AP, Kerala are in pro-active mode. TN in its own development mode?

Dr.Rajashekar Reddy the AP CM is now in the activist development mode! Mr.Oommen Chandy, the Kerala CM is really very active in promoting Kerala as a new IT destination. TN CM and her adversary the DMK boss have their own priorities. TN development is well-known, though the state is in a peculiar anti-development mind-set.
Indian states are now fairly made aware their opportunities and the challenges. There used to be complaints in the past about the Centre neglected some states and favouring some other states. W.Bengal used to play this grievance card for long. Now, it is falling in line and getting things done on its own steam, be it terminating the entire staff of a PSU or disinvestment or FDI or establishing IT parks. These are the development priorities, the flavours of the season!

Now, among the most developed states, those in the South ,Karnataka and AP and next Kerala too are going for new big projects to stay in the advanced states league. Karnataka has come out with a S&T policy that spells out many innovative policies to take Karnataka to the advanced status. One recommendation is to invest one per cent of the GDP, that comes to Rs.1,400 cores to make Karnataka the most advanced state in the country.

Former ISRO boss U.R.Rao who headed the experts committee says poverty removal is the chief goal of S&T policy. Food, health, environment and economic growth are the priorities. The state has atop quality educational and research institutions and these must help. These can help to compete in the globalised world. Establishment of a science city in Bangalore is a highlight.

Much for interesting is the S&T policy is in agri sector. Detailed proposals to improve agricultural productivity, cold storages, food processing facilities and post-harvest technologies to add value to farm products, 30 per cent of fruits grown in the states now go “waste” owing to lack of post harvest know-how.

More interesting is the proposal to set up information kiosks in rural areas to provide information to farmers. Create ”Another Green Revolution” says the committee!
The rest of the proposals are in healthcare areas. Energy, biodiversity, ground water networking, urban centres etc. make up the policy proposals.

In the neighbouring AP, the CM, Dr.Reddy is working under the shadow of his predecessor, the formidable Naidu! After some brave turnaround, signing free electricity for farmers, there is some rethinking. Nothing wrong. Economic sense should prevail given the Prime Minister’s theme song of paying reasonable rates for power utilities etc.

Also, Dr.Reddy is now being wooed by the World Bank (or is it the other way round?). The WB has a reputation for being bold enough to take the risk of lending to the state under Naidu seeing his quality of commitments for an economic common sense! So, now the WB is visiting the state. WB chief, Paul Wolfowitz’s visit seems a good sign, the man himself is still not very well known in the outside world itself, more so even in New Delhi. So, his first foray in the state, almost with no fanfare is a sign that the WB means business. The Communists in the state have no other work and so they shouted slogans against the WB investment and involvement in the state’s development agenda! Funny! Yes, scrapping of free power, privatisation of agri markets, contract and corporate farming are some of the battle cries of the Left! The WB chief had been quite forthcoming in his answers. WB is investing in AP in “capacity building in 22 districts, across 29,000 villages and were self-sustaining in the long run. We give resources to invest things that work. that is not imposing conditions ”He had also met the Left criticism saying that” nobody could argue about the mission of the WB on how to reduce poverty”. 260 million dollars in new investment for the SHG movement would be up to 2008″. AP CM is to be congratulated to take the WB aid and that would take the state forward in a critical area of capacity building at the grassroots. Rural development through WB aid is a very laudable objective and other states must make use of the WB programmes in this focused area.

AP is a progressive state ever since Naidu took over and there is no reason to believe Dr.Reddy would undo any good work done so far. His Israel visit and the resultant co-operation, we guess, must be for the good of the state.
The point is we should welcome WB’s guidelines in more sectors, as it has been doing in other states too. Fiscal prudence, quality of governance etc. are matters that cant be left for individual states, there must be over-all surpervision and it is this the WB is doing in India.

Across the state of Kerala, under the much-maligned CM’ Oommen Chandy, we should congratulate the man who is doing excellently well. As we see from a distance, he is being crushed from all sides, his own partymen, the notorious Congressmen of the new breed under Sonia’s dispensation, with Anthony and Karunakaran not giving really any co-operation and the CPI(M) wallahs having their own bees in their bonnets, Chandy cant do much. But the brave man is making news. We are impressed to see him laying the foundation for a technopark in Trivandrum and also he talks bravely of the smart city for Kochi. 500 acres of land near the state capital? Only those who know Kerala know how difficult to allot such a big piece of land near the city. So, Kerala will have big IT parks and campuses like the ones in Bangalore? Fine and fantastic! Work to be completed by Oct 2006! A 11-storey building, with 600,000 square feet built-up area? Unbelievable! All credit for such an embattled Chief Minister who is working over-time and he with his web-cast public interaction seems to be a CM way ahead of his peers in the South. Kerala CMs, more so the Congress ones have a curse of short terms! But that doesn’t matter! What he had done far is something to be widely applauded. One hopes his talents are recognised and retained. That would be only for the good of the IT-driven development environment that is catching on in the rest of the country.

In TN there is always politics vs development! Development doesn’t make news but politics makes! The knowledge and commitment of the Dravidian parties to serious development priorities is poor. Rather it is political revenge that takes the toll. The state’s politicians are a hard-boiled lot. So a sort of crude populism takes the place of genuine economic development. However, under the present CM, the state bagged some really prestigious investments. Nokia is only the well-known. So, the state is fast emerging as the engineering, auto components and IT power house. However, rural Tamil Nadu is still bogged down in an old-fashioned revenue dept-driven mode! Panchayats are non-functional. So too agribusiness diversification. This is an advanced state that can do much more. The state has all the potentials to become the most advanced state in India.

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