Unmet guarantees pose challenge for Congress in Telangana

Farmers are especially sore as none of the promises made to them were implemented, repots Mohammed Shafeeq

Four months after storming to power in Telangana, the Congress, which seeks to win 12 out of 17 seats in the state in the next month’s Lok Sabha elections, may find the going tough as a section of voters feel that it has failed to deliver on several of the six guarantees given in the Assembly polls.

While free bus travel for women was introduced within 48 hours of the Congress government assuming office on December 7, 2023, and the launch of a couple of other schemes created a positive environment for the party, a large number of applicants who were left out are unhappy. Farmers are especially sore as none of the promises made to them were implemented.

A cross-section of voters IANS spoke to were divided in their opinion about the implementation of the guarantees.

While those who benefited from 200 units of free electricity per month and cooking gas cylinders for Rs 500 schemes are happy and said they will vote for Congress again, others who were left out feel let down by the ruling party. They want to support the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) as they believe that its government was prompt in delivering the benefits of welfare schemes.

Considering their experience of the last four months, these voters are taking the new guarantees made by the party at the national level with a pinch of salt, and many of them are not ready to trust it again.

While four months is too short a period to judge the performance of any government, the Congress failed to live up to its own word of implementing six guarantees within 100 days.

Many believe that the government rolled out the schemes just for the sake of launching them with their benefits reaching a limited number.

White ration cards (issued to below poverty line families) were the basic criteria for selecting beneficiaries but those who did not possess these were unhappy over being left out. Even many white card holders complain that they were ignored though they had submitted the applications during the government’s “Praja Palana” campaign.

“We have a white ration card. We applied for electricity, gas, pension and other benefits but we have not received anything,” says T. Neelam, a domestic help. Hailing from Wanaparthy district but living in Hyderabad, she had a lot of expectations when the Congress made the promises but is now disappointed.

“The only benefit we availed so far is free travel in the TSRTC buses,” she said.

“Why did they promise when they can’t deliver? It’s clear that the promises were made to win elections but the party has lost people’s trust. We have got nothing,” said Bhumya Naik, a private firm employee in Hyderabad.

“We now feel that the BRS government was better. We will vote for BRS in the Lok Sabha polls. Whatever may have been the problems earlier, the BRS government was regularly paying financial assistance under various schemes,” he added.

Farmers are the most unhappy as the Congress had raised their hopes with many promises, and are now demanding that the government at least implement the existing schemes launched by the previous BRS regime, like the Rythu Bandhu.

The Congress had promised Rs 15,000 per acre every year under Rythu Bharosa but there are allegations that it failed to pay even Rs 10,000 paid by the previous government.

The party had raised huge expectations by promising to give financial assistance even to the tenant farmers, as well as annual financial assistance of Rs 12,000 each to agriculture labourers.

The farmers also recall the promise of the Congress that farm loans up to Rs 2 lakh will be waived soon after the new government assumes office on December 9, the birthday of top Congress leader Sonia Gandhi. However, after four months, the promise remains unfulfilled.

Chief Minister A. Revanth Reddy has now announced that farm loans will be waived by August 15, claiming this scheme could not be implemented due to the model code of conduct which came into force with the announcement of the poll schedule.

Farmers also did not get the Rs 500 per quintal bonus on paddy with the Chief Minister promising to pay this from the next crop. Withering of crops in parts of the state due to drought-like conditions, the alleged failure to supply irrigation water to farmers, and ensure them 24-hour quality power have also irked them.

The Congress had made 13 promises as part of six guarantees during the Assembly elections held in November 2023. Under six guarantees “Mahalakshmi”, “Rythu Bharosa”, “Gruha Jyothi”, “Indiramma Indlu”, “Yuva Vikasam” and “Cheyutha”, promises for different sections like women, farmers, youth, homeless, and elderly were made. Sonia Gandhi unveiled the guarantees on September 17, 2023, at a public meeting at Tukkuguda near Hyderabad.

At the same venue, the Congress released the Telugu version of its national guarantees for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections on April 6 in the presence of former party chief Rahul Gandhi.

On December 9, two days after assuming office, Revanth Reddy-led government launched the Mahalakshmi scheme to provide free travel to women in Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) buses and enhanced coverage under Rajiv Arogyasri (health insurance scheme for poor) from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh.

The rollout of other guarantees was delayed as the government embarked on a massive exercise to receive applications from eligible beneficiaries for five out of six guarantees. Over 1.28 crore applications were received during the Praja Palana programme conducted across the state from December 28 to January 6, covering a total of 1,11,46,293 households.

Applications were also received from those not having white ration cards.

More than 1.05 crore of these applications were for availing benefits under five guarantees while the remaining applications were for other needs.

On February 27, Chief Minister Revanth Reddy launched two more guarantees – 200 units of free electricity to each household and a cooking gas cylinder for Rs 500. On March 11, he launched Indiramma Indlu, a housing scheme for the poor, under which it will distribute house sites in the name of women and extend financial assistance of Rs 5 lakh for house construction. It has sanctioned 4.50 lakh Indiramma houses at the cost of Rs 22,500 crore.

Households consuming up to 200 units of electricity per month and having white ration cards started receiving ‘zero bills’ from March. Power distribution companies said over 10 lakh consumers were issued ‘zero bills’. However, several applicants complained that despite being eligible, they were denied the benefits under the scheme.

Similarly, only white ration card holders are getting cooking gas cylinders for Rs 500, and while the government said a total of 40 lakh families will benefit, the number of cylinders which can be availed is limited to an average of their consumption of the last three years.

Those enjoying the benefits of the three schemes are happy with the government.

E. Praveen, a private employee in Adilabad town, told IANS that he has been receiving zero power bills for the last two months. “I am also getting a cooking gas cylinder for only Rs 500. In addition to these two benefits, women members of our family are also travelling in TSRTC buses for free,” the 31-year-old said.

Hafiz Ahmed, a businessman in Adilabad, is also happy about getting the benefits under the three schemes, “Even if the government does not extend benefits under any other scheme, we are happy with the benefits we are getting under these three schemes,” said Ahmed, who has decided to back Congress in Lok Sabha polls.

However, Syed Amer Iqbal, who runs a small stationery business in the Rangareddy district, is deprived of the benefits as he has no white ration card, and said he did not apply “because I know people like us don’t get the benefits”.

Some people believe in the government’s defence of the model code.

“We are not only availing free travel facility in TSRTC buses, our application for free electricity has also been accepted. We believe that there are genuine difficulties in issuing zero bills due to the model code of conduct and hope that the government will keep its word after the Lok Sabha polls,” said P. Vasantha, an Anganwadi teacher.

However, the government is yet to implement promises like monthly financial assistance of Rs 2,500 for every woman, a monthly pension of Rs 4,000 each for the elderly, the Vidya Bharosa Card worth Rs 5 lakh each for students and Telangana international schools in all mandals, apart from the promises to the farmers.

“We are hopeful that the government will ensure the implementation of other promises after the Parliament elections. Since this government has not even completed six months, let us give it some more time to keep its word,” said T. Maniamma, a housewife in Chevella constituency.

ALSO READ: Modi to visit Karnataka on April 20


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *