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Andhra HC pulls up govt over multiple issues on Covid

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The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Thursday was critical of the state government over multiple issues pertaining to the coronavirus pandemic.

The court expressed its dismay at the government failing to furnish information on what measures it took to control the pandemic, asking why it failed to file a counter affidavit to the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Thota Suresh Babu last September.

Similarly, the court demanded the state furnish information on the coronavirus second wave, number of cases, tests, results, availability of beds, medicines and other aspects.

It also asked the government as to what actions it took against private hospitals which violated the orders.

Lawyer Narra Srinivas, representing a petitioner, informed the court that the illegal diversion of Remdesivir injection into black market is causing major hiccups to patients.

Meanwhile, the court said that if the government does not file a counter-affidavit by Tuesday, it will take action against the government.

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AP govt relieves Telangana employees working in AP Secretariat!

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The Andhra Pradesh government on Thursday (today) relieved Telangana employees working in AP Secretariat in Amaravathi.

The AP government issued orders relieving 49 employees to enable them to shift to their native state Telangana.

Telangana employees working in AP Secretariat were demanding for long to allow inter-state transfer since the bifurcation of AP in June 2014.

However, it could not materialise as the relations between Telangana and AP government were not good when TDP was ruling AP between from 2014 to 2019.

The political rivalry between then AP CM N Chandrababu Naidu and Telangana CM KCR has become an obstacle to make inter-state transfers.

However, after Jagan became CM, the relations between Telangana and AP government improved due to the closeness between Jagan and KCR.

In this backdrop, Telangana government recently made a request to AP government to relieve Telangana employee working in AP Secretariat.

The Jagan government accepted it and issued a GO to this effect on Thursday.

Telangana employees thanked Jagan for obliging their long-pending demand.

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AP Government wins over Vakeel Saab in tickets hike issue

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The High Court division bench revised the order of the single bench’s decision of allowing the hiked ticket prices for Pawan Kalyan’s recent offering Vakeel Saab. The single bench reversed the order of AP government and granted ticket hike for the film in the state till Sunday and scheduled the next hearing for Monday. The AP Government approached the division bench which rejected the hike in the ticket prices considering the current situation of coronavirus. All the exhibitors will have to follow the strict rules for the ticket prices from Monday as per the GO issued by the government of Andhra Pradesh. It is unclear as of now if the GO will be applicable for all the future projects.

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Census process to delay Jagan’s new districts

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Unforeseen hurdles are being created in the YCP Government plans to create new districts in Andhra Pradesh. The coming 2021 Census exercise is now expected to interfere with the new districts formation in the State. This is because the Central Government has issued orders to the States not to make any changes in the revenue units geographical boundaries till the Census is completed.

As per the AP Government plans, the boundaries of some mandals and revenue divisions are to be changed. It has been a long standing plan of Mr. Jagan Reddy to form the existing 13 districts into 25 districts. Each parliamentary constituency is being turned into one district.

In addition to this, the YCP regime has proposed one or two more districts. The Chief Minister has earlier ordered the officials to complete the new districts at the earliest.

Meanwhile, even the Census exercise is being delayed at the national level. It is mainly because of the Coronavirus second wave. Some States like Maharashtra are the worst affected where there is no scope for taking up the Census in the near future. Similarly, AP is also facing several problems to complete the Census and the formation of new districts.

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Andhra to release jobs calendar on Ugadi festival

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Andhra Pradesh government will release a calendar schedule to fill vacant posts in the education department on Ugadi festival day.

Education Minister Adimulapu Suresh made this announcement on Friday and it comes on the back of Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy instructed officials to come out with a calendar recently.

Meanwhile, Suresh said that college fee would be credited to the accounts of eligible mothers under Jagananna Vidya Deevena scheme on April 9, benefiting 10 lakh students.

Similarly, the state government is focusing on improving the educational standards in colleges.

“As per the directions of Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, educational standards in colleges in the state will be improved and education will be imparted in such a way that students can get jobs,” said the Education Minister.

In the light of the state government clipping the wings of autonomous colleges, Suresh warned them not to indulge in irregularities and said that appropriate action would be taken otherwise.

According to the minister, there are 109 autonomous colleges in the state under various varsities and it was found that quality education was not being imparted in those educational institutions.

“Some autonomous colleges were indulging in irregularities besides getting subsidies from the government discussions are being held with the UGC regarding autonomous colleges,” he said.

