Sambi Reddy Bontu leads the team that does groundwork for the development of Kukatpally constituency to assist MLA Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan. He was interviewed by Sundeep Pattem on January 23, 2011. Sambi Reddy can be reached via phone (+91 – 9441051844) , email or Facebook. For more information on LSP Kukatpally, see the website and this report.
Sundeep: Hello Sambi Reddy garu. I’m happy to be speaking with you today.
Sambi Reddy: Hi Sundeep garu. Thank you for calling. Can I ask what the aim of this interview is?
Sundeep: What we see today is that LSP supporters are wondering: “What is JP doing in Kukatpally?”, while opponents are sneering: “JP is not doing anything in Kukatpally.” Some residents are also complaining about it. So this interview is for getting a better understanding of the reality from someone like you, since you work there every day and lead the team that does the groundwork for Dr JP in Kukatpally.
Sambi Reddy: Good. Yes, that is good. We are realizing that even if the work is being done, regular communication is very important. We are now sending out SMS updates about the work being done to residents. For example, earlier, my building owner would not listen when I tried to explain our work to him. When we started sending SMS, he was showing it back to me – “See, this work is happening in our own colony!”
Sundeep: Very interesting. We will talk more about it in a bit. To begin with, can you share how you got interested in politics and social work? Who are your role models?
Sambi Reddy: I was a class leader for several years in school, right from 4th class. Even at that age, there are some issues to be managed, right? During college years, I took leadership in students issues and had a good network and contacts. The interest in wider politics got strengthened by reading newspaper articles by Dr JP. In a meeting, he made a strong argument for how service towards making a change was possible if we come into politics. I was influenced by it.
I haven’t thought much about role models, but was inspired by Gandhiji and Sardar Patel, especially his role in uniting India. Dr JP obviously. At one point, I was impressed with Chandrababu Naidu and his vision for development in some aspects such as computerization of services.
Sundeep: Please tell us about your association with Lok Satta.
Sambi Reddy: I started after the party was established and have been there since 3.5 years, but full time for the last 2 years. Before the Assembly elections in 2009, I went for the door to door campaign, putting up posters etc. In this campaign, an old person invited me into his house, gave me a chair, tea and treated with great respect. He said that he was not able do anything at this age, but he supported the kind of work Dr JP had initiated and was encouraging the participation of youth. People in slums spoke about the injustice in current political system. All this made an impact on me and from then on, I started working more on these lines.
During the elections, I was made an area incharge. After the elections, we went to the slums in Chendha nagar (in Sherlingampally) slums and talked to the people and listed the issues and problems faced by them, such as water, drainage, street lights, pensions, ration shops, electricity. Everyday from 5pm to 8pm we went and in this way covered all the slums. The people would gather around us and from these interactions, we got the confidence to do something in the slums. Initially, we arranged training programmes and tuitions in collaboration with an NGO. We could stop corruption and bribes up to Rs. 9000 in the matter of water connections by distributing pamphlets and starting a movement. Also, in one area they were charging 5000 for gas connections, we could get them given for Rs. 2200. Once we were seen doing this work, we were able to attract 2-3 volunteers from each colony. They then worked as booth agents during elections. This way Lok Satta’s name went out. However, even though we got cadre and admirers, they did not vote for us. This was one of the main lessons we learned at that time – people lived in fear of local leaders since the situation is that they need their help and influence for every little thing. We understood the importance of providing alternate leadership. For a while, I worked as the incharge of development activities of LSP for whole of Sherlingampally constituency. After that, since the party was getting negative feedback from public about lack of ground level activity in Kukatpally, I, along with some team members, decided to move and work there.
Sundeep: You are playing a leading role in the team that does the ground work in Kukatpally. Please tell us about how the team functions.
Sambi Reddy: When we came here, we sat down and had several discussions. We decided early on that we would focus purely on developmental activity. JP garu suggested that we take up issues, one by one, and on each one do an in-depth study to get to the root of the problem and then think about solutions. The complete report would then be presented to Dr. JP for his consideration.
So in this way, first we took up survey of schools. For the 46 schools surveyed, we came up with a Rs. 5.16 crores project proposal. Last year 8 classrooms were sanctioned, but after our survey, 60 classrooms were sanctioned and are close to being completed. 79 toilets and lavatories were also sanctioned and close to completion. We were able to restart the mid day meal for school children by working with the NGO named Naandi Foundation. We arranged for tuitions for students in evening times, with a Rs. 3 lakhs donation from a sponsor. In this way, we were able to do some good programs in schools since we had the complete picture from the information collected, its all available on www.kukatpallynow.com.
