The Secretariat has been one of the pet projects of the Telangana CM since 2014.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) MPs that soon he would issue orders for transferring around 150 acre of prime land belonging to the Ministry of Defence’s in Secunderabad for construction of a brand new Secretariat. This Secretariat is one of the pet projects of Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) since 2014.
As many as 20 TRS MPs led by their leader K. Keshav Rao called on Modi at his office in Parliament on Friday noon and handed over a list of demands on behalf of the CM. The meeting lasted about 30 minutes and the PM appeared cordial to their wish list and promised them that he would personally sort out matters and ensure orders were issued “very soon”.
The meeting comes a day after the party’s support to the ruling NDA’s candidate for the post of Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha. The party has six Rajya Sabha MPs and 14 Lok Sabha MPs, including the three defected to it from other parties. KCR had met Modi last Saturday and the election schedule was issued only after that.
Much to KCR’s relief, the Centre is considerate towards most of his wish list since the Budget session of Parliament this year. The CM called on the PM twice during the time and in between, the CM’s son IT minister K.T. Rama Rao met the PM once. TRS leader in Lok Sabha Jithender Reddy told The Sunday Guardian from Delhi that they were satisfied with the PM’s response.
Among 11 issues on KCR’s wish list, the demand for transfer of Bison Polo Grounds to the state for building a new Secretariat is crucial. KCR plans to construct this Secretariat as he decided to abandon the existing one in Hyderabad on the ground of “bad Vaastu”.
The CM hasn’t been visiting the present Secretariat as it was found to be inauspicious for him. In the last four years, he may have gone there for less than a dozen times and completely avoided after building a spacious Pragathi Bhavan, office-cum-residence at Begumpet. All Cabinet meetings and official reviews are now held at Pragathi Bhavan.
The Telangana government’s request for the Bison Polo Grounds land was initially resisted by the Ministry of Defence on the ground that it was a prime land at the centre of the city. However, previous defence ministers Arun Jaitley and Manohar Parrikar agreed to the request and set up a high-level committee to frame a deal.
As per a deal finalised a year ago, the ministry would give up the land and the state government would give another 595 acre in lieu of it at Jawahar Nagar, a non-prime land in Secunderabad, along with a cash component of Rs 95 crore. The Telangana government agreed to the conditions and readied the money too.
However, after Nirmala Sitharaman became Defence Minister in September 2017, the committee revised its order and insisted on payment of Rs 35 crore per annum as the Polo Grounds fetches as rent. This was opposed by the state on the ground that the ministry would anyway get rents on the buildings to be raised on the Jawahar Nagar land.
When the TRS MPs brought this issue to the notice of the PM, they also pointed out that Sitharaman had readily agreed to transfer around 210 acre of the Defence land near Bangalore to the Karnataka government recently without similar complex conditions. They submitted to the PM the letters of the high-level committee before Sitharaman took over the ministry.
Another item which got the PM’s nod on Friday was the Centre’s approval of creation of new zonal system in Telangana for the purpose of deciding local status of students and government employees. Under the new system, Telangana is divided into 31 districts comprising seven zones and two multi-level zones so that 95% of the jobs go to the local people.
When Telangana was part of united Andhra Pradesh, there were two zones and Hyderabad city was kept a free zone for all. This has led to agitations from locals on the ground that most of the jobs were cornered by people from Andhra region. Creation of seven zones was one of the major demands of government employees of Telangana.
The PM promised the MPs to get Presidential assent to the new zonal system of Telangana. The other demands include grant of national status to Kaleswaram irrigation project across Godavari river. The TRS MPs reminded the PM that if Andhra was given the national status to Polavaram project on the same river, Telangana too should get one.
The issue assumes significance as only on Friday, Union Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari told the Lok Sabha that the Centre won’t give national status to any other irrigation project, and that Polavaram was the last on the list. Grant of national status ensures 100% refund of the funds spent on the project by the Centre to the state.
The PM hasn’t given any assurance on this, but he might consider releasing some additional funds to the state under the existing schemes. A multipurpose irrigation project—Pranahita-Chevella—on Godavari was designed at Rs 18,000 crore in 2008 at Tammidihatti. But, KCR after coming to power in 2014, re-designed it and took up at Rs 80,000 crore at Kaleswaram.