Further clarifying, Suresh noted that education is a concurrent subject upon which the state government can also make laws and highlighted that colleges are free to move the Court in this matter.

He said that academic audits would be conducted in autonomous colleges to usher in reforms in the education sector.

Suresh said that autonomous colleges are barred from compiling their own question papers.

Meanwhile, the state government is looking at initiating an apprentice system for degree courses.

He said, Reddy gave instruction to lay special focus on developing Andhra University, S.V. University, RJKUT, JNTU – Anantapur and JNTU – Kakinada.

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AP govt financial crisis: Loans even to repair roads

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The Andhra Pradesh government headed by Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy is facing unprecedented financial crisis, thanks to cash transfer schemes launched by Jagan in the name of ‘navaratnalu’.

The YSRCP government is dependent on loans to run the show on a day-to-day basis.

The situation worsened to such an extent that the YSRCP government has decided to take loans even for repairing roads across the state.

Jagan has constituted AP Road Development Corporation (APRDP) exclusively to take loans for road repair works.

He issued directions to APRDP to take Rs 2,205 crore loans from various banks.

The AP government will provide bank guarantee to these loans.

State highways and roads in all districts in AP were badly damaged due to consecutive cyclones and heavy rains for the past two years.

However, the state government did not take up repairs due to a fund crunch.

With this motorists in AP are facing severe hardships due to bad roads.

They are expressing ire at state government for failing to repair roads for such a long time.

With this, the Jagan government has decided to take loans for road repair works.

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Lokesh blames Govt for farmer couple’s suicide

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TDP MLC Nara Lokesh has held the Jaganmohan Reddy Government totally responsible for the agricultural debt crisis that led to the latest suicide by a farmer couple in Allagadda in the Kurnool district. Farmer Sanjeeva Reddy and his wife ended their lives at P. Chintakunta village after they could not repay Rs. 11 lakh debts which they had faced following losses in agriculture. As a result of their extreme step, their three children have now become orphans to whom the YCP Government owed an explanation.

Lokesh slammed CM Jagan for immersing himself in his party foundation day celebrations while the farmers were facing a life and death situation on account of worsening debts and failure of crops. Jagan Reddy’s worst rule was the reason for the farmers committing suicides after losing hope of any assistance or support. This insensitive Chief Minister should rise from his deep slumber in order to prevent the farmers’ suicides. Instead of making empty claims, the YCP Government should make sincere efforts to give confidence and hope to the cultivators. The CM should immediately come to the rescue of the Sanjeeva Reddy family.

Lokesh said that false cases were being filed against Anaparthy former MLA Ramakrishna Reddy only because he exposed the corruption and illegal activities of the local YCP legislator. Not stopping at that, the YCP leaders forced the police to make illegal arrest of Mr. Ramakrishna Reddy. Under this oppressive regime, the police were targetting the victims while allowing the attackers to continue their harassment against the TDP leaders.

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Andhra to incorporate ‘Gender Budget’ to better serve women

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Andhra Pradesh could be the first state in India to incorporate a concept called ‘Gender Budget’ in its annual Budget for FY 2021-22 aimed at better serving women.

On International Women’s Day on Monday, Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy emphasised that the Gender Budget should clearly list out the expenditures for women’s welfare under various schemes.

As per the 2011 Budget, only 60 per cent women in Andhra Pradesh were literate while the balance 40 per cent were unable to pursue education.

In order to resolve this issue and lower the burden of providing quality education, the state government has introduced schemes such as the Jaganna Amm Vodi, which encompassed an expenditure of Rs 13,022 crore in two years’ time.

In five years’ time, this scheme will spend Rs 32,500 crore, benefiting over 44.5 lakh mothers and 85 lakh students.

“Women should be given equal rights economically, socially and politically and their services in bettering the society should be recognised,” said Reddy.

He said the state government has spent Rs 80,000 crore in 21 months for women’s welfare through schemes such as Amma Vodi, YSR Cheyuta, YSR Asara and Kapu Nestam.

“Besides ensuring women’s welfare, the government has also focused on empowering women socially, politically, economically and made laws to provide 50 per cent reservation to women in all nominated posts and works,” said Reddy.

Along with 900 Disha patrolling vehicles, the Chief Minister has also launched 18 Disha crime scene management vehicles.

