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Andhra village with a bloody past is now on the path of peace

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By Mohammed Shafeeq

Kappatralla, Andhra Pradesh: The village in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh, which was once a symbol of bloody factional violence in the Rayalaseema region is now on the path of transformation. Thanks to the initiative of Superintendent of Police A. Ravi Krishna, who has adopted the village, peace prevails and the families who were once at each other’s throats, have realized the futility of violence.

Going beyond the work often seen in such villages, Ravi Krishna has brought about a perceptible change by enabling the younger generation of the most dreaded factionists embark on a new journey of peace and development.

Focussing on education and infrastructure, Ravi Krishna bonded the community together, something never witnessed in five decades in this village, located in Devanakonda mandal, 50 km from Kurnool town.

In a village where government officers once feared to enter, he would stay overnight, visiting every household to understand problems and attempting to address them by coordinating with other departments and roping in NGOs, philanthropists and corporate bodies.

In one year, he brought about a visible change, as is evident from the high school building constructed at a cost of Rs.16 lakh, a project that had been pending for 13 years.

The young Indian Police Service (IPS) officer has even purchased a piece of land in this village of 5,000 people to construct a house so that he can come and stay with the villagers at least once in six months, even after he is transferred.

A blacktop road was laid connecting the village, which lies off the Kurnool-Bellary highway. Villagers say it was deliberately kept in a pathetic condition for decades as Palegar Venkatappa Naidu, the most dreaded factional leader in the region, feared a threat from his rivals coming from outside.

After escaping about a dozen attacks, Venkatappa Naidu met a gory end in 2008 when his rivals killed him in the most brutal fashion, a characteristic feature of the factional violence.

The killers rammed an empty truck at high speed into the vehicle in which he, along with 10 others, were travelling. Leaving nothing to chance, bombs were hurled and the bodies hacked with sickles.

In 2014, 21 accused in Venkatappa’s murder case were convicted by a court and sentenced to life imprisonment .The 63-year-old factionist was involved in feuds which claimed 200 lives in Kappatralla and surrounding villages.

It all began in 1969, when Venkatappa removed Varam Kistappa as the sarpanch. A bloody fight began between two families which claimed lives of their members and followers. The feud inspired many Telugu movies on faction violence.

Today, Venkatappa’s house is deserted while a stone’s throw away the house of his rival, Maddiletty Naidu, is locked as he is in jail. A few yards away is the panchayat office, which was turned into a police outpost and at any given time, there would be at least 70 armed policemen to prevent clashes between the two groups.

The families of the followers of the warring factions and those sentenced in various cases are suffering as they lost their sole breadwinners, the majority of them in their 20s and 30s.

Today, the children of the victims and the accused share benches in the school.

“Our family is facing difficult times,” says Mallika, daughter of Chinna Lalappa, who was sentenced to life in the Venkatappa murder case.

Eldest among four sisters and a brother, this Class 8 student dreams of becoming an IPS officer. The family is surviving on meagre earnings of Lalappa’s father and brother, both small farmers.

K. Rasheed, a Class 10 student, said his father K. Abdul Rehman used to work for Venkatappa’s faction and got a life sentence for killing a member of a rival faction. His younger brother is in Class 9 and their mother, an agriculture labourer, is fighting against all odds to educate them. Rasheed, a school topper, wants to become a scientist.

Revenge ran through generations to keep factional feuds alive since early 1970s. “The revenge feeling is no longer there. I told them that they have to stop this because both sides will be losers. No one wins in this faction fight,” Ravi Krishna told IANS.

Though no major incident occurred after 2008, the villagers lived in fear. The officer’s efforts are yielding results. School enrollment has increased and the dropout rate, which was as high as 50 percent is down to zero.

This year, Ravi Krishna persuaded the families of agriculture labourers who migrate in search of work to leave behind their children so that their education is not affected. He even ensured that a seasonal hostel is set up in the village for such children.

“Education is my passion. I believe that when a society is educated, crime comes down,” said the young officer, who has set a goal of producing an IPS officer from the village in six to seven years.

The officer, who sent 30 youths for training as police constables, is also conducting job fairs for youth, has formed women’s self-help groups and a society of farmers. He has also persuaded a leading bank of the district to open a branch in the village.

