riches, the very base of which now threatens to be eroded by ‘losing political control’ over the golden goose – Hyderabad. Few days ago, Swaminathan S A Aiyar wrote in The Economic Times:
“Vast amounts of land around Hyderabad have been grabbed in questionable ways. In a new Telengana, many existing landowners — including major industrialists — may lose enormous tracts of land worth thousands of crores. Illegal land grabbing has till now been very lucrative, but may become the kiss of death after Telengana’s creation. All Indians love land, but in Andhra Pradesh it is a veritable passion . Coastal Andhras have engaged in an orgy of land speculation in the last decade. This passion for land ultimately caused the fall of Ramalinga Raju of Satyam: He lost his company because of his forays into real estate, through Maytas and other channels.
Only yesterday, TEHELKA carried an article saying  "The Congress core committee is caught between the melodrama of the Telangana faction and the hardened business interests of the united Andhra faction that is staunchly opposing dividing the state. One of them is Kavuri Samba Siva Rao who heads a construction company with major investments in Hyderabad."
About ‘Inefficient’ Telangana leadership and ‘Efficient’ Andhra leadership
Again, I heard the same argument that the ‘backwardness’ of Telangana is because of the ‘inefficiency’ of its political leadership. So, conversely the argument says that the Andhra leadership is ‘efficient’.  While this is a very superficial and silly argument at best and a purely chauvinistic statement at the worst, now that it is so oft repeated, I ponder it over. Below are some questions, some of the ‘efficient’ leaders (read ‘those who oppose Telangana’) put up in Loksabha. 
Conflict of interest of Andhra MPs:
According to India Today's article 'Business of the Day', here are some of the questions the Andhra MPs posed in Lok Sabha and how the queries are intended to directly benefit their private businesses.
Sambasiva Rayapati Rao MP from Guntur asks “Whether the NHAI has recently sought comments of various stakeholders on hybrid models to implement highway projects. If so, the details thereof along with the views of the various parties involved.
Mr. Rao owns the Jayalakshmi Group of companies which deals in tobacco, yarn, export of spices, production of electricity and construction of roads.
Kavuri Sambasiva Rao MP from Eluru asks “Whether the Government proposes to empower the NHAI to extend working capital loans to road developers to help them tie over credit crunch and maintain speedy implementation of road projects.
Mr Kavuri as a builder is engaged in construction of major projects on irrigation, road, power and multi-storied urban housing complexes.
Rajagopal Lagadapati MP from Vijayawada asks “Whether the Central Government proposes to give some concessions to small power units generating 25 MW of power. If so, the details thereof; and if not, the reasons for not giving concessions.
Mr Rajagopal  is the founder chairman of the Lanco Group which has interests in construction, power and property business. Member of CoPU, his Group's client list includes the NHAI.
Naama Nageswara Rao MP from Khammam asks “Whether the Government proposes to start eight-lane access control express highways. If so, the details thereof along with the locations where the expressways are proposed, state-wise and national highway-wise.
Mr Rao is Non-executive chairman of Madhucon, his Group has the NHAI and Indian Oil Corporation on its client list. He is also a member of the Committee on Public Undertakings.
Well, if this and the skill showed by YSRs and Chandrababus in building business empires is ‘efficiency’, neither Telangana nor anyone in the rest of India would seek it. They are better off being ‘inefficient’.
How a larger state benefited the plutocrats
The real conflict of interest for these MLAs/MPs come not just when they ask questions that directly benefit their businesses but when they sit on the parliament’s standing committees related to finance, business and industry. As per the parliament’s website, these committees are supposed to be a path-breaking endeavour of the Parliamentary surveillance over administration. With the emphasis of their functioning to concentrate on long-term plans, policies and the philosophies guiding the working of the Executive, these Committees will be in a very privileged position to provide necessary direction, guidance and inputs for broad policy formulations and in achievement of the long-term national perspective by the Executive. So here are the businessmen sitting on the same committees that frame ‘policies and philosophies’ that guide their businesses. This is worse than stock market insider trading!

As of now, Kavuri Sambasiva Rao, Rayapati Sambasiva Rao, Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy, KVP Ramachandra Rao, Nama Nageshwara Rao named above are all on the parliamentary standing committees on Finance, Estimates, Public undertakings, Industry etc and at the same time they are 'on record' running businesses related to same areas/sectors. The conflict of interest in case of these members is so glaring that, in the past, chairman of one such committee seem to have  asked them why they should not be asked to withdraw from certain meetings, as the issue on the agenda was directly related to their business.

