In a first, fire tenders are being summoned to save wilting crops across thousands of acres of agricultural land.

 

Chief Minister Naidu took the decision to send fire trucks barely 24 hours after the conclusion of the Rs 1600 crore 12-day Krishna Pushkaralu extravaganza.

 

Indications that pointed to an acute oncoming dry-spell appeared as early as August 1 itself. The state government, however, ignored the warning signs and went ahead with its plans to celebrate the Krishna Pushkaralu festival with great aplomb, hiding the alarming drought in the state..

 

The entire administration had to be deployed to oversee the Pushkara arrangements. 

 

The government flooded the media with the data of the number of pilgrims that visited the ghats built on the banks of Krishna river, along with number of people to whom food was served, circulating stellar statistics as proof of the administrative skills of Naidu’s regime. Each time Naidu visited the ghats and interacted with pilgrims, the state publicized the gesture to show just how caring Naidu was.

 

With the festival coming to an end on August 23, Naidu had to awake to the stark reality of a looming agricultural disaster.

 

In a late evening review, on August 24, which was attended by all the senior officials of Agriculture department, Naidu was briefed of the precarious conditions that the agriculture sector had been thrown into during the meagre monsoons spell.

 

According to officials, of the 13 districts, four districts, namely Srikakulam,  Krishna, Guntur and Prakasam, recorded deficit rainfall. As for the entire state, the rainfall received (actual) was just 301.5mm (-14.3 pc) as against the normal rainfall of 351.8 mm.  Of the 670 mandals in the state, rainfall is either deficit or scanty in 275 mandals (41 pc).

 

Alarmed at the prospect of crop failure amid the rhetoric of development and spectacular celebrations, Naidu instructed officials to ensure that no crop is lost even in a single acre.

 

“It is better to avoid the disaster than to tackle it after it struck” he cautioned the officials.  He asked them to deploy fire tenders and rain guns (his recent weapon) to combat drought in the state and save the crops.

 

Naidu is said to have expressed displeasure that officials had failed to employ rain guns even after realising crops in thousands of acres were wilting in the prolonged dry-spell.

 

Naidu lamented that the rain guns were not put to use even though he had spent Rs 175 crore to procure them.

 

He asked the officials to work with same spirit they did in Krishna Pushkaralu to combat the drought.

 

If the monsoons fail to revive the rains, Naidu will have to face sever flak from the people and Opposition parties for his extravagant spending on mega-celebrations.  Officially Naidu spent about Rs 1800 crore on Godavari Pushkarlu last July and Rs 1600 crore for the just concluded Krishna Pushkaralu.

 

The criticism against Naidu is that can a cash-starved state afford to spend Rs 3400 crore on just  two 12-day festivals.   This is for the first time that Naidu made Pushkaralu a state government affair and spent money on temporary structures like ghats, which would be rendered useless from the next day itself.