Meanwhile, Suprava Harichandan, the wife of Governor Biswa Bhusan Harichandan, celebrated International Women’s Day at the Raj Bhavan’s Durbar Hall at an event organised by women the employees.

“It is a very important day for all the women as it is celebrated in recognition of their contribution to the society and the equal role played by women in nation building,” she said, as she distributed gifts to the women employees of the Raj Bhavan.

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Jagan govt’s record: Rs 25 lakh loan per minute!

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The YSRCP government in Andhra Pradesh led by Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy is breaking all the records in taking loans from banks and other financial institutions.

It’s been 21 months since Jagan became CM of AP. The YSRCP government is running the show depending on loans instead of creating wealth through development programmes. The loans thus mobilised are used to fund Jagan’s Navarathnalu schemes.

AP finance minister Buggana Rajendranath Reddy last week announced that YSRCP government took loans worth Rs 73,000 crore in current fiscal 2020-21.

However, as per the data available with the finance department, the loans have already crossed Rs 1 lakh crore.

The loans are expected to touch Rs 1.20 lakh crore by March 31, 2021, when 2020-21 financial year ends.

This amounts to YSRCP government taking loans of Rs 333 crore per day in this fiscal.

This in turn amounts to taking Rs 25 lakh loan per minute

Can any government beat this record in India?

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Andhra govt endorses statewide bandh opposing steel plant sale

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The YSR Congress Party-led Andhra Pradesh government has endorsed a statewide bandh call given by labour union leaders opposing the privatisation of the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP) on Friday.

“The Andhra Pradesh government extends solidarity to the statewide bandh called by the workers on Friday opposing the decision to privatise VSP,” state Transport Minister Perni Venkatramaiah said.

The minister said that they will fight to any extent to retain the steel plant as people’s asset, which was procured after the sacrifice of 32 lives.

Recently, the state Cabinet took a decision to move a resolution in the Assembly, opposing the Central government’s plan to privatise VSP and also for putting more ‘pressure’ on the Centre.

In February, Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy had met the labour union leaders spearheading the fight against the privatisation of VSP and informed them that he had written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, suggesting the available possibilities to salvage the plant.

Allocation of mines in Odisha, converting bank debt into equity, and selling steel plant’s surplus land were the three major suggestions given by Reddy to the Prime Minister, among others.

The labour unions leaders have already issued posters notifying the bandh.

Likewise, many people, including the employees of VSP and their family members, are protesting against the privatisation plan.

In a unique protest, some youth were found dancing on the road, blaring a Telugu song questioning as to what right the government had to sell the plant, also questioning the entity which will come forward to buy it.

Many protesters have also launched a hunger strike against the decision. Protesters from different departments such as the blast furnace have also launched their demonstrations.

“Private sector companies’ main motive is to earn profits but my company’s (VSP) main motive is to provide service to the public along with profits. Give one chance to RINL with captive mines, we will prove what we are,” said Gopal, one of the protesters.

Another protester alleged that the Central government is waiving the debts of scamsters and also wiping out the public sector as a whole.

Visakhapatnam North MLA and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader Ganta Srinivasa Rao recently submitted his resignation to the Assembly Speaker opposing the steel plant sale plan.

All signs are pointing towards a long-term fight against the privatisation plan, adding one more indefinite strike to the two already playing out in the state.

Two indefinite protests are currently underway in Amaravati, one supporting the capital city trifurcation and the other opposing it.

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‘Andhra aims for 10% share in India’s overall exports’

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Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy on Tuesday said that the state is aiming for a 10 per cent share in the overall India’s exports basket by 2030.

Participating virtually in the Maritime India Summit 2021, inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Reddy said that currently Andhra Pradesh has an export share of 4 per cent.

Delving on India’s overall trade, the Chief Minister said that 95 per cent of the trade by volume and 70 per cent by value is through maritime transport.

“Indian ports handled approximately 1.2 billion metric tonnes of cargo traffic in the year 2019 – 2020 and much required policy reforms like 100 per cent FDI, Make-in-India, Sagar Mala and Bharat Mala have been introduced to ensure exponential growth in this sector,” he said.

Reddy added that Maritime India Vision 2030 document will stand as a testament to the government’s commitment.

“I believe that the importance of ‘Blue Economy’ in a nation’s growth story extends much beyond the maritime trade and the Export – Import statistics,” he said.

