Edited Excerpts from an Interview
You recently spoke about the plight of Kashmiri Pandits. However, in your own state, settlers from Andhra are very anxious about their future under your government. There is a feeling that the aim of the Telangana survey was to identify ‘outsiders’ and intimidate them. Earlier, you had maintained that non- Telanganites will be welcome in the state and they will be absolutely safe.
I stand by what I had said about Telangana being safe for everyone. I don’t know why there is anxiety. Feelings are different; facts are different. The fact is that the Telangana government wants to identify people who really need help from the state. (Union Finance Minister) Arun Jaitley said that even he was getting a subsidised cylinder, which he wasn’t entitled to. Managing subsidies well is a huge challenge. Only the deserving must get subsidies. Otherwise, it will merely be a huge burden on the exchequer. Pilferage must be stopped. That is what we are trying to do. Because we are a new state, if we know who are the people who need subsidies, identify the domain of the people who require welfare programmes, we would be able to deliver better. That is the only, and I repeat, only motive behind the survey.
Clarify this. In the first draft of the survey questionnaire, there were questions pertaining to the resident’s place of origin, time of migration, etc. These questions were later removed. But why were they included in the first place? What was the motive?
In Telangana, there are nine districts that are within a 150-km radius of Hyderabad. The capital is centrally located. When we were in united Andhra Pradesh, several ‘divisions’ were created in the name of employment generation. Even the state transport was a stakeholder. A lot of overlapping led to pilferage and false claims. We needed to know where the people belonged. The people belonging to a district are entitled to benefits in their district. Don’t you agree? For the outsider, this probably might have seemed like we were trying to identify the Seemandhra people. To be blunt about it, if we really wanted to identify the Seemandhra people, we would have done the survey only in Hyderabad. This survey was done at a state level. We sincerely wanted to get the data that would help us analyse and formulate certain schemes. As a reporter, you have been to Hyderabad many times. There are people from several states and countries living here. There are students from dozens of countries at the English and Foreign Languages University. Hyderabad is a thoroughly cosmopolitan city and that is how it will remain.
We don’t intend to withdraw any welfare schemes for the poor. If they are entitled to it, they will definitely get help from the state government. Poverty and distress is what we are trying to identify. Nothing else.
There are some more criticisms against the survey that seem valid. For instance, why would you need details of bank accounts, complete with branch details? The Centre gets most of these data while giving out Aadhar cards…
First of all, it is not mandatory (to provide those details). Bank account details are necessary only if the resident has availed of government welfare schemes.
What about privacy? Is there any guarantee that the data will not fall into private hands?
We are an elected government. We work for the welfare of the people. Why would we share the data with anyone? We are not a private company.
There is an audio file on YouTube in which Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao is allegedly talking about getting rid of ‘outsiders’.
Who has checked the authenticity of these tapes? Nobody. Everybody seems to be busy making assumptions. Why should I comment on this?
Would you agree that the chief minister’s comment comparing himself with Hitler was in bad taste?
Everybody kept likening his tough stance on issues to the behaviour of Hitler. Therefore, he responded. What he meant was that he would crack down on corruption and pilferage. When he came to power, he had to order probes into several scams. There were claims that thousands of houses were built for the poor. However, the reality on the ground was different. There are lakhs of pending applications from the poor and needy. How can you curtail all this? We want to help our people. Just that too many people read too many things into it.
Why wasn’t all this made clear earlier? It could have saved many people from fear and anxiety…
All of us are new to this. The problems are massive. Corruption cases from the Andhra Pradesh days are mammoth in size. Thousands of crores have been spent with no records to show for it. For example, a contract for a 1-km road has been given a cost estimate of Rs 70 crore.
Of course, the TRS government will face a tremendous amount of scrutiny. Your movement has come up on an intense provincial and nationalistic sentiment. Fears of xenophobia will always be there. Don’t you think that your government should be more careful while handling tricky issues involving questions of domicile?
We would be “careful” if we had other agendas. Our only agenda is to ensure the welfare of the people. Political parties criticised our survey. However, 90 percent of the people were happy with the survey and the intent behind it. We have nothing to hide. We understand that we should not run the government the way we run a movement. When it comes to communicating with our people, we are quite adept at it. Of course, when it comes to niceties and diplomacy that a politician needs, my father has all that. This is the initial stage and he needs to be careful. Right now, we have to prove things to our people, ensure they are happy; not worry about the rest of the world.