Every time there is a cabinet expansion, there is a hue and cry in media about how Andhra Pradesh is ‘discriminated’ against in its share of ministries. The point is that the MPs in question are enjoying it better on these committees milking them for their own businesses. And looking at the membership in these committees, AP got more than its share. In fact these politicians are leveraging the power of coming from a state that is producing 42 MPs purely to amass riches for themselves. They fear a demerger would end that clout and they would be left without any bargaining power to sit on these committees.
And folks who argue how ‘efficient’ Andhra political leadership is should wonder why none of them bothered to be on board of 21 member Lok Sabha standing committee or the 10 member Rajya Sabha committee on Agriculture, especially when a huge percentage of Andhras are employed in Agriculture.
Will the Andhra plutocrats let go of Telangana?
Highly unlikely. it is clear they are trying every trick in the book. They have previously successfully blackmailed the top leadership of BJP and now are doing the same with Congress, with their money bags. Only an uncompromising fight on part of Telangana advocates will force the central leadership of Congress to yield to the demand. It would happen only if the power of masses gets more threatening than the moneybags.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lessons Professor Jayashankar taught

The dreaded end came yesterday. Professor Jayashankar passed away after battling cancer for several months.  It is hard to fight the news of this departure without shedding tears and taking solace in the spirit he left behind.

My earliest recollection of seeing and listening to him was around 2002 when he was a guest at a seminar on Telangana statehood  in Arts College, Hanumakonda. I could not comprehend all of what he spoke then but what struck me was his matter-of-fact tone and the mellifluous language he used. Later on, I came to understand his calm demeanor came from a rich mind and its clarity of thought and his language from Telangana’s rich multi-lingual heritage (No wonder he was in love with expressing in all languages – Telugu, Urdu, Hindi and English).

That is, for me, the primary lesson from him. To keep the calm and remain objective about issues, no matter how provoking situations could be. He showed by example that notwithstanding how sensitive and provoking the issue could be, it is important to be dispassionate to find a solution.  While I grew up, that was the lesson I tried to remember as often as possible. In all these years, I have seen no one who spoke as objectively as he did about the reasons for Telangana movement. That did not change till his last breath despite being at the other end of vicious attacks from Andhra plutocrats who labeled him ‘Mullah Omar’ and the students campaigning for Telangana as Taliban. While the economist in him studied the regional disparities in this country, the humanist in him conceptualized the problem and advocated for the state of Telangana.

Another of his traits is his uncompromising spirit. He saw the struggle for 3 generations and did not end up just as another despondent guy. He incessantly fought for the state through all means. Authored literature presenting the many ills Telangana was subjected to due to the lop-sided merger, encouraged many Telangana organizations like TDF across the world to take shape and contribute to the cause and lent support to every political attempt to achieve Telangana statehood, whether it was TRS or NavaTelangana Praja Party.  Not surprisingly, he remained a bachelor as he left too little time for his own self while dedicating his whole life to the cause he believed in.

The genial professor’s ideology shaped today’s Telangana movement so much that you see the most active part in the movement now taken by people from his background- that of academic circles. Professors elucidate the ideas, right from constitutional discussions around article 3 to debates over Bombay city during Gujarat’s inauguration. Taking the lead of the professor, the academics dug so much into the statistics of agriculture, industry and other areas of state administration over the years that the SriKrishna committee now finds it difficult to cover the pit with their concocted theories and cooked up statistics. It is this veracity that is lacking even in the most honest arguments for Samaikyandra. Instead, it has real estate businessmen making their case with ‘ground-breaking’ theories, like how asking for a state is being anti-national.  If the professor made selfless efforts making the case for Telangana for decades, the best thing for Samikyandra on parallel lines is a book authored by an NRI sold on Amazon!  In short, Samaikyandra ‘movement’ does not have a Jayashankar. It can’t.

Professor Jayashankar made invaluable contributions by putting on record the experiences from the Telangana movement of 1952 and 1969. In an age when the state government did everything to wipe out the very being of Telangana (by even putting a communal spin on Hyderabad liberation day), it was Jayashankar’s writings and speeches that carried through generations and are now on the threshold of giving a new lease of life to Telangana identity.  In that sense, the professor shaped the cultural and political renaissance of Telangana. His work also made present Telangana movement to learn from mistakes of the past and reinvent itself over time as situation demands and importantly, sustain.