He is now motivating police officers in other villages to adopt schools, especially in 77 villages of the district affected by the factional violence.

The Rayalaseema region comprising Anantapur, Kadapa, Chittoor and Kurnool is notorious for factional violence, which claimed over 500 lives in the last 15 years. Factions backed by the ruling TDP or Congress have been fighting for supremacy in the villages. (IANS)

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How telecom has become driver of economic change in India

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The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front.
The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. Wikimedia Commons
  • India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution
  • The sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991
  • India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world

For the most part of human history, the change was glacial in pace. It was quite safe to assume that the world at the time of your death would look pretty much similar to the one at the time of your birth. That is no longer the case, and the pace of change seems to be growing exponentially. Futurist Ray Kurzweil put it succinctly when he wrote in 2001: “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).” Since the time of his writing, a lot has changed, especially with the advent of the internet.

India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution. The country’s hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. In fact, according to Reserve Bank of India data, the sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991, growing by over 10 percent. On the other hand, no other sector has had a productivity growth of above five percent during the same period. It is no wonder that it has also been one of the fastest-growing sectors of the Indian economy, growing at over seven percent in the last decade itself.

Also Read: Social Media in India: Understanding The Dynamics of ‘Facebook’ and ‘Twitter’

Such an unprecedented pace of growth has been brought about the precise levels of change that Kurzweil was so enthusiastic about. Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Meanwhile, India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world, which has hit rock bottom after the entry of Reliance Jio. This has ensured access to those even at the bottom of the pyramid.

A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country.
A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. Wikimedia Commons

Even though consumers have come to be accustomed to fast-paced changes within the telecom sector, the entry of Jio altered the face of the industry like never before by changing the very basis of competition. Data became the focal point of competition for an industry that derived over 75 percent of its revenue from voice. It was quite obvious that there would be immediate economic effects due to it. Now that we’re nearing a year of Jio’s paid operations, during which time it has even become profitable, we saw it fit to quantify its socio-economic impact on the country. Three broad takeaways need to be highlighted.

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First, the most evident effect has been the rise in affordability of calling and data services. Voice services have become practically costless while data prices have dropped from an average of Rs 152 per GB to lower than Rs 10 per GB. Such a drastic reduction in data prices has not only brought the internet within the reach of a larger proportion of the Indian population but has also allowed newer segments of society to use and experience it for the first time. Since the monthly saving of an average internet user came out to be Rs 142 per month (taking a conservative estimate that the consumer is still using 1 GB of data each month) and there are about 350 million mobile internet users in the country (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India data), the yearly financial savings for the entire country comes out to be Rs 60,000 crore.

To put things in perspective, this amount is more than four times the entire GDP of Bhutan. Therefore, mere savings by the consumer on data has been at astonishing proportions.

Today's smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons
Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons

Now, this data has been used for services that have brought to life a thriving app economy within the country. So, the second level of impact has been in the redressal of a variety of consumer needs — ranging from education, health and entertainment to banking. For instance, students in remote areas can now access online courseware and small businesses can access newer markets. Information asymmetry has been considerably reduced.

Third, a rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. These effects arise not merely from the creation of an internet economy, but also due to the synergy effects it generates. Information becomes more accessible and communication a lot easier. Businesses find it easier to operate and access consumers. Labour working in cities has to make less frequent trips home and becomes more productive as a result. Education and health services become available in inaccessible locations. Multiple avenues open up for knowledge and skill enhancement.

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An econometric analysis for the Indian economy showed that the 15 percent increase in internet penetration due to Jio and the spill-over effects it creates will raise the per capita levels of the country’s GDP by 5.85 percent, provided all else remains constant.

Thus, India’s telecom sector will continue to drive the economy forward, at least in the short run, and hopefully catapult India into 20,000 years of progress within this century, as Kurzweil postulated. The best approach for the state would be to ensure the environment of unfettered competition within the industry. Maybe other sectors of the economy ought to take a leaf out of the telecom growth story. The Indian banking sector comes to mind. However, that is a topic for another day. (IANS)

(Amit Kapoor is Chair, Institute for Competitiveness, India. He can be contacted at Amit. Kapoor@competitiveness.in and tweets @kautiliya. Chirag Yadav, a senior researcher at the institute, has contributed to the article.)