The Chief Minister said that the true value of “Blue Economy” is unlocked only when all the allied sectors dependent on the ocean such as aquaculture, maritime and coastal tourism, chemical and bio-technological exploration, ship building and other port-led industries also mature enough to provide sustainable employment and growth opportunities.

Reddy termed the draft of the first ever National Fishing Policy released in September 2020 as an example of several such steps taken in that direction.

He told Modi that drawing inspiration from him, Andhra has taken a lot of transformative steps to leverage it coastline of 974 km, which is the second largest in India.

“Today, I am proud to say that Andhra Pradesh is on the top spot in the country in Ease of Doing Business rankings 2020 released by the Commerce and Industry Ministry and one of the factors that contributed to this achievement is the state government’s consistent efforts in developing port infrastructure, support ecosystem and encouraging port-led industrialization,” the Chief Minister said.

He added the state has one major port in Visakhapatnam, five functional ports and 10 other notified state ports with world class facilities which can handle more than 170 million tonnes of cargo per annum, second to Gujarat.

According to Reddy, several industrial nodes came up in the state, including the state taking up the development of three greenfield ports at Ramayapatnam, Machilipatnam and Bhavanapadu on an innovative model that mitigates all risks associated with green field port development.

He said these ports are deep-drafted ports all set to be operational by 2023, creating an additional capacity of at least 100 million tonnes of cargo per annum.

“In order to ensure that the ports operate at their fullest capacities, the state government has consciously taken steps to attract large investments in the sectors ranging from manufacturing, petrochemicals, food processing, pharmaceuticals which are port-dependent,” he added.

Reddy said the state government has also undertaken the development of eight fishing harbours, establishment of testing labs and cold chain facilities to better provide ecosystem for aquaculture to increase the share of aqua-related cargo from the ports.

“I would also like to extend my invitation to the representatives from various companies from India and abroad attending this summit through the Government of India to invest in AP and I assure you the best environment for your operations and the fullest support in making your endeavor a successful one,” he added.

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Modi surprised at AP ‘move’ on churches?

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Reports were long coming out that the AP Government was bent on calling tenders for constructing churches in the State. Now this issue attracted the attention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi too. According to YCP rebel MP Raghu Rama Raju, the Prime Minister has specifically asked him to provide more details about the issue of the State Government’s involvement in Andhra Pradesh.

RRR has met the PM and submitted a 25-page memorandum seeking the Centre’s intervention on the issue of the Temple attacks, Amaravati, Polavaram, Visakha Steel Plant, etc. When Raju explained these details, the PM took keen interest about the issue of churches in the State. The MP said that Mr. Modi asked him whether he had given details about the State Government tenders for churches in his 25-page note.

Rajugaru did not provide those details but told the PM that he would submit a detailed note especially on the Government’s involvement in the construction of churches in AP. RRR further said that the PM has also expressed surprise how any Government could get involved in the churches’ construction.

Whatever, Rajugaru has carried out his work meticulously to give a hint to the PM on the issue of churches. Undoubtedly, the Central Government and the BJP have its own network to get details about this. Once the Jagan regime really begins active work on this aspect, then another state and national level controversy will be triggered from AP.

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Nandi, Naga, Ganesha, Lepakshi to feature in AP’s tableau

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Andhra Pradesh government will showcase Nandi, Naga, Ganesha and Lepakshi temple as part of its Republic Day parade tableau in New Delhi.

“Lepakshi is a fine example of architectural grandeur. It belongs to the 16th century temple of stone in Vijayanagara style,” said an official.

The temple was built on a low rocky hill called Kurmasailam, dating back to 1583 and built by brothers Virupanna and Veeranna, courtiers of the Vijayanagara kings.

The tableaux will flaunt the rich monolith rock architecture of Lepakshi, including a spectacular monolith Nandi of 27ft in length and 15ft in height.

“It is a colossal structure, reputedly India’s biggest monolithic Nandi. Besides the record size, the perfectly proportioned body, finely-carved ornaments and smooth contours add to its grandeur,” said the official.

The tableaux will begin with the Nandi and its rear will feature the main arches of Lepakshi temple such as ‘mukha mandapa’, ‘arda mandapa’, ‘antarala’ (ante chamber), ‘garbhagriha’ (sanctum sanctorum) and ‘kalyana mandapa’ with 38 carved pillars.

It will also showcase the temple’s outer enclosure, featuring a mammoth Ganesha hewn out of stone and leaning against a rock.