When we asked the Revenue Department for more lands for schools, they said there were no empty lands. Our team sat and thought about this. We realized that in 2004, the information about all lands was made available online. When we pulled up the Balnagar area map, there was 2300 acres of barren land in 2004, we don’t know where it went. We will discuss the report with JP and fight it.
Coming to ration shops, we have a total of 86 shops. We did a survey and evaluated them on 46 parameters like when it should be opened etc. To see how the public are struggling, we went to a shop in Moosapet, we found people standing in line at 3am. When we asked why and for what, they said that ration was being given out only one day in the week. We stayed there till 7am and called the civil suppliers dealers and demanded the rations be given right away. Four of the dealers came and threatened us. Still,we did not budge from there until they opened the shop and gave rations. We felt some satisfaction, the people also got some confidence in us. Next, Dr. JP came along with District and Area Civil Supplies officers and strictly told them that action be taken on dealers if the following were not done: (1) every month the shop should be open for at least 7 days, (2) the details allotment to the area be notified and (3) timings be displayed at each shop.
Soon after this I was made a Food Advisory Committee member for Rangareddy district. For the whole district, the committee looks into what are the rates, problems in ration shops, consumer issues. They only appointed after we asked – the GO came in 2006, but no one was appointed. When I was called to the meeting with dealers, they complained that we were disturbing them! But because of our detailed survey, the DSO overruled their objections. After that, in Moosapet area, the situation has improved. If not 100%, at least 70% improvement is there and has to be taken forward. For the first time, smart cards were introduced, we got the ASO changed for better, addressed bulk immigration of 380 ration card holders to Balaji Nagar, 65 AAY cards were given to people afflicted with Leprosy in Parvath Nagar. We gave my phone number to people to call with any problems. Initially a lot of calls came, but now not so many because of the improvement.
Like this, on every major issue and in every division, we have conducted surveys. The solutions to problems are based on these. There is a definite impact. For instance, when the Commissioner took up sewage works, the cost could be reduced by 30% because of our findings.
Sundeep: What difference has Dr JP made as MLA of Kukatpally? What has LSP been able to achieve there?
Sambi Reddy: I will speak on the achievements specific to a few categories.
Let’s begin with drinking water. Earlier, Kukatpally was only getting 8 MGD (million gallons per day) for 64,000 connections. With the efforts of Dr JP, it is now increased to 14 MGD. The official allocation is 20MGD. Dr JP has been fighting for Krishna phase III, to get more water not only for Kukatpally but for whole of Hyderabad. He has been arguing in the assembly that the more expensive and less effective Godavari (Rs 3500 crores) project be stopped and Krishna Phase III (Rs. 600 crores) be implemented. Finally, the Chief Minister has announced in favor of Krishna. This is fully our victory.
There was a bad problem of drinking water pollution. The cement pipes are laid in such a manner that the drainage pipe is on top and the drinking water pipe is below. Drainage water was seeping in and polluting drinking water.To prevent this, Dr JP initiated a project and allocated MLA funds of 25 lakhs; 25 lakhs were allocated by the Water Department, and Rs. 30 lakhs raised from other sources. In Moosapet (Rs. 70 lakhs) and Hasmathpet areas(Rs. 1.2 crores), a water project started in 2005 was not completed, work had completely stopped. It was taken up by us and completed at a cost of Rs. 1.9 crores . Rs. 7 crores have been allocated to laying new lines and performing repairs and maintenance of existing ones. Many problems have been inherited. If the earlier MLAs had been doing their job, many of these problems would not have been there.
Coming to traffic, there are two 2 main points of traffic congestion: KPHB area and Balnagar.
In KPHB, the road was built for 600 vehicles per hour, now the rate is 3000 vehicles per hour. For road widening, Rs. 40 crores have been sanctioned. Since Hitec city is the main source of traffic, four new roads connected to Hi-Tech city have been sanctioned. Moosapet to Malaysian township, Ivel cheruvu to Malaysian township, Hitec city to Erragadda, Hitec city to Malaysian township. When these projects are completed in 1-1.5 years, traffic will come under control. In the meantime, we are looking into immediate solutions. Roads can be widened to run under high-tension wires. The current road usage is 9% while in other countries it is up to 18%. The reason is that the average speed only 18kmph, this needs be to increased by improved and widened roads.
