Confident steps

Print edition : March 12, 2004

Chief Minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu launching the 'Cyber Grameen' programme via a video-conferencing facility at the Secretariat in Hyderabad. - P.V. SIVAKUMAR

Under a far-sighted leadership, Andhra Pradesh has made commendable strides in various fields and is emerging as the country's leading Information Technology destination.

THE transformation of Hyderabad from "a quiet administrative centre of an agricultural State into a computer programming and pharmaceutical hub" exemplifies the multi-sectoral development that Andhra Pradesh has acheived.

The city has carved a niche for itself in the field of Information Technology. In the State's high-tech capital, e-Seva centres are almost as common as bank branches. It is also a place where the jobless throng for employment. Reflecting the changes that are sweeping across the State, the green city is slowly emerging as a tourism destination too.

Although the State's economy is predominantly agricultural, a strong service sector is emerging. Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu has charted out plans for the State's rapid growth with China and the other `Tiger' economies of East Asia as models.

The State government has identified 19 "growth engines" in the fields of infrastructure, agriculture and the service sector to achieve its goal of creating `Swarna Andhra Pradesh' by 2020. "I am confident that our approach will make Andhra Pradesh the most prosperous State in the country," the Chief Minister said.

Around 1994, the State was just three points above Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in terms of investment as a percentage of the gross State domestic product (GSDP) and 87 points below industrialised States like Maharashtra and Gujarat. During the past decade, it has been bridging this gap, slowly but surely.

In terms of average GSDP growth rate at constant 1993-94 prices, Andhra Pradesh was ranked tenth during 1994-97, but rose to fourth place during 1997-2001. In this period, the State recorded an average GSDP growth of 5.7 per cent while the national average was 5.33 per cent. But for the recurring drought during the past three years, the GSDP growth rate would have been 6.5 per cent, planners say.

According to Chandrababu Naidu, the experience of Andhra Pradesh in the post-reforms period has been `exciting' with the State attracting investment proposals to the tune of Rs.1,36,227 crores between 1991 and 2003. Its strike rate of 68 - percentage of investment proposals that have been implemented - is the highest in the country.

The State is first in terms of live investments in the manufacturing sector, which stood at Rs.30,179 crores. From 1995 to 2003, the industry has provided employment to over 1.8 million people in the State. As a result of the initiatives taken over the decade, Andhra Pradesh has moved to the second position from the 22nd as an investment destination.

The Cyber Gateway at Hitec City in Hyderabad, the IT hub of Andhra Pradesh.-ARUNANGSU ROY CHOWDHURY

Eight years ago, the government realised the vast potential of Information Technology and IT-enabled services (ITES) and enunciated a policy aimed at putting the State on the fast track. The thrust of the policy was employment generation and wealth creation. Along with incentives such as subsidies on investment and rebate on power tariff and land cost, Andhra Pradesh today offers a state-of-the-art communication infrastructure, including bandwidth. The Hitech City in Hyderabad alone has more than 19 lakh sq. ft of built-up IT space in Cyber Towers, Cyber Gateway and Cyber Pearl. Several IT majors have created additional space of nearly 3.5 million square feet.

It is not surprising that Hyderabad has achieved a phenomenal growth rate of over 300 per cent in ITES, making it the number one destination in the country. A leading international consultant, Mckinsey & Co., has predicted that the State can capture 35 per cent of the market share in IT by 2008.

Proactive policies, a modern infrastructure and innovative marketing strategies have brought major IT players such as Microsoft, Dell, Oracle, Computer Associates, Convergys, Keane, Vanenberg, Motorola, Nokia, Intergraph, Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Mentor Graphics, Satyam, Wipro, GE Capital and Baan to Hyderabad.

ONE of the key initiatives of the Chandrababu Naidu government is e-governance. Over four million registrations of land and properties have been done through the Computer Aided Registration Department or CARD. Equally novel is the e-procurement programme, which was launched on January 29, 2003, with the aim of reducing corruption and delays in procurement by the government. So far, goods and services worth Rs.2,000 crores have been procured, resulting in the saving of Rs.200 crores.

Tourism has been recognised as a sector with a huge potential to provide employment and earn foreign exchange. As many as 219 projects aimed at attracting tourists have been taken up in the public and private sectors with an investment of Rs.1,760 crores.