“Perpendicular to it is a massive Naga with three coils and seven hoods. It forms a sheltering canopy over black granite Shiva lingam,” he said.

Likewise, a traditional music art form called ‘veeranatyam’ which tells the story of Veerabadhra during Daksha Yagyam will be performed on the tableau.

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Andhra govt employees threaten to boycott panchayat polls

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Hours after the Andhra Pradesh State Election Commissioner (SEC) Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar on Saturday issued a notification for the four-phase panchayat polls, the state government employees associations representatives threatened to boycott the elections because of the pandemic.

The employees representatives said they would see how many employees the SEC terminates.

“Government employees in Andhra Pradesh have risked their lives to control the coronavirus. Instead of appreciating, you are threatening to terminate and suspend us. We oppose this step. If you go ahead with the state panchayat polls, chaos may prevail across the state. So please cancel your election notification,” said an employees representative.

The Andhra SEC on Saturday notified the schedule for four phase rural local body elections whose nomination process would begin in the next two days.

The employee drew attention to the special care Kumar took while addressing the media earlier on Saturday. He had fixed a glass partition on his table and wore a mask to protect himself from the virus.

“Is your life so important without caring for our lives. While addressing the media, you spoke from behind a glass, all the people in the state watched it. Should we discharge election duties and lose our lives,” he asked the Andhra SEC.

He warned the SEC that if he goes ahead not paying heed to the appeal by the employees, then he would face difficulties.

“So do not scare us and cause paranoia. We will see how many employees you will terminate,” he said.

The representative reminded the SEC about what he did more than two years ago when the panchayat polls were supposed to be held then.

“Why didn’t you conduct the elections back then. Why are you trying to kill all of us by conducting the elections amid the pandemic,” he added.

He appealed to Kumar not to risk the lives of employees, adding that they would undertake election duties only after receiving the vaccination jabs.

Another employees representative said that they are scared at the rapid pace at which the SEC is proceeding to conduct the polls amid the pandemic and the gigantic vaccination drive.

“I appreciate the care Kumar took for himself to ward off coronavirus by fixing a glass partition. Will he provide similar protection to employees?” he asked.

Despite taking similar care, he said, many employees succumbed to the virus, including a general medicine professor in a medical college in Visakhapatnam.

Mandating the employees to urgently take up election duty amid the pandemic is a huge discouragement as most of them are waiting to receive the vaccine.

Another representative said that the SEC postponed the polls in March 2020 when there were fewer infections but is eager to conduct them when the vaccination drive is taking place.

“People are not ready to cooperate, officers are not ready to cooperate. Life is more important, take back your decision. It will not be good if the SEC goes ahead obstinately,” he opined.

These elections were originally supposed to be held in 2018 when the tenure of the local bodies expired back, but Kumar chose not to hold them.

However, Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy thought of going to the polls in March 2020 but Kumar did not give the nod citing the coronavirus pandemic which led to a major standoff between the two.

THe Chief Minister accused Kumar of acting at the behest of opposition leader N. Chandrababu Naidu, during whose tenure as the Chief Minister he was appointed. Reddy had tried to replace him which backfired as the SEC has constitutional protection equal to a Supreme Court judge.

With just two more months to go as the SEC, Kumar is keen on conducting the polls which the state government has opposed citing the coronavirus pandemic and the vaccination drive.

The Supreme Court might take a decision on Monday on the state government’s petition to postpone the elections.

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Will AP CS, DGP, Collectors, SP cooperate with SEC?

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The courts may be constantly intervening but the cold war is continuing between the Jagan Reddy Government and State Election Commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar. The High Court may have ordered for conducting the local body elections. Still, the ruling party Ministers were criticising the SEC.

In the face of these differences, Nimmagadda has decided to depend solely on letter correspondence with the AP Chief Secretary and the AP Government. This will hold good throughout the local body polls. As such, the SEC is writing a fresh letter to the AP CS about the coordination meetings to be conducted on the poll process.
Towards this end, the SEC office has communicated that the elections will be conducted at the earliest. Ramesh Kumar is already holding meetings with his office staff on the fresh dates to be finalised for the future poll process.

Towards this end, the SEC is going to hold a meeting with the CS, the DGP, the District Collectors and SPs in a day or two. The whole problem is this. All these officials are under total grip of the YCP leaders. They are totally scared to cross the line drawn by the CM and his advisors. Now the big question is whether they would attend the SEC meeting or not.
If these top officials do not cooperate with the SEC, this time their actions will amount to the contempt of the court.