There was a project pending since 10 years, from Balnagar to Begumpet. When we took it up, they challenged us that it cannot be done. Dr. JP asked for 1-1.5 years. It is now underway, progressing well, and will be completed in 6 months time. Another road to Balkampet is nearing completion. A new flyover from Balnagar to HAL has been proposed, once it is finished the traffic will come under control. For several other junctions, projects worth 1.5 crores have been proposed. The solutions are similar to the one implemented successfully for Ameerpet junction. Also, direction boards were prepared, traffic signals were installed etc. Continuous followup by the team is leading to results, one by one. Also, some of the works we initiate are being extended by GHMC to all over – they did with Rs. 25 crores for whole GHMC area.
Regarding health, the regulations are that per 30,000 persons, there should be one Public Health Center (PHC), and for every 1,00,000 persons one area government hospital. With 7,00,000 population in Kukatpally, there is only one PHC, one urban health center, 19 subcenters, and government hospital is not even there. The full report was submitted to Dr. JP. Based on our recommendations, the authorities agreed to convert one UHC converted to PHC and extended a program we asked for school children in government schools statewide. We also asked for permanent buildings for subcenters – currently government gives Rs. 250 per month as rent for subcenters, how will that work? In Moosapet, by partnering with a NGO, we made medicines available at a very low price, Rs. 20 for dengue fever.
Next, we have the municipal circle works. For this, Rs. 100 crores have been sanctioned since Dr. JP came. Rs. 65 crores have already been spent – for roads, community halls, parks, CC roads, BT roads, footpaths, dividers, and so on. This is a brief on the tremendous amount of work, the details for all these projects and tenders can be seen on the website.
Coming to electricity, to address the low voltage and fluctuation problems, 4 new substations have been proposed, with cost of Rs. 3 crores per each – Khaitalapur to Moosapet, JNTU to KPHB, Metro to KP, Balanagar to Fatehnagar. In next one year, when these projects are completed, electricity problems in the constituency will be solved. In the mean time, for immediate impact, extension of 132 KV line from IDPL to KPHB and Vijayanagar colony substations has been undertaken with cost of Rs. 17 crores and is nearing completion by next month.
We address the needs of low income groups in several ways.
Pensions have been sanctioned for 2500 persons – old people, widows etc. Sanitation workers who had salaries of Rs. 4030 per month were getting only Rs. 1500 because middlemen were knocking back the rest. Dr. JP announced that this cannot continue and action must be taken. Since the officials receive bribes, they were not supporting. We went to the banks ourselves and opened accounts for 1500 people. They are very happy, and say that it happened only because of us. Through several job melas held in our party office, employment was created for 800 youths. No MLA would even think of doing this directly. Several other trainings for self-employment were arranged in the divisions. We create awareness of the government beneficiary schemes, help those who actually qualify get the benefit – this involves a lot of effort. In this way, we could touch the lower income class.
Since we are continuing these efforts in the 56 slums, in 3-4 years, the people will know us very well and the chances are high that they will support us politically as well.
Coming to Revenue department, in 2008 a GO was issued for giving scholarships to students of Turupu Kapu caste from Vizianagaram and Vishakapatnam districts. Some of them came to us saying that there were 500 of them not getting scholarships or jobs. We asked for 3 days to get it done. Next day called MRO, he said ask DRO, DRO said software department, they said ask Chief Commissioner. When we persisted, the finally the order was given and I was shocked to see what was missing: Adding a single column in a table had been pending for 2 years. When we finally got it done, the happiness on the faces of the youth outside was worth seeing.
In the MRO office, low income students come for income certificates. Though the Government issued order for immediate issue of these certificates, the students were paying Rs. 2000 or so to the brokers. After talking to students, we asked them to call with problems and when they did, we setup a help desk. The brokers were not selling the stamps anymore to stop our work. When we complained they got a warning from the MRO, and also once we started providing the stamps ourselves, they compromised and came back to do their business. For some students, we even got back the amount they had paid to brokers earlier. We could do this for some time. If we maintain help desk and increase awareness, there is scope for lot of impact in helping citizens change the system for the better.
Next, we have 14 lakes. To prevent encroachment, the MRO built three new walls which were pulled down. Dr JP thought about this and came up with a solution at the state level. A Lakes Protection Committee was constituted. Now, major land grabbing has been stopped, at a small level it is still going on.
On housing, we could get urban housing for 50 people. In slums on notary lands, since some people have lived there for 30-40 years, by law, the government has to give them the land. There are 13,800 such people and we are working on this issue. If we can help them get regularized, it will be a good effort.
Farmers market: In Kukatpally, there are two markets, one in Bharatnagar area and another in JNTU. In JNTU market, a lot of corruption was happening. We went many times to understand the situation. There are 30 shops, the officials collude in corruption, decide prices, only allow those who pay money. After our survey, Dr JP proposed changes including a multi-storeyed building to prevent corruption. The non-vegetarian market is going to be shifted to another place. In Bharatnagar area, the vegetable market is running for 50 years but not recognized by Government. We are working on this.
