Hyderabad: The hitherto heavily fortified official residence of the Telangana chief minister was thrown open to the public on Friday, December 8, after authorities removed the barricades and layers of fencing on the orders of newly-sworn-in chief minister A. Revanth Reddy.
As announced earlier, Reddy, personally heard the grievances of the people and took representations from them during the re-instituted practice of ‘Praja Darbar’. The mass grievance redressal programme was in place when popular leader and former Congress chief minister Y.S. Rajashekar Reddy was in office between 2004 and 2009.
During the campaign, Reddy dubbed the former chief minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao as “inaccessible” and made it a key poll issue. the heavily fortified official residence of the former chief minister KCR stood as a symbol of his “arrogance” and “inaccessibility”
Pragati Bhavan, as the official residence was called under KCR’s rule, has been re-christened as Jyotirao Phule Praja (People’s) Bhavan by the new chief minister.
The police who hitherto put visitors of the official building to several security checks stood as spectators on Friday morning as milling crowds walked past the uniformed men.
On the other hand, news emerged on Friday morning that KCR suffered a hip bone injury, requiring replacement, due to a fall in the toilet at his farmhouse in Erravelli village late on Wednesday night. He was admitted to Yashoda Hospital in Hyderabad’s Somajiguda. Revanth Reddy instructed senior health officials to ensure all medical aid to his predecessor.
Reddy was sworn in as chief minister by governor Tamilisai Soundararajan in a massive gathering at Lal Bahadur stadium in Hyderabad on Thursday, December 7. His cabinet colleagues who were also sworn in included Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka (deputy chief minister); and N. Uttam Kumar Reddy, Komatireddy Venkat Reddy, Damodar Raja Narasimha, D. Sridhar Babu, Ponnam Prabhakar, Konda Surekha, Seethakka, and Jupally Krishna Rao as ministers. The ceremony was attended by top Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, and Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra.
Soon after the swearing-in, Reddy announced that both the official residence of the chief minister and the secretariat would be thrown open to the public. Former chief minister KCR had built a new secretariat complex, demolishing the old structure. The new structure, with imposing buildings and domes, overlooks the Hussain Sagar lake.
True to Revanth Reddy’s words, the media personnel gained access to the high-security sixth floor of the building for the first time for a post-cabinet briefing by ministers D. Sridhar Babu and Ponnam Prabhakar on Thursday night.
At Praja Bhavan, three kilometres away, people gathered early on Friday, hoping for the redressal of their grievances. The main security checkpoint which is quite a bit of walking distance was closed. The usual frisking of visitors and noting their personal details was done away with. Instead, several help desks were set up to assist people with the supply of paper and in writing representations.
Revanth Reddy himself had shown up for a brief while and left to the secretariat. He later flew to Delhi to discuss filling up the remaining seven births in the Cabinet with Congress high command. So far, 11 Cabinet berths of permitted 18 have been filled.
In batches, people were allowed to hand over their representations to minister Seethakka. Some sang songs punning on the name of Chandrasekhar Rao and some gave sound bytes to TV channels expressing their anger against the former chief minister. Most of the representations had to do with land disputes, employment, ration cards, government housing, and other welfare measures.
Among those who showed up to submit their representations was a visually impaired person from LB Nagar in Hyderabad, Kothakinda Raghavender, who said he was not getting the 25% pension he was entitled to after the death of his father, an assistant commissioner of police, 13 years ago. He said he had voiced his grievance at various levels but to no avail.
An engineering graduate Methri Das from Narayankhed said his loan application to the government to buy a car for making a living was repeatedly rejected for 10 years. An autorickshaw driver from Charminar, Sharafat Hussain, said he found it difficult to support his family which included, his wife, three sons aged four to eight years, his aged mother and a visually challenged sister. He wanted financial help to buy an autorickshaw. He earned about Rs 400 a day now on a hired vehicle.
There were also hundreds of unemployed youth, infirm people, widows, and disabled persons seeking help.
The redressal of public grievances through such congregations was introduced by late chief minister Y. S. Rajasekhar Reddy and continued later by his successor and Congress leader N. Kiran Kumar Reddy. KCR, however, made no such attempt in the last nine years. His son and former minister K. T. Rama Rao justified it by saying, “It is a systemic failure if the chief minister was to go to the public to hear grievances on ration cards or pensions.” It could be settled at an official level, he said.
The authorities removed the long iron meshing which was used as a barricade to ward off protestors on the main thoroughfare near the complex. The security cover was now limited to regulating traffic in view of the surging crowd of visitors.