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Print edition : Feb 01, 2008 T+T-

Fishermen setting out to cast their nets in the Godavari river at Rajahmundry.-C.V. SUBRAHMANYAM

Policy initiatives by the administration have put the resource-rich East Godavari district on the road to all-round development.

CONSIDERED the rice granary of India, East Godavari district has always been in the forefront of all-round economic development, setting itself as a role model for several districts not just in Andhra Pradesh but in other States as well. Situated in the north-east of Andhra Pradesh and bounded by Visakhapatnam, West Godavari and Khammam districts and the Bay of Bengal, the district is endowed with abundant natural resources and scenic beauty that has few parallels in the country.

The mighty Godavari river, lush paddyfields and historic temples give East Godavari a distinct identity. The regions history dates back to the 5th century when the Mauryan and Satavahana dynasties, among others, ruled it. It was also under Muslim rulers, including the Qutub Shahis. Later the British and other colonial powers took control of the district.

The district has produced stalwarts such as Kandakuri Veeresalingam Pantulu, Nyapathi Subba Rao Pantulu, Bulusu Samba Murthy, Brahmajosyula Subrahmanyam, Madduri Annapurnaiah and Dokka Seethamma.

Prehistoric remains were found in the Agency areas of Rampachodavaram division. A Buddhist Mahastupa discovered at Adurru in Razole taluk is an example of the ancient relics that East Godavari district is home to.

Spread over 10,800 square kilometres, East Godavari is the second largest district in Andhra Pradesh after Anantapur. It has the highest population in the State. It has five revenue divisions Kakinada, Rajahmundry, Amalapuram, Rampachodavaram and Peddapuram and 60 mandals.

While agriculture has been its mainstay, East Godavari district is now progressing on the industrial front, thanks mainly to the deep-water port in Kakinada. The Godavari has turned the district and neighbouring West Godavari district into a rich rice-producing region.

The Dowleswaram barrage near Rajahmundry, which was built under the stewardship of Sir Arthur Cotton in 1852, had done a world of good for the agriculture sector. The Cotton barrage stands testimony to the immense contribution of the legendary British engineer to the development of the district. East Godavaris progress is unimaginable without the barrage and its vast network of canals and tanks. The district meets over 10 per cent of the States food requirement.

The huge reserves of natural gas off the Kakinada coast, discovered by the Reliance Industries, are set to transform the district into an industrial hub. Reliance is constructing an off-shore terminal at Gadimoga village in Tallarevu mandal to tap these fields. The refinery proposed to be set up by the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation augurs well for the regions development. The small and medium industries also received a big boost from the liberal policies of the State government.

The Kakinada deep-water port, the driving force behind the development of the two Godavari districts, handles almost all types of foodgrains and a wide array of other commodities. The district is also home to the Coringa wildlife sanctuary. Its mangroves prevent hundreds of coastal villages from being devoured by the waves of the Bay of Bengal. Of late, the East Godavari district administration has laid great emphasis on employment generation through capacity-building and providing placements through government agencies, the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, rural development, minor irrigation, housing and empowerment of self-help groups (SHGs).

The District Rural Development Agency has plans to give interest subsidy of Rs.431 crore under the Pavala vaddi scheme to 56,000 of the 75,000 SHGs in the State during 2007-08. By the end of the current financial year, Rs.460 crore will be disbursed under the scheme, at an average of Rs.1.2 lakh per group. Pavala vaddi, meaning 3 per cent interest, has three components Total Financial Inclusion (TFI), bridge loans and bank linkages. Under the TFI, 4,909 SHGs spread over 200 villages are being covered. They would get Rs.116 crore, averaging Rs.2.3 lakh per group. Education, medical facilities and debts are the areas covered under the TFI.

A bridge loan of Rs.20,000 is given to SHG members. A sum of Rs.100 crore will be disbursed by the end of the financial year. According to District Collector M. Subrahmanyam, the quantum of loans meant for distribution under the Pavala Vaddi scheme is the highest in the country. Social security pensions amounting to nearly Rs.59 crore are being distributed every year to 12,42,498 beneficiaries. The pensions (Rs.200 each) are disbursed by the 5th of every month.

