Governing Council assumes great significance in the context of the economic upheaval caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in the sixth meeting. The recent budget has been necessary and reassuring the economy. During these critical times, State Governments and Central governments should explore opportunities to engage in meaningful discussions towards policy formulation for the Country’s economic revival.
Hon’ble Prime Minister is appreciated for his visionary leadership and NITI Aayog for specifying six pertinent agenda points which are vital areas requiring utmost emphasis for today’s meeting.
The first agenda point is of Making India a Global manufacturing hub.
For India to become a great force in manufacturing, we must conduct a thorough study and analyze the factors of success of Countries that have demonstrated good progress in the manufacturing sector.
The 5 significant impediments to the manufacturing sector growth are
1) Exorbitant cost of funds available from our financial institutions.
2) High cost of power.
3) Delays associated with land procurement.
4) Delay and complexity in the grant of statutory clearances
5) Rigid labour laws.
The State Governments and the Union Government must understand the root cause and make a conscious effort to introduce reforms to mitigate these hurdles.
State Government’s Undertakings avail loans from financial Institutions like PFC and REC at higher rates of interest of 10% to 11% per annum. If this is the difficulty faced by public sector undertakings, one can imagine the plight of the private sector. With this enormous debt servicing requirement, our manufacturing units cannot hope to offer products that can compete with products of Countries where debt is available at interest rates as low at 2% to 3%. So is the case with power, which is available in a few Counties at tariffs lower than Rs. 3 per unit.
Andhra Pradesh Government is committed to the vision of making Indian manufacturers globally competitive. In compliance with the Government of India policy, we are encouraging a performance-linked incentive scheme for the new manufacturing industries and also complied with the 229 reforms under the District Business Reform Action Plan of the Government of India.
The state has committed to providing a business-friendly environment, the industrialization in my State is yet to gain the required growth momentum. State is facing some constraints, like the unjust and inequitable bifurcation of the erstwhile State of Andhra Pradesh. The bifurcation resulted in the State being deprived of tier I city, infrastructure, employment opportunities, and financial resources. The rapid industrialization of my State is possible if only “Special Category Status” is accorded. This was a commitment made on the floor of the Parliament and was a pre-condition to the bifurcation.
The second agenda point is reimagining agriculture deals, with a sector that employs close to 60% of the Country’s population. In our State, we employ nearly 62% of the State’s population.
The aim to help agriculture and allied sectors should be to mitigate the risks and difficulties faced by farmers. The august body 5 key policy interventions are
1) Minimize costs associated with crop production.
2) Ensure availability of quality certified seeds, quality certified fertilizers, and quality certified pesticides.
3) Ensure availability of post-harvest technologies and facilities such as storage, grading, processing, etc. thereby enhancing quality and marketability of agricultural produce.
4) Facilitate the farmer to sell his produce at remunerative prices at the farm gate itself and in the event of lack of market for his produce, to procure the produce through a market stabilization fund, a fund that should be placed at the disposal of the State Governments. The same can be provided to the State Governments as finance from banks and financial institutions at very low-interest rates.
5) Due to the natural calamities, ensure that the farmer is provided timely compensation for the loss suffered by him. The share of land under assured irrigation must be increased.
The government has introduced many pro-farmer initiatives. We have established 10,731 Rythu Bharosa Kendralu at every village, providing quality certified key farm inputs to enabling the sale of end products. Further, Multipurpose facility centres are being created in coterminous with RBKs, to provide facilities such as Dry storage and drying platforms, Godowns, Collection Centres, Cold Rooms, Primary processing, and assaying equipment, Bulk milk cooling units, automatic milk collection units, and Food processing units were required to the farming community to enhance their income not only from agriculture but also from allied activities as well. I take this opportunity to convey my appreciation for the Central Government’s initiative of providing for an Agri Infra Fund under Aatmanirbhar Bharat. My Government is also committed to promoting natural farming because other serious ailments attribute to the consumption of Agri products resulting from the high usage of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. We believe Natural farming would result in the rejuvenation of soil health. My Government is promoting Natural farming in every RBK in every village.
