In this year’s Telugu hit Srimanthudu, actor Mahesh Babu plays the sole heir of a multi-crore business empire who goes in search of his roots to the backwoods of Andhra Pradesh and adopts a run-down village to turn around its fortunes.
The film that won critical acclaim and box office success was also praised by chief minister Chandrababu Naidu at a time when the state government has launched an ambitious project to usher in comprehensive development in villages by joining hands with people, not necessarily affluent, who want to give something back to society.
The “Smart Village- Smart Ward Towards Smart AP” programme that was inaugurated in January has inspired dozens of NRIs, businessmen, bureaucrats, politicians, celebrities and even ordinary citizens to work together with the government to raise the living standards of the state’s rural residents.
“To become smart, sustainable and inclusive, it is necessary for us to have smart towns and villages, apart from smart cities,” Naidu said recently, referring to the Centre’s “smart cities” mission aimed at making room for a booming urban population. “So, I appeal to NRIs, NGOs, VIPs, corporates, philanthropists, ministers, MLAs, etc, to adopt one village each and develop our state into smart Andhra Pradesh.”
More than 8,000 partnerships have been forged between patrons and the administration so far, with about half of the state’s panchayats and municipal wards part of the pacts. Mahesh Babu himself has adopted his native village, Burripalem, in Andhra Pradesh and Siddhapuram in neighbouring Telangana.
“The response has been very good but we welcome more partners – two to three per village – to join hands for fast-paced development,” said Parakala Prabhakar, communications adviser to the chief minister, who adopted Seetharamapuram in West Godavari district.
The change is already visible. Kappatralla village in Kurnool district that suffered a spate of violence for years because of faction-riddled politics found some peace after it was adopted by district superintendent of police Ake Ravikrishna .
In the last few months, a new school building and concrete roads have sprung up in the area with the top cop ensuring the release of government funds and the cooperation of local cement factories.
“Even teachers and other government staff are coming on time and working properly,” said Akbar Bhasha, a local resident. “We are grateful to the SP and the government for the change.”
According to a primary estimate, the project requires about Rs 44,000 crore over the next four years but the money pledged by patrons so far is just Rs 300 crore because of which the state could float a trust to gather donations that may get tax exemption.