When I had a chance to interact with him more than a year ago, I asked him what to expect out of the SKC. He said ‘nothing’. I guess his experience taught him enough about these committees/commissions.  There is no point for people today to relearn the same lessons he did for generations – that not to trust the government to ‘give the statehood’.  Telanganas have to seize their right. That is what the professor wanted, to force the union to cede the statehood through an uncompromising fight. His departure only strengthens the resolve of those who know him to pay a fitting tribute to him – by incessantly campaigning for the Telangana state. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The SKC Scandal 5: How low is too low for Justice SriKrishna?

When few paragraphs of the SKC’s eighth chapter leaked out 3 months ago, I went just plain sad. For once, I found nothing to discuss about that corrupt report.  That leak made me relook at my blog and scores of activists out there, their hope, struggle and tireless efforts.  Some of these thoughts, I would discuss in days ahead. The latest leak made me post this about the incredibly corrupt Srikrishna committee. How low is too low for these guys!?

After scores of songs and a movie, the cultural renaissance of Telangana is now marked by a newpaper. Namaste Telangana, theTelugu daily is launched this week and it started with a bang. It scooped out and published the contents of the ‘secret’ chapter 8. A news portal, Deccan Post, too published the English version now.  The supplementary note of this chapter, as revealed, would put the wildest conspiracy theories to shame for lack of imagination!

Some excerpts are here below:

·        “The Congress High Command must sensitize its own MPS and MLAs and educate them about the wisdom for arriving at an acceptable and workable solution. With the ruling party and also the main opposition party ( the TDP run by Chandra Babu) must be brought on the same page, the support mechanisms have a higher probability of becoming successful. The TDP must be advised not to participate in any further meetings that would be called by the Centre.

This could be an effective stumbling block for any meaningful dialogue on resolving the Telangana demand. The Andhra Congress MPs belonging to Kamma caste must be encouraged to work in tandem with TDP leadership which is now caught in a bad shape.”

So here is a committee set up by central government which suggests in its report to the very government to call for meetings on Telangana but also secretly advice the TDP to boycott the meet to stall any meaningful dialogue on the Telangana issue! I simply have no words to describe my feelings here. Beyond this point, I don’t feel like discussing anymore. But anyway lets go the whole log and get done with these drama company.

·         “Further, on receipt of the Committee’s Report by the Government, a general message should be conveyed amongst the people of the State that Centre will be open for detailed discussions on the recommendations / options of the Report with the concerned leaders /stakeholders either directly or through a Group of Ministers or through important interlocutors and that this process will start at the earliest. But every method must be adopted to avoid giving finality to any discussions to drag on the matter until the agitation is totally brought under control.”

Justice Srikrishna seems to be so cocksure about everything.  Maybe he thinks he controls the ebb and flow of everything around. His grand design, phew.

We already saw the below content in the earlier leak. Revisiting them to remind the times we live in.
·         “ Andhra Pradesh has got about 13 Electronic Channels and 5 major local Newspapers which are in the forefront of molding the public opinion. Except for two Channels (Raj News & HMTV), the rest of them are supporters of a united Andhra Pradesh. The equity holders of the channels except the above two and the entire Print Media are with the Seemandhra people. The main editors/ resident and subeditors, the Film world etc. are dominated by Seemandhra people. A coordinated action on their part has the potential of shaping the perception of the common man. However, the beat journalists in the respective regions are locals and are likely to capture only those events/ news which reflect the regional  sentiments. This can be tackled by the owners of the media houses by systematically replacing the local journalists by those from Seemandhra wherever it is possible.”

Just reflects how wide the grand plan is mapped, right into media, movies, editors. Did Telanganas complain about river waters, govt jobs etc,.Now add the local journos too to the list! Srikrishna’s grand symphony!

·         “Each of the media houses are affiliated to different political parties. In the Print Media all major newspapers are owned by Seemandhra people and the Regional contents published by them play a vital role. Most of the editors except Andhra Jyothi are pro- united A. P. However, similar to the electronic channels, the print media have also got political affiliations. The editorial opinions, the banner headlines, the Regional content, the District editions need to be managed to be realistic and should give only due coverage to the separate Telangana agitations. The print media is hugely dependent on the Government for advertisement revenue and if carefully handled can be an effective tool to achieve this goal.”
“However, the RTI Act may prove to be an impediment for the Government to deny due share of ads to publications supporting the Telangana demand.”

Propaganda, our retired justice thinks overwhelms the principles of law, justice, propriety and uncompromising struggle. The way he and his committee members operated reflect not just the powerful opposition Telangana is facing, but the moral and ethical bankruptcy of those in power, in this age, in India.