India’s youngest state Telangana will celebrate its first anniversary on 2 June. Telangana began its journey on a strong note with its revenue in surplus and retaining Hyderabad, the economic growth engine of the combined state, as its capital. The Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), the party that spearheaded the Telangana movement, assumed power in Telangana under the leadership of its supremo, K. Chandrashekar Rao.

Rao’s son and information technology and panchayat raj minister, K.T. Rama Rao, spoke to Mint about his government’s priorities and preserving brand Hyderabad. Edited excerpts:

How was the last one for Telangana? What are your priorities and challenges?

Telangana emerged as 29th state of India amid a lot of struggle, aspirations and apprehensions. It’s not a routine transfer of power that took place after an election, it’s a new state born under unprecedented political circumstances. In last one year, the chief minister and his team worked tirelessly to draw plans, priorities and policies with a long-term vision of providing transparent governance and development programmes centred on the aspirations of Telangana’s people.

The government assumed the task of providing water for irrigation to farmers and drinking water to every household and to make Telangana a power-surplus state in the next four years. The government tried to restore education and healthcare system that were weakened during previous regimes for short-term political gains. We were successful in keeping the cosmopolitan image of Hyderabad intact. Now we enter a phase of executing our plans.

The state is new, we are new to administration, and division of human resources and assets is far from over.

The state is reeling under power, water shortages. How are you tackling these?

One of the propaganda unleashed on Telangana was the state will crumble due lack of power. The chief minister took it as a challenge; through concerted efforts and vision, he slowly and steadily positioned the state in a comfortable position on the power front. Today, there are no scheduled powercuts. The chief minister personally monitors the power situation through dashboards set up at his office and home. By 2018, Telangana is expected to be a power-surplus state, with total installed capacity of 24,600 megawatts, at an estimated investment of 91,500 crore.

The government has launched Mission Kakatiya, a project that plans to restore and renovate nearly 46,531 tanks and water bodies across Telangana in a phased manner. The state also plans to spend 38,000 crore to supply drinking water to every household in the next four years.

There is criticism Telangana failed to do enough to control farmer suicides.

The government is concerned about farmer suicides. It’s a legacy problem. There are six interventions the government is currently working on. We give fertilizers and seeds on subsidy, interest-free loans, power and water free of cost, minimum support price, and we also undertook a massive 17,000 crore farm loan waiver—inspite of these things, agriculture is somehow seen as non-remunerative.

A couple of things need to be sorted out, especially with the Union government. The crop insurance which is in place in the state has absolutely flopped. If a farmer loses his crop due to hailstorm, the insurance system takes the village and not farmer as unit for compensation, which denies the farmer his rightful share. So there are a lot of things the Union and state governments need to do. I can’t simply blame the Union government and shy away from responsibility. Even the state needs to take a hard look at Jayati Ghosh report, Swaminathan report, and see what is implementable and what is actionable. We are trying to create some crop colonies.

We are trying to mix up crops to enhance soil fertility. We are trying to bring in farm mechanization and encourage farmers to go for drip irrigation so that even in drought condition, they will be able to sustain crops. We are also trying to improve on poly house and green house cultivation. We are trying these things, but (there is) so much to do.

What is your plan to improve the image of Hyderabad and attract industries?

Hyderabad always has been a resurgent brand. I don’t think you need any individual to make an effort for that. One thing remains the fact: growth that Hyderabad could have been able to attract in last decade or so has definitely slowed in comparison with other cities, while other cities kept growing. I think Hyderabad has not grown as quickly as it should have. The fact remains that even today, Hyderabad offers best value proposition in the entire country for a city, compared with Chennai, Bengaluru, where the real estate prices are three times that in Hyderabad and infrastructure is one-third.

So Hyderabad offers the best return on investment and, inspite of all this, we are not able to grow. So we did a lot of introspection in the last year. We met the international investment community, we talked about new industrial policy and all the natural advantages a city like Hyderabad has. We were able to succeed partially, but we still have a long way to go.

Bengaluru had a first-mover advantage in the 1990s and is sustaining it. We don’t want to lose on the start-up space, what we are trying to do now is come up with country’s largest incubation centre that can house 400 start-ups, providing a huge fillip to the start up space in the city.

We are organizing a global investor meet early next year, either in February or March, and that will be a big show. In the meantime, we will conduct lot of roadshows in different countries. For instance, I am travelling to Hong Kong and Taiwan next week. Then, we also have plans to travel to South Korea and Japan. So we definitely try and create a buzz. Now the Prime Minister is talking about making in India. While the global community and investors are looking at India with a lot of intent and optimism, we want them to look at Telangana. Make in India yes, but make in Telangana is our slogan.

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