Vizianagaram is on the fast track of development, registering progress on all fronts.in Vizianagaram
VIZIANAGARAM, the 23rd district of Andhra Pradesh formed nearly 25 years ago, was for long considered a backward district. But it has now switched to the fast track of development, registering progress on all fronts. Rajat Kumar, until recently the Collector of the district, envisages a bright future for it, thanks to the initiation of several schemes to modernise agriculture, animal husbandry and minor irrigation.
Rajat Kumar told Frontline recently that nine areas, including dairy processing, vegetable and fruit processing, medicinal plant cultivation, manufacture of jute products, Information Technology (IT) units, tourism and construction, had been identified for accelerated employment generation in the district.
Dairy processing has a good potential for growth since Vizianagaram has excellent livestock and is on a par with some of the more developed districts in the State in terms of animal husbandry development. Rajat Kumar said: "We are in the process of distributing 18,000 milch animals to self-help groups and this would double the milk production in the district from the current figure of one lakh litres a day. Our artificial insemination drive, spending Rs.1.67 lakhs, has already resulted in an additional milk production of 5,500 litres a day. We have deployed 68 `gopal mitras' and 60 veterinary volunteers under the Velugu scheme for this purpose.'' The increased milk production is bound to spur the dairy industry, thereby creating more job opportunities. The proposal to establish 47 veterinary centres in the district is pending with the government.
An ambitious scheme to raise medicinal plants, especially in the Integrated Tribal Development Agency areas of the district, is on the anvil. With Union government assistance, a regional research centre is coming up on a four-hectare site in Parvathipuram to train Adivasi farmers raise aromatic plants.
Given the steadily increasing area under cashew plantation in Vizianagaram, processing units are expected to come up in various parts of the district. Mesta grown in the district is of a superior variety and is used to manufacture several attractive jute products. A string of mesta processing units are likely to come up in and around Nellimarla, where a jute mill is already functioning. Cashew and mesta processing is labour-intensive and so job generation is guaranteed.
About 800 top-graft varieties of mangoes are grown in the district, which is famous for the fruit. Rajat Kumar said: "Apart from providing assistance to export mangoes to the northern States, we are creating some post-harvest facilities so that mango-based units can be set up to produce value-added products. A mango market yard is also being set up." Being the largest producer of vegetables in Andhra Pradesh, Vizianagaram offers a lot of scope for vegetable processing units.
The district administration plans to develop an `IT City' in Bhogapuram mandal. "Miracle Software of Detroit [United States] has agreed to collaborate with this Rs.420-crore project, which should generate 10,000 jobs in the IT and IT-enabled services sector," Rajat Kumar said.
To promote tourism in the district, which has some attractive beaches and reservoirs, and pilgrim and heritage centres, the administration has initiated steps to create four or five tourism circuits. Under this major project, estimated to cost Rs.27 crores, the Bhogapuram beach is to be developed into a major centre of tourist attraction. A Rs.1-crore project has been envisaged for developing Ramathirthalu, a pilgrim centre which is frequented by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. The Thotapalli and Thatipudi reservoirs are being developed as sites for boating and water sports. Apart from Vizianagaram, the seat of the Gajapathi Rajus, Bobbili will be developed under a heritage tourism project.
Employment generation in the district between September 2003 and September 2004 was impressive. While the District Rural Development Agency more than trebled the jobs (36.3 lakhs) created under its various schemes, the Integrated Tribal Development Agency registered a ten-fold rise by providing employment to 10.8 lakh Adivasis. The Scheduled Castes Corporation trebled its performance by generating 4.2 lakh jobs for the S.C.s. Job creation by local industries touched 3.4 lakhs.
A major effort to develop agriculture in the district is the implementation of a master plan for minor irrigation with an outlay of Rs.140.35 crores, of which Rs.46 crores would be spent on schemes in the Agency areas. Involving 10,920 works, the plan would create a total ayacut of 69,257 hectares. Renovation of 2,115 minor irrigation sources alone would add 55,508 hectares.
The district administration has proposed to create an additional ayacut of 80,000 hectares by taking up the Tarakarama Teertha Sagaram as a fast-track project at a cost of Rs.211 crores. While tenders have been finalised for all works under the Thotapalli barrage and Peddagedda reservoir projects, work has begun on the Andhra high level canal project.
Farmers are being encouraged to go in for commercial crops. The area under maize in the district has gone up by 162 per cent and that under pulses by 16 per cent. The total agricultural coverage in the district is 2.92 lakh hectares.
Rajat Kumar said that Vizianagaram stood first in the State in overall health indicators and in family welfare activities.
On the education front, the district scaled new heights with a pass percentage of 83.64 in the 2003-04 Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examination; it was 73.76 per cent in the previous academic year. The target set for the next SSC examination is 95 per cent.
In another innovative initiative, the district authorities joined hands with institutions to impart professional education to Scheduled Tribe pupils under the Rajiv Gandhi Pratibha Pathakam. It conducted computer training, English speaking and personality development classes for S.T. pupils in upper primary schools.