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Will AP Govt approach Supreme Court on panchayat polls?

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The High Court of Andhra Pradesh has given its green signal for the panchayat elections in the State. The division bench struck down the stay order issued by the single judge bench on the polls. The division bench of the High Court asserted that both the elections and public health were important. The election authorities should go ahead with the process by taking all necessary preventive measures against the Coronavirus epidemic.

Now, speculation is rife that the Chief Minister is all set to take a decision to approach the Supreme Court against the division bench order. Already, the CM has called available Ministers to discuss the issue. If the decision to move the Apex Court is taken, then it would be easy to delay the election till after March. By that time, State Election Commissioner N Ramesh Kumar will retire.

Minister Kanna Babu has welcome the division bench order but criticised the SEC still that Mr. Ramesh Kumar was adamant on holding panchayat polls putting the people’s health at risk.

Former CM Chandrababu Naidu welcomed the High Court, saying that the judges may change but justice will remain. It is not surprising that most of the Jagan Government’s decisions were getting adverse orders from the courts.

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Andhra Pradesh polity on throes of communalisation

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Going by the kind of statements and political speeches prominent leaders were giving in Andhra Pradesh, one has to sit up and take notice if the state is slowly going through a transition from a stellar secular polity into an unnecessary communal one.

As a prominent state from the southern part of India, Andhra Pradesh is renowned for its communal harmony and peace which suddenly seems to be threatened by a flood of alleged temple attacks and subsequent inflammatory communal speeches.

In a recent speech, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) national president Nara Chandrababu Naidu openly invoked religion and a couple of religious places in his attack against Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy.

“You are a Christian Chief Minister, no problem. I am not saying it is wrong. I am a born Hindu, Venkateshwara Swamy is my favourite God. Your favourite is Lord Jesus. When you win, you go to Jerusalem, when I win, I visit Venkateshwara Swamy. You keep a Bible, okay no problem…,” said Naidu warning that Reddy has no right to be a CM when temples are being attacked.

As the principal opposition leader in the state, with a chequered political career running into four decades, as Chief Minister for 14 long years and staying in the opposition for more than 10 years, religion rarely featured in Naidu’s speeches.

Not just Naidu, most other leaders until before the Reddy-led Yuvajan Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) came to power in May 2019, never cared to invoke religion.

Adding fuel to this unwelcome communal tension, the ruling party’s own man, Kanumuru Raghu Ramakrishna Raju, Narasapuram MP, incessantly alludes to religion, caste and reservations even at the slightest opportunity.

Recently, the Christian minority institutions-educated Raju called for the removal of the Crime Investigation Department (CID) head P. V. Sunil Kumar from Ramateertham investigation because he belonged to a particular faith.

Likewise, the Bible party and Bhagvad Gita party instigations from non-local Karimnagar MP and Telangana Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Bandi Sanjay is not surprising as BJP has a lifelong dream of capturing power in the Telugu states.

The BJP also openly flaunts its ideology for politics sake, however, it is not yet a major political force in the state.

Not only political parties, even a few community associations also started taking God’s name to send out a political message.

Following Ramateertham idol decapitation by unidentified miscreants, Andhra Pradesh Endowments Minister Vellampalli Srinivas derogatorily referred to former Union Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapati Raju, who happens to be a caretaker of Ramateertham.

Srinivas attracted the wrath of Raju’s community members at several places in the state as well as Hyderabad. At the Usha Mullapudi hospital arch, a group of Kshatriya youth agitated and burnt the minister’s effigy.

In addition to the agitation, they also chanted some religious slogans, which generally was not the case earlier with demonstrations, indicating a change in the nature of political protests.

Worried at the unfolding events in the aftermath of these alleged temple attacks, which mostly occurred during night time, the state government on Friday convened a meeting with top clerics of three major religions to transmit a peace message.

Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) chief priest Venugopala Dikshitulu, Shamiria Peetam’s Ahmed Sheikh Bin Shabeen and Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church’s (AELC) moderator Elijah met with ministers Botsa Satyanarayana, Mekhatoti Sucharita and others to send a message of unity and universal brotherhood.

“All religions in the state should practice their religious beliefs and respect other religions without causing any disturbance,” said Dikshitulu.