Andhra Pradesh is keen to involve the private sector in major infrastructure projects such as seaports, airports, roads and bridges and has initiated measures to improve infrastructure for the information technology, agricultural export, pharmaceutical/bio-technology, apparel, textiles and leather industries.

The State government has planned five apparel parks and 13 textile parks with a view to achieving an export target of Rs.25,000 crores by 2010 and generating employment opportunities for at least 15 lakh people. In order to leverage the State's traditional strength in leather goods, the government has decided to set up as many as 94 leather parks.

Andhra Pradesh is justifiably considered the pharmaceutical capital of the country as it accounts for 30 per cent of the national drugs output. It produces pharmaceutical products worth $1.62 billion, 20 per cent of which is exported. There are 2,500 pharmaceutical and 75 biotechnology companies in the State, many of them in the Genome Valley in Hyderabad.

An example of the success achieved by the State in e-governance is the turnaround witnessed in Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL), one of the largest public sector units in Andhra Pradesh, which operates 67 coal mines and employs around 96,000 people. During 1996-97, the accumulated losses of the company stood at Rs.1,219 crores, forcing the government to refer it to the Board of Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR). Following a series of reforms that focussed on technology upgradation, modern management techniques and workers' welfare, the SCCL wiped out all its accumulated losses and entered into the net profit regime for the first time in 27 years. The production of 33.24 million tonnes that the company achieved in 2002-03 is the highest in its 114-year-old history.

POWER is the most important ingredient for the growth of the economy and energy consumption is an indicator of the level of well-being of the people. Ever since the State government initated power reforms in February 1999, nearly 5,000 MW have been added to the existing capacity, an achievement second only to that of Maharashtra. Today, the State's total installed capacity is 10,635 MW.

This has been achieved by investing Rs.12,002 crores in power generation and Rs.6,758 crores in transmission and distribution. Today the thermal-hydel mix is 93:7 as against the ratio of 52:48 in 1990-91. As a result, power supply in the State is now less susceptible to the vagaries of the monsoon. The Credit Rating Information Services of India Limited (CRISIL) has given a rating of 73 per cent to the Andhra Pradesh Transmission Corporation (APTRANSCO), the highest for any electricity board or utility in the country.

A concerted drive against pilferage and technical shortcomings has led to a reduction in transmission and distribution losses from 38 per cent a decade ago to 26.13 per cent at present. APGENCO, the generation corporation, has achieved a plant load factor of 88.9 per cent with several of its plants bagging productivity awards from the Government of India year after year. A crucial component of the State government's policy is the supply of 12,520 million units to nearly 22.82 lakh farmers at a subsidised rate, which has cost the exchequer nearly Rs. 2,592 crores.

KEEPING the farmers' interests in view, the government has been giving high priority to irrigation, water conservation and management. Within a decade, investment in irrigation projects increased three-fold resulting in the creation of a new irrigation potential of 10 lakh acres and the stabilisation of 18 lakh acres. An outlay of Rs.10,845 crores is proposed under the Tenth Five Year Plan (2002-07) with emphasis on completing ongoing projects in backward regions.

Agriculture, dairy, poultry and agriculture-allied activities figure high in the government's scheme of things. The net area sown is around 105 lakh hectares, which constitutes 38 per cent of the State's geographical area. In a unique experiment, since replicated in other States, the government has established Rythu Bazars in all cities and towns to assist farmers in exporting their produce.

HAVING identified education as one of the growth engines in its `Vision 2020' document, improvement of literacy is viewed as a step to build a strong foundation for the future. The efforts have yielded results with the literacy rate improving to nearly 62 per cent in 2001 as against 45 per cent in 1991. As a result of the emphasis on literacy through `back-to-school' programmes and lately through `Chaduvula Panduga' (festival of education), the mid-day meal scheme to retain children, the growth rate in literacy (17.02 per cent) is significantly higher than the national average of 12.99 per cent.

Andhra Pradesh can also take pride in the fact that it has nearly 210 engineering colleges today, a far cry from 1995-96, when it had just 32 colleges. The number of medical colleges has also doubled to 21 while dental colleges have increased from two in 1995 to 12 in 2002.

Women's empowerment is another issue on top of the government's agenda. A sustained effort over the years has led to the creation of 4.75 self-help groups with a staggering membership of 65.40 lakh members and an enviable corpus of Rs.1,624.95 crores.

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