Glitzy shopping malls, swanky multiplexes and high-rise buildings with glass facades are masking the deep poverty and destitution, widespread illiteracy and high unemployment and the havoc liquor is playing in the lives of lakhs of people in the heart of Hyderabad.
Disclosing this here today, Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan said that urban Andhra Pradesh is going through a severe economic and sociological crisis, which cannot be tackled with handouts of television sets, cash grants and free rice.
Dr. JP, who had gone round Kukatpally Assembly constituency, the microcosm of urban Andhra Pradesh, for the last three days told a media conference that whoever came to power in the just concluded elections should shed blinkers, realize the magnitude of the crisis and mount a concerted effort to confront it head on.
The Lok Satta President, who interacted with hundreds of poor families, said it was a disgrace that Hyderabad, the capital city and the so-called knowledge hub of India, teemed with people, who migrated from far off places in search of work and livelihood lived in abject conditions. The children of the poor dropped out of school to work as child laborers. Hundreds of young women who lost their husbands to alcohol were leading pitiable lives. Most people in slums went without even basic amenities.
Dr. JP suggested two solutions to address the urban crisis: Creation of 1250 new towns all over Andhra Pradesh and formation of district/city/town governments.
The 1250 towns with all modern amenities could be constructed in five years at a total cost of Rs.40,000 crore or Rs.8000 crore per year. They would become the growth centers and help people find livelihood opportunities. The towns should be so conceived that they provide quality and free education and health care to all and livelihood and job-oriented skills to the unemployed youth. The rise of the new towns would prevent mass migration into the existing cities and towns.
The myriad problems urban citizens are facing can be resolved only when city and town governments are formed and resources, powers and personnel are devolved on divisional/ward committees elected by them. Then the committees will focus on addressing problems ranging from education and health care to transport and sanitation. The Lok Satta is committed to forming city governments, ward/divisional committees and making a per capita grant of Rs.1000 to every ward/division.
Dr. JP said that traditional political parties concerned themselves with elections once in five years and tried to win people's votes by using caste, money and liquor cards. "I understand that bets running into millions of rupees are being waged on who will form the government and the winning margins of contestants."
"But real politics lies in what happens between elections. Elections have become party and candidate-centric instead of people- centric."
Dr. JP said that the people have been so disempowered in the last six decades of Independence that they find themselves helpless.
Dr. JP graphically portrayed the plight of people in Kukatpally. They do not get safe drinking water since sewage flows into drinking water. Many manholes are without covers, posing a threat to children even in summer. At many places, manhole structures being at a higher level than roads, pedestrians and two-wheeler riders are vulnerable to accidents. Everywhere, the drains remain open. The Kukatpally and Vinayaknagar drains into which industries dump their effluents on the sly are emptying themselves into the Hussain Sagar, which was once the drinking water source of Hyderabad.
In Motinagar, Moosapet and elsewhere, open sewers, oppressive stench, mosquito menace and groundwater pollution have become a way of life for decades. Social services continue to be in a parlous state. Small children who cannot afford even footwear go to private schools paying exorbitant fees. Government schools continue to remain dilapidated and manned by teachers who have little incentives to teach. Even those who claim to have completed the primary school cannot read or write a single sentence. The traffic remains chaotic with no parking lots, foot over-bridges and zebra crossings resulting in frequent and fatal accidents. A sub-center of a primary health center does not have staff to attend to patients.
"It is not as though we do not have resources or technology to solve the basic problems of people. The fact is there is no coordination between agencies like the Municipal Corporation, Metro Water and Pollution Control Board and Metropolitan Development Authority to address problems like pollution of drinking water and open drains."
Dr. JP said there is no need for people to despair since they have seen a ray of hope in the Lok Satta and voted for it on a large scale. All that they have to do is to make the Lok Satta their platform and devote a little time and energy to resolve problems confronting all of them.