This is a round up of all our activities.
Sundeep: Quite eye-opening. Very impressive work by your team and Dr. JP in Kukatpally. When we talk about change, you are the ones actually doing the work it takes. It should be known more widely.
Sambi Reddy: I am ready to speak to any supporter. Other parties do little and make a lot of noise. Our supporters should be able to speak about genuine activities. Especially in Parvatnagar area and Motinagar division, a lot of work has been done since Dr JP came. Manjira constructions, which is owned by a relative of CM Rosayya, was guilty of encroachments. After we did a dharna to protest this, Dr JP visited and asked them to clear up. Similarly, we did a dharna when Srujana Constructions built a wall that collapsed. Dr JP visited and asked for imposition of fine of Rs. 3 lakhs. Other builders like Manasa Sarovar were also fined in a similar way. Dr JP advises us to go slow and steady. This is excellent work, we have talk about it.
There are other things that I have not mentioned. For instance, we were able to close down 17 belt shops in our constituency. I don’t think so many were closed anywhere else. Right now, only two are open in Moosapet area. We have challenged the public – if 10 people come to fight, we will close any belt shop. In places where people have come, we were able to do it. If the local people come, we can do it, otherwise we cannot. We tell them – if you have a problem, you also have to fight.
I am ready to talk to our supporters about the work here, anytime in the mornings and evenings. Actually we have a human resources problem with respect to communication and drawing attention to the good work being done. Overall , Rs. 460 crores have been sanctioned and Rs. 100 crores have been spent. The rest, Rs. 360 crores, are for works in progress. I have been a bit lazy in writing about these and publicizing via various media, but will look to change that. (Sambi Reddy has since become active on Facebook, posting regular updates on work in Kukatpally – Sundeep)
Sundeep: What are the challenges your team is facing?
Sambi Reddy: We need about 100 people to be involved, say 10 per division. Even if only one or two of us do this full time, the others have to be involved part-time and follow up with the issues, take up the problems in their area: bad roads, manholes, development etc. For example, in my colony, when the underground pipes were laid, the road was not repaired. According to Section 412, the GHMC water division must be fined Rs. 10000. For manhole covers, they say it will cost Rs. 2 lakhs per division, we don’t where and what they will put. I asked for the list of locations where they will be laid down. Like this, everywhere someone has to follow up. The problem is we don’t have enough human resources. Azeez has the same problem with Sanjeevani activities, not enough people. Youth are crucial. When JP got elected, many people came, but slowly drifted away again. Building organizational strength is crucial.
Sundeep: How many people are working regularly in your team now?
Sambi Reddy: People who work on a continuous basis, lets say there are 15 of us, two to three per division. Up to 30 people come when we call for specific activity. We have to find ways of attracting them.
Sundeep: Do you have thoughts on how to grow the team?
Sambi Reddy: I have two things in mind:
1. Via publicity in the form of press releases, by distributing pamphlets, calling people to help in these works. If we create some buzz, interested youth will join.
2. Another way is to have awareness meetings in each area.
I welcome more ideas and help for doing this.
Sundeep: Supporters all over, also abroad in PFL, are anxious to help, highlight the work in Kukatpally. How can they do it? Any needs in terms of funding?
Sambi Reddy: Dr JP has allotted Rs. 40000, his whole salary, per month to run the party office and activities. Party expenses come to Rs. 30,000. The website was funded by Siddhartha and other supporters.
With respect to funding, we don’t want to receive without clarity about the purpose. If they can fund for particular items: publicity pamphlets, meeting arrangements etc, that will be good. It has to be based on what is the need and what is the result expected. If people can provide support for these, it will help. I don’t think it is good to take the money without this kind of clarity and invite doubts.
More importantly, we would like to ask all supporters and friends to urge those who they know in Kukatpally to work with us, encourage their friends in Kukatpally to get involved with the local issues. They can always call me.
Sundeep: We already have some traction with the educated and white collar people. Since the lower income people actually decide the elections now and also since it is our duty and agenda to address their problems, how should we reach out to them? How to grow party at grassroots level?
Sambi Reddy: Suppose we go to a slum, they have a particular problem. We have to interact with them in helping solve the problem. We have to build this channel of interaction with them. If we start with telling “We are Lok Satta, we are sincere”, it has a negative impact. We first need to work and then talk about ourselves. Especially since the youth are attracted to us, we have to work hard to engage them more closely with us.
Sundeep: I am out of questions! Thank you, Sambi Reddy garu.
Sambi Reddy: Thank you.