Chandrababu’s Polavaram Picnic: Public Money Splurged To Build Vote Bank

Chandrababu Naidu - Sakshi Post

By Reshmi AR

If the government is willing to spend crores of rupees on mindless exercises, such shows become the order of the day. All APSRTC buses lead to Polavaram. If you thought there's some big event happening there, you are grossly mistaken. But wait, why are people thronging the place? The answer is simply because it's a tourist hot-spot. Thanks to the generosity of Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu, you could visit the long-pending Polavaram project at the expense of the AP government. All you have to is register your name and you will be eligible for an all-expenses paid trip to Polavaram fully sponsored by the ruling TDP government. You read that right. The TDP government may not have the time or resources to spend on drinking water, curbing sand mining, strengthening Arogyasri, restoring fee reimbursement or any welfare scheme which is people-centric.

With pressure from the Opposition over the delay in the project work, the Telugu Desam Party has come up with a new gimmick to hoodwink people. And one that flies in the face of the TDP government's claims of having no resources. These government buses meant for public transport are now ferrying college students, workers and the general gullible public who hop on for a free ride of AP on a trip to Polavaram. Not only are the lodging, conveyance and food expenses taken care of but they are also taken on a sight-seeing trip to the ghost town of Amaravati where a world- class capital city was supposed to come up and also the Polavaram project. So what if Chandrababu Naidu could not fulfill his election promises, he has a way to fool people all over again!

The AP water resources department has been entrusted with the responsibility of taking people on a sightseeing trip to Polavaram and Amaravati to convince them that the government has begun the work on these projects. People who volunteer on these trips are happy with the government bus yatra which gives them a break from the mundane routine. A housewife who had come to visit the Project site said: "Chandrababu got us here. We were given breakfast and lunch. We are being asked to go back home and tell people that the chief minister is doing good work."

The story doesn't end there, these people have even been asked to spread the word and recommend more people so they could also pay the places a free visit. I spot a bus filled with college students and faculty members. When I prompt one of the faculty members to talk about the project, they are reluctant to speak at first. I push further and one of them comes forward to speak. I ask her what she thinks of the development and project status and she's quick to say that it will take another five years for the project to fully take shape. "If the government claims to finish this before elections, then it's a big lie," says Vamsi, another student. Some see through, some don't and that's the TDP government's gamble. It reckons, presumably, that even if a fifth of these 'tourists' turn into its voters, it would help the party cause. Chandrababu is believed to have appealed to the people of Andhra Pradesh to 'witness history' in Polavaram. Well, one aspect of this is unprecedented and therefore, a new page in history--no chief minister had ever wasted public money on such a scale in such an organised manner at that, in showcasing an incomplete irrigation project!

This AP government initiative kicked off in May last year. A budget of Rs 22.5 crore was set aside to take teachers, farmers, media and students in specially arranged buses to the project site. The ministry of finance is believed to have given its nod to the proposed budget. A GO RT 311 was also released to this effect on 27 April, 2018. APSRTC is sparing some 300 buses for this initiative for which the AP government has agreed to pay a whopping Rs 50 lakhs. Initially, it was meant to be a three-month project. However, the sightseeing tour is still underway even nearly after a year it started. So, one can very well imagine how much the expenses would have shot up right now. A government which assumes it is not accountable to the people for such absurd expenditure, is bound to bite the dust.

Locals are dubbing this as election propaganda. All you have to do is call a toll-free number and the rest is taken care of by the AP government. Under the initiative, interested individuals can visit not only Polavaram but also Papikondalu near Rajahmundry and the Pattiseema project.

So, these pending government projects have now turned into tourist hubs in Andhra Pradesh. There is a tour guide and also engineers on site who sing praises of the AP CM hailing his ‘great work’. One of the construction workers at the site says on condition of anonymity: "The project has now turned into an amusement park. There are scores of buses that get people every day. All we have to do is drill it into their minds that the chief minister is working day and night to finish this project which is not true. In fact the project work was expedited after pressure from the opposition parties about no work being done on these projects."

Not too long ago, the TDP supremo also visited the Polavaram project along with his family for what turned out to be a photo-op to trumpet his 'accomplishments' in his yellow media channels. The work shows no signs of progress. In fact, political analysts point out that this is precisely the reason why the Andhra Pradesh chief minister started this initiative—to set in motion a massive propaganda exercise to cover up the inefficiency of his government. However, a reality check at the sites reveals that the projects have a long way to go. What's the need to ferry the public to show the projects to them? What would they understand? How are they supposed to make sense of it? I asked one of the students who came here on a visit what she thinks of the Polavaram project and what exactly she thinks it is and her reply zapped me. She says: "I have no clue about this project. The only thing I know is that this is a government project and we are supposed to tell more people after we get back home." And I prod, so you don't know how this project will benefit the state? And she says, "This is meant to be an educational excursion. For us, it's a change from our daily classroom learning."

Isn't it a way to take the public for a ride? Only Chandrababu Naidu can come up with such devious plans attempting to turn inefficiency into a virtue, sloppiness into assiduity and give corruption a veneer? What gives him the right to waste public money on such a meaningless exercise when far more pressing problems require the attention of the state government?

Also Read: The Truth About A Capital Ghost City Called Amaravati

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