Explaining the nature of politics in the state, Rapaka Kiran, a resident of East Godavari district near Antarvedi, where the decades old chariot of Sri Lakshmi Narasimhaswamy temple was burnt in September, said, “There is casteism but not communalism.”

However, Deekshith Chowdoju, a history coach for UPSC aspirants and founder of Civil Vidyapeeth in Hyderabad is saddened at the turn of events in AP. He said the state never witnessed politicians openly invoking religion to gain political dividends.

“What a struggle the Telugu talli (mother, Telugu society) is facing now. It never had the problem of communalism, there is no reference point in the history also,” said Chowdoju.

A couple of days ago, Chief Secretary Aditya Nath Das reminded the world that the southern state is famous for its communal harmony.

“The state of Andhra Pradesh has always been famed for its communal peace and harmony. One would look back at the state’s tranquility with humility and pride…People of all castes and religions have been in peaceful coexistence since ages and have adopted a progressive attitude in the state of Andhra Pradesh,” said Das.

Another example of the state’s peaceful nature emerged, when some outsiders came from far off places, including Hyderabad to Antarvedi in the aftermath of the chariot issue and attacked a local church, however, youth associated with the temple released a video message condemning the church attack.

Incidentally, this kind of alleged temple attacks and communal politics did not take place even during former CM Y. S. Rajasekhar Reddy tenure, though some people made allegations.

What could have caused Naidu to embrace religion for politics? Is Naidu worried if the BJP will eat into TDP’s vote share and thus compelling him to take the same strategy adopted by the former?

Meanwhile, Andhra Pradesh Police Officers’ Association, Amaravati (APPOA) released a statement saying that the police department is unnecessarily being dragged into religious politics.

“Khaki is our religion, service is our caste…Indian Constitution and laws are Bhagvad Gita, Quran and Bible for us,” said an official.

The police officers association has also pointed out that a politician from a different state was making religious comments on the department, while questioning the leader who brags about 40 years political experience if it is correct to view police from the lens of religion and caste.

They highlighted that Muslim and Christian officers actively participate in the department’s Ayudhapuja ceremonies for Dasara festival.

“Last year, in the battle against coronavirus, 109 policemen died and 1,400 more contracted the infection, all of whom were people from all religions,” added the statement.

Telugu360 is always open for the best and bright journalists. If you are interested in full-time or freelance, email us at Krishna@telugu360.com.

Mainstream journalists falling into social media trap: Andhra govt

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The Andhra Pradesh government’s national media and inter-state affairs advisor, Devulapalli Amar, on Saturday said the mainstream media houses are falling into the trap of social media, resulting in inadvertently spreading false news leading to communal tension in the state.

“These incidents (alleged temple attacks & media reports) have clearly indicated that mainstream media is falling into the trap of social media and inadvertently spreading false news leading to communal tension in the State,” said Amar.

He requested journalists to observe restraint and extreme caution to avoid becoming tools in the hands of vested interests.

“In this context, exercising restraint is extremely important in the current scenario. When the atmosphere is charged and vitiated, rumour mongers will work overtime and rumours will fly thick and fast,” Amar observed.

Amar, a veteran Telugu journalist, said a series of suspicious temple vandalism cases occurred in the southern state in recent months.

He highlighted that almost all these attacks occurred during night time.

“The state government sees a larger conspiracy behind these orchestrated incidents to defame it and stoke religious sentiments in the communally peaceful state,” said Amar.

He said at least five of these alleged desecrations need scrutiny and gave the reasons for a relook.

According to Amar, the alleged desecration of Saraswati temple and idol at Etcherla in Srikakulam and Narsaraopeta in Guntur respectively, happened more than two years ago, hinting that they occurred even before the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) came to power.

“However, unscrupulous elements posted these incidents on social media as if they were fresh incidents. Media, unfortunately, without going into the facts, fell into the trap of social media and rumour mongers,” pointed out the advisor.

Referring to Kalabhairava temple desecration case in Allagadda in Kurnool on September 19, he said a person with the superstitious belief that keeping a part of the idol in his house will enable his wife to conceive had committed the crime. He was later arrested.

Amar referred to the recent Varaha Narasimha Swamy temple arch idols desecration allegations in Prakasam district’s Singarayakonda, and clarified that the arch was constructed in 1999, 2 km away from the actual temple.