Another important activity of the DRDA is training and placement. Of the 5,500 rural unemployed youth identified as beneficiaries, 2,168 persons have already been trained in soft skills, security related duties, laboratory techniques, plumbing, masonry, and so on, in association with agencies such as the National Academy of Construction. All the trained persons are now employed. Training is currently being given to 1,151 youth. The training centres are located in Rajahmundry, Samalkot, Amalapuram and Rampachodavaram.

Under the Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY), income-generating assets were provided to poverty-stricken families. The package consists of subsidies and bank loans. Two types of training are given under the SGSY. The first one is a basic orientation programme under which the beneficiaries are taught skills after the sanction of the loan. Those who need to develop additional skills or upgrade skills are identified and trained. Financial assistance is given to this group if required.

The East Godavari district administration has distributed job cards to 5,94,103 persons under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). The scheme was sanctioned for the district on April 1, 2007, and its implementation commenced on June 1. A total of 69.61 lakh person days were created in the last six months and daily wages amounting to Rs.56.4 crore were distributed at an average of Rs.81.45 per person.

This is well above the prevailing wages in the open market.

An important component of the NREGS is the integrated development of minor irrigation tanks, monitored by the District Water Management Agency. A total of 365 tanks (one in each gram panchayat) have been identified for undertaking desiltation, bunds strengthening and sluices repair. The objective is to increase the water-holding capacity of the tanks, which would benefit small and marginal farmers who constitute a majority of the farming community in the district.

Horticulture is the other priority area under the NREGS. In the current financial year, mango, guava, sweet orange and lemon were grown in 7,500 acres (1 acre=0.4 hectare), including 6,000 acres in the Agency areas. Small and marginal farmers were involved in this activity. The target is to cultivate horticultural crops in 35,000 acres in 2008-09 and pass on the full benefits to small farmers. This has evoked tremendous response from the farmers who have been affected by the stagnant yields of the conventional crops.

Integrated land development under Indira Prabha is another vital component of the NREGS. A sum of Rs.17.7 crore has been sanctioned for the years 2007 to 2010 from the Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF-XIII) to level lands and clear bushes. A total of 11,817 acres has been identified for development, which would benefit 10,359 small and marginal farmers. Under RIDF IX and X, 9,545 acres were developed at a cost of Rs.11.2 crore. Disabled persons have also been given jobs under the scheme.

The Andhra Pradesh State Housing Corporation has taken up construction of 1,44,592 houses under Phase-I of the Indiramma scheme in 2006-07. These include 21,629 spill-over houses in urban areas and 20,084 in rural areas. All the houses would be completed by March.

Under the Indiramma scheme, houses are constructed for weavers, fishermen, salt workers and other sections who cannot afford to build their own dwellings.

The government has also introduced SMART (Supply of Material at Right Time), a scheme to supply material to those who cannot complete house construction within a stipulated period. The district price fixation committee will procure the materials at competitive prices and pass them on to the beneficiaries.

Education is given top priority under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) and the results have been impressive. The Education Department has been successful to a large extent in enrolling drop outs in the mainstream schools and residential bridge camps. This effort has boosted the literacy rate.

Schemes such as Balyaniki bharosa (assured childhood) and Balyam badilone (childhood spent only at school) have evoked tremendous response. Under the first scheme, 14,000 out-of-school children were enrolled in schools in 2006. This was marked by a massive rally of peoples representatives, teachers and members of non-governmental organisations on September 18, 2006, in the district headquarters.

Balyam badilone is aimed at fighting child labour. Persistent efforts are made to enrol out-of-school children involving the district officials, community leaders, parents, NGOs and Mahila Samakhya members. Over 70,000 employers, 15,000 peoples representatives and 30,000 commercial establishments, including cinema theatres, poultry farms and shops have committed themselves to not employing children aged between 5 and 15.

A unique scheme called School on boat was introduced in the district for the children of fishermen. Motivation camps and formal education programmes are conducted on boats. The children are later enrolled in residential bridge courses and mainstream schools. The scheme has received good response from fishermen for their children could spend six to 10 months on boat school instead of being pushed into their traditional vocation.

Under the SSA, 1,300 additional classrooms were constructed in 2007-08 at a cost of Rs.29.5 crore. Construction of 493 more classrooms is under way and the work is expected to be completed in a few months. CLAPS (Childrens Learning Acceleration Programme for Sustainability) is another initiative under the SSA, which is aimed at improving the learning capacities of the children in primary and upper primary schools. The schools are divided into groups or are given grades on the basis of their performances or the percentage of marks obtained by the children.

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