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‘Every Andhra Home Will Have High Speed Internet By June’

The Andhra Pradesh chief minister wants his state to be among the top three by 2022, and one of the world’s best destinations by 2050

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As always, Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu was buzzing with ideas at the recent three-day Sunrise Andhra Pradesh Investment Summit in Visakhapatnam. In an exclusive chat with BW Businessworld’s Suman K. Jha, he spoke about his plans for the state. He said he was not aspiring for any role at the national level as he was busy rebuilding the new state. Excerpts:

Today every state is organising an investors’ summit. How different is the Sunrise Andhra Pradesh’s Investment Summit?
Organising a summit is one thing; executing the ideas generated therein is another. Our credibility on this front is at a higher plane from the very beginning. I made Hyderabad one of the best places for the knowledge industry. Here (in the newly-carved Andhra), I have different ideas. Hyderabad developed through an IT base, knowledge economy, and infrastructure. Today (in the new state), I am following coast-led development, which includes ports, etc. Andhra Pradesh is richly endowed with a long coast line. Today everybody is talking — “look east”. I say your “look east” policy begins right here, from Visakhapatnam.

You inherited Andhra in a bad shape. Are you happy with the state of affairs today?
When the state was divided, people here thought there was no future for them — everything was based in Hyderabad. There was a sense of helplessness. Now, there is a new confidence among the people; through my welfare schemes and developmental measures, I am creating a new future for my people. This crisis is an opportunity for me.

During this 18-month period since the creation of the new state, the Government of India has been lending a helping hand; they have to do more in some areas. In the meantime, I am moving forward, and I assure you that Andhra Pradesh will be the best state in the near future.

Although there has been criticism of this, but you say that following an appeal by you the farmers in your state gave 33,000 acres of land to build the new capital city of Amaravathy. What is the larger message?
Land is a pre-requisite for development. As we go about building the new state, we need newer infrastructure projects for which we increasingly need land. As we are doing in the state, we are taking people into confidence, making them partners in the development process, and paying them handsomely (in lieu of the land). It’s only then that they will part with the land to which they are emotionally attached.

In one of your speeches you made an important point — that you lost elections because you did not emphasise welfare measures enough. Is there a larger message for the practitioners of market economy?
People want welfare for all and inclusive growth. In my earlier tenure as chief minister when I vigorously undertook developmental measures, I thought there was a trickle-down effect. In a natural process, however, the trickle-down effect may not happen immediately, as I realised later. So, you have to specially cater to the developmental needs of the people, who need those benefits the most.

You have set targets for your state for 2022, 2029, and 2050. Do you think India, too, should similarly set long-term developmental targets?
Everybody should have well-defined, focused goals. Like in Andhra, we want to be among the top three states by 2022. By 2029, we want to be the number one state not only in terms of prosperity but happiness index too. And by 2050, we are confident that Andhra will be the one of the world’s best destinations.

Who’s a greater reformer — PM Narendra Modi or CM Chandrababu Naidu?
I don’t want to comment on that. Prime Minister Modi is having his own advantages. He is promoting things at the national level; at international level, he has brought pride to the country. I am doing the same at the state level.

Some people say the BJP should make you the convener of the NDA at the Centre. Would you be open to the idea?
I have so many responsibilities in the state; why should I think of all this. I am very happy here. Andhra Pradesh is bigger than Singapore. I am totally involved here, busy building the new state.

You are known for your out-of-the-box thinking. You have done paper-less cabinet meetings. You are bringing e-pragati to your state. What is the current flavour of governance in your state?
In our state, everything would be online in one and a half years. You name the innovation available, I will use it. All the beneficiaries (of government schemes) would be online. On the Internet, I can address millions of people — both via video and audio. Mobile phones can also be used to access this. By June, I will provide 10-15 mbps bandwidth in every home (in the state). Every TV will be Internet enabled. This will revolutionise communication. The people can also access content on demand.

What’s the biggest challenge facing India today?
The demographic dividend is a great boon for India, and we should build on this advantage for another three decades. As people become more developed, they, however, also become more selfish, and have fewer children. This is what happened in many parts of the world, which are facing stagnation. This should not happen in India. On another front, India is richly endowed, for instance, in natural resources. Talking of meeting challenges, India needs more leaders and entrepreneurs today.

[email protected]; @skjsumankjha

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 25-01-2016)