By Mohammed Shafeeq, Hyderabad, Aug 14 IANS | 4 months ago

Telangana will be shut on Aug 19. No, this time no political party or student group has called a shutdown.

It is the government of the newly-created state which has declared a holiday to enable people to remain home and participate in the intensive household survey aimed at ascertaining the socio-economic conditions of about 40 million people to identify genuine beneficiaries of welfare schemes.

About 400,000 government employees will collect data from 8.4 million households in all 10 districts, including Hyderabad.

In what is billed as the largest exercise ever undertaken by any state in a single day, the enumerators will go to every house to collect information like names, educational qualifications, social status, income, property and other particulars.

Citing lack of comprehensive and authentic data, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government is embarking on the gigantic exercise, notwithstanding the controversy it has triggered.

Leaders from neighboring Andhra Pradesh claim that the survey is designed to exclude hundreds of thousands of people from Andhra Pradesh settled in Hyderabad or other parts of Telangana. The Andhra Pradesh government is planning to challenge the survey in the Supreme Court.

Ravela Kishore, an Andhra Pradesh minister, has termed the survey "regional terrorism".

"It is aimed at singling out some people. This is nothing short of regional terrorism," he said.

Various forms of the questionnaire meant for the survey in Hyderabad are doing the rounds. According to one version, residents will be asked about their nativity and the year they came to Hyderabad.

The Telangana government has already decided not to reimburse fees of students not belonging to the state. Under a new scheme announced by it, only those students will get benefits whose parents were residents of what is now Telangana as on Nov 1, 1956.

The TRS government says that the survey is different from the financial assistance scheme for students. It has denied that the survey is meant to target any section. It even uploaded a survey form on its website to show that there is no nativity clause in it.

The government has appealed to people to participate in the survey, saying those who don't will be deprived of the benefits of welfare schemes.

"If you want to avail of government schemes and if you want to be counted as one of the citizens of this state, you would be better off participating rather than not participating," Telangana Information Technology and Panchayat Raj minister K. Tarakarama Rao said.

The son of Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, he told IANS that people working in other parts of the country are also coming home to participate in the survey. He believed that a lot of people employed in Gulf countries are looking to come for the survey.

"For those who are still left out we will decide at a later date what to do," said the minister.

"I guarantee you one thing. It is not being done with any ill motive. This is being done merely to plan better, to execute better and to ensure that the downtrodden in society get the benefits from the government," said KTR, as the minister is popularly known.

Stressing on the need to weed out bogus beneficiaries for better use of the state exchequer, the young minister questioned the policies adopted by successive governments. "We are trying to find a way out of the mess that has been created," he said

"For 84 lakh (8.4 million) households in Telangana, there are 1.07 crore (10.7 million) ration cards. Successive governments claim to have built more than 55 lakh (5.5 million) houses in 20 years. These are astounding numbers. We are talking about thousands of crores of rupees.

"My question is: If you built 55 lakh houses, is there is a need to construct new houses? During 'Our village our planning' programme recently we received a huge number of applications once again for ration cards and houses. That is why we are bewildered," KTR added.

The survey is being taken up across the state in a single day to avoid duplication as many people have two votes and two, three or four ration cards.

The TRS government claims that the survey has already started yielding results with people surrendering 600,000 bogus ration cards.

"One message that goes out loud and clear is that the government is serious. By virtue of getting six lakh ration cards surrendered we are going to save ration to 29 lakh (2.9 million) people. Those hundreds of crores can be spent elsewhere for better use," KTR explained.

(Mohammed Shafeeq can be contacted at m.shafeeq@ians.in)

(Posted on 14-08-2014)

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