“Due to salty weather conditions and wear and tear, the idols on the arch were repaired twice. Two months ago, the hands of an idol became partly loose and the donors were informed about it and they promised to get the work done during Brahmotsavams this year. However, six persons including representatives of a few media houses without verifying the facts helped in spreading false news,” he said.

Among the six, five were journalists belonging to prominent Telugu media houses such as ABN Andhra Jyothi, NTV and HMTV and a couple of local newspapers, all of whom were arrested and locked up for a day for allegedly propagating fake news.

Finally, Amar referred to the Golugonda incident in Visakhapatnam rural, which he said was an old incident where an idol was damaged accidentally.

“Some persons had spread the rumour that the incident happened on January 5. In all these cases, police have managed to identify the culprits of rumour mongering and spreading rumours on social media,” he said.

Amar said the state government has appointed a 16-member Special Investigation Team (SIT), headed by additional director general of police G. V. G. Ashok Kumar to probe the cases and arrest the culprits.

He appealed to the media houses not to publish allegations without verifying the facts.

Telugu360 is always open for the best and bright journalists. If you are interested in full-time or freelance, email us at Krishna@telugu360.com.

AP Govt employees threaten to boycott local polls

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The Government employees and the police associations are reacting strongly against the SEC decision on the local polls. The AP Government employees JAC has threatened to boycott the election if the SEC conducts it unilaterally. The leaders of all these associations are coming out openly making media statements demanding State Election Commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar to withdraw his decision on the February local elections.

Police Officers Association State President Janakula Srinivasa Rao said that there was a grave danger to the police if they were to take part in the election duty at this juncture. Already, 109 policemen had lost their lives after falling victim to the Coronavirus pandemic. Under such disastrous circumstances, it was not correct to endanger the lives of the police.

AP Employees JAC Chairman Bopparaju Venkateswarlu said that the SEC should reconsider and rethink on his decision to hold the elections at this crucial time. The employees would not be able to take part in the election duty under the prevailing dangerous circumstances. It would not be correct to hold elections in a time of vaccination drive.

It is well known that the employees and police associations were openly supporting the Jagan regime from the beginning. But the surprising thing is that they are now attacking even a constitutional institution like the SEC with their political statements.

Telugu360 is always open for the best and bright journalists. If you are interested in full-time or freelance, email us at Krishna@telugu360.com.

War of words as Andhra SEC announces rural local polls schedule

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A controversy has erupted between the Andhra Pradesh government and the State Election Commissioner (SEC) Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar when the latter allegedly unilaterally declared the schedule for conducting the rural local body elections.

On Friday, state Chief Secretary Aditya Nath Das wrote to the SEC that the halted rural local body elections could be resumed once the vaccination programme starts rolling and coronavirus is managed.

“Once this pandemic is tackled with vaccination, the state would agree to any schedule of resumption of the halted local election process. In view of the wellbeing of the people of Andhra Pradesh, the SEC may consider the request of state government,” said Das.

He met the SEC along with other officials to present the state government’s viewpoint. However, the SEC went ahead and declared the election schedule.

A host of ruling YSRCP leaders lashed out at Kumar for the decision at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is still raging and infecting people, including the new second wave emerging with the new strain.

“Everybody knows that Kumar is acting on somebody else’s behest along with a personal motive. What is unfortunate is that he is putting people’s lives at risk,” said Agriculture Minister Kurasala Kannababu.

The Minister alleged that Kumar is behaving in such a way that he wants his agenda to prevail at any cost, disregarding public health.

“At a time when there was no coronavirus effect, he postponed the polls. Now when the state government is highlighting that there is Covid and vaccination… even curfews in some cities, he has still unilaterally declared elections, indicating that he has a personal agenda or somebody else’s influence on him,” Kannababu opined.

He questioned why Kumar did not conduct elections during the previous Telugu Desam Party (TDP) regime.

“You behave in one way when Chandrababu Naidu was in power and another way when Jagan Mohan Reddy is in power,” Kannababu said.

A large number of government employees associations have also told Kumar to reconsider his decision in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

They highlighted that at present, during winter, when a second wave of the pandemic is feared to strike with a new strain, the SEC cannot go ahead with the panchayat elections ignoring the health and well-being of lakhs of families.

Telugu360 is always open for the best and bright journalists. If you are interested in full-time or freelance, email us at Krishna@telugu360.com.

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