In regards to sustainable irrigation in my State, I would like to humbly request your support for quick approval of revised cost estimates for the timely completion of the Polavaram Irrigation Project, declared as a National project. The project is my State’s lifeline and the completion same would contribute significantly to the increase in irrigated area.
The next agenda point, improving physical infrastructure, is of utmost importance for economic growth and poverty alleviation.
The importance of robust infrastructure, be it physical infrastructures such as power, roads, ports, etc., or social infrastructure such as education, healthcare, sanitation, etc.
In the power sector, our endeavor should be to reduce the cost of power and encourage renewable energy. Improvement of the financial and operational health of the distribution utilities is essential for the sustainability of the sector. My Government has recently floated a tender for a 10,000 MW solar power project development. The tariff discovered is Rs. 2.48 per unit for a 30 year period, given our irradiation levels; this is significantly lower than the State’s average power purchase cost of Rs. 5.2 per unit. Reverse Pumping technology, which natural energy storage facility, supports in mitigating the intermittency associated with renewable energy. Andhra Pradesh has an identified potential of 33,000 MW in this area. I urge the Union Government to come up with a national policy to encourage the usage of reverse pumping technology. I request Union Government to facilitate the power utilities of the States to swap high-cost debt with low-cost long-term debt as this is the need of the hour for sustainability and survival of the sector.
With respect to education and health sectors, Keeping the socio-economic conditions of our country in mind, we cannot wish away from the fact that the Government is and will be majorly responsible for providing critical services in the areas of Health and Education. However, in order to maintain the relevance of these crucial services to common people at affordable rates, there is a need to provide access to low-cost finance to State Governments for developing social infrastructure.
My Government has launched the program Nadu-Nedu (Education), under which the infrastructure in Government educational institutions is being revamped. Under the program, nearly 46,000 Government schools, junior colleges, degree colleges, and hostels would be totally revamped, with better facilities. From an employability perspective, to make students more competitive at national and international levels, my Government has introduced English as a medium of instruction in all Government educational institutions as well.
Sir, with regard to health facilities, as you are aware the bifurcation of the State has deprived the residual AP of tier I cities and critical tertiary health care facilities. To improve the health care scenario in the State, we have taken up revamp of health infrastructure under Nadu – Nedu (health), right from PHCs, CHCs, Area Hospitals, District Hospitals, and Teaching Hospitals. We are also establishing 10,000 clinics at the village level. For tertiary care, we are setting up 16 new Medical Colleges in different parts of the State and 5 Multi-Specialty Hospitals in Scheduled Tribal Areas. 3 of these Colleges have already been accorded sanction by GOI for part funding. I humbly request for the Government of India to part-funding the remaining 13 medical colleges. I strongly believe that the availability of doctors and nurses in rural areas is critical for providing quality healthcare services to the people at the village level. In this context, I urge the Union Government to evolve a national policy for providing 1 year of compulsory Government service in rural areas for medical and nursing graduates and postgraduates. All these reforms suggested, in health and education to improve quality of life will translate into reality only when the debt to these sectors is available at very low-interest rates.
I now come to the last agenda item of Improving Governance.
I feel that the solution to improved governance is decentralization and effective use of technology. With the firm belief that service delivery should be transparent and devoid of any form of corruption or discrimination, my Government has established 15,000 Village and Ward Secretariats at village and ward levels along with volunteers with each volunteer catering to 50 houses, for providing 540 essential services to citizens. I believe that the services will be further improved with the access to the internet to every citizen at the village level. In line with the vision of the Bharat Net project, we seek to provide internet to every citizen and the public institution at the village level. We are also establishing digital public libraries in the villages, bringing the concept of ‘work from home’ closer to the people by providing them uninterrupted access to quality internet in these libraries in every village.