There may be a dispute whether Telangana is more developed than Rayalaseema or vice versa. But whatever be the consensus on this one, the fact is that Rayalaseema is less developed than Telangana if we take into account that Hyderabad is in the latter region. “Leave out the comparison with Telangana , but there is no doubt that Rayalaseema is woefully in need of development,” says V Venkataramana, dean of the management, University of Hyderabad.
There is no water in Rayalaseema, there are no industries in the region and to cap it all not even a single big city or a port, point out analysts. As a consequence, agriculture is low yielding and there are no job opportunities. This is one of the reasons why factionalism became the dominant feature of the area. “If there are limited resources then people will fight for whatever there is. And they will use whatever means in this fight,” says C Ramachandraiah, professor at the Centre for Economic and Social Studies (CESS).
What compounds Rayalaseema’s problems is that it is relatively a small region: four districts make up for the region – Anantapur, Kadapa, Kurnool and Chittoor. Once upon a time, Bellary was also part of Rayalaseema but now it is part of Karnataka. A prosperous thickly forested region that was under the Vijayanagar kings, it fell upon bad days after the decline of the empire. Gradually, the thick forests were cut down and the tanks that provided water for cultivation fell into disuse with no maintenance. Over the years, the region came under the rule of the Nizams. But it was later ceded to the English as part of a treaty. The benefit of the English rule was mainly felt in coastal Andhra. The Rayalaseema districts were left out.
All the districts of Rayalaseema are not uniform in development. Anantapur is the least developed district. It is absolutely barren with no agriculture and no industry. Mining is prevalent in Kadapa and Anantapur but the experience is unsavoury. Anantapur is very close to Bangalore, the new airport perhaps 100 km from the border. “This is an opportunity. Anantapur could live off the resources of Bangalore. A software city should be set up close to the border. It will attract investments,” says Srikant Reddy, an IT entrepreneur and a TDP politician. Concurs Venkataramana: “Anantapur should be promoted as a spoke for the hub that would be Bangalore. It will succeed very well,” he says. Old timers recall this model, precisely that Chandrababu Naidu had in mind when he started wooing investments by aggressively pitching for them in Bangalore at the turn of the century. The model was flawless but for some reason it did not succeed. Possibly the reason was that the government did not set up the infrastructure for establishing a city. “A forward looking city with soft infrastructure would have been a boon,” says an analyst.
If there is Anantapur that is in the Bangalore zone, then there is Chittoor that is in the Chennai zone. “The main city Tirupati is not too far from Chennai and even lesser from Sriperambudur. What is more, there is a close connection of the temple in Tirumala with denizens of Chennai. Tirupati can be developed as a main centre for industrial development with investments in sectors like automobiles, “says Srikant Reddy. Tirupati is already a region that attracts a lot of tourists because of Lord Balaji’s temple. Tourism can be promoted in a more systematic way to boost the economy, analysts point out.
However, the region’s economy could be boosted further if it had a port. This is not possible because Rayalaseema is landlocked. But many in Rayalaseema want the coastal Nellore district to be categorized as being part of the region.
Analysts like Ramachandraiah however say that industry can only develop if water supply in Rayalaseema is augmented. “One way of doing it is to renovate old tanks systematically. Most of these have fallen into disuse and they should be recharged,” says Ramachandraiah. Small irrigation projects to benefit farmers have also to be put in place. “Urbanisation is very poor in Rayalaseema. There is a need to create more towns in the region. May be 15 -20 new towns like Nandyal, Renikunta and other small places that have a potential,” Ramachandraiah adds.
Other analysts point out that urbanization being poor in Rayalaseema can be seen from the example of Kurnool. The capital of Andhra state between 1953-56, the city is still laggard and perhaps not bigger than a 10 lakh city. “Other than Bangalore and Chennai, Hyderabad also acts as a magnet for the Rayalaseema region pulling people from there. Consequently, the pressure on Hyderabad has been increasing with no benefit to the Rayalaseema region,” an analyst says.
Geographer Anant Maringanti says that the pull from these three cities can only be neutralised by setting up first class educational facilities in the region. This would create quality human resources and allow establishment of industries requiring skilled labour. “This is the only hope for the region,” Maringanti points out. TOI