On test in Andhra assembly polls: Jagan’s welfare delivery model with pvt partner | India News

Andhra’s Assembly polls on Monday will decide the fate of not only CM Jagan Mohan Reddy but also the governance model he’s built in the last five years.
Soon after taking office in 2019, Reddy initiated a volunteer system akin to ‘customer relationship managers’ at banks. In a bid to create a single-point contact for delivery of essential services, a volunteer was deputed for every 40-45 households, and a secretariat or office for every 1,000 households.
Pitched as ‘government at doorstep’, the system was expanded to provide certification (for income, marriage, birth and death), health services like free tests for lifestyle and chronic diseases, and cash transfers through direct benefit transfer.
While similar services have been offered by other govts, like Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi, YSRCP’s Andhra model differs in that a political strategy firm, I-PAC, takes care of strategy, feedback and publicity. Reddy started working with I-PAC for his poll campaign in 2019, when he swept 151 of 175 Assembly seats and 50% vote share.
In the last quarter of 2022, I-PAC – now headed by co-founder Rishi Raj Singh – started work to create a narrative around govt welfare schemes implemented through DBT and the volunteer system. Singh is an IIT alum and ex-investment banker who has worked on multiple poll campaigns, including for Narendra Modi in 2014, Amarinder Singh in Punjab (2017), and with Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi in 2020.
“This is the first time we’ve been involved in grassroots governance over a period of two years. We’ve worked closely with the chief minister on the contours of the strategy,” Singh says.
The schemes are aimed at every section – ‘Amma Vodi’ for mothers who send their children to school, ‘Rythu Bharosa’ for farmers, pensions for old and disabled, ‘Vidya Deevena’ for students, etc.
I-PAC claims over 93 lakh certificates related to birth, death and marriage were issued in the first 35 days of the scheme, and over 62 lakh people have received free treatment at some 12,000 camps across the state. ‘Amma Vodi’ has 44 lakh beneficiaries and ‘Vidya Deevena’ over 29 lakh.
A physically-challenged pensioner, Sunkara Naga Brahmam, says, “Volunteers deliver pension in cash at our doorstep. When I fell sick with Covid in 2021, volunteers came home, gave us pension and medicines when even our relatives ignored us.”
The welfare scheme has had its share of controversy, with the opposition alleging citizen data is being shared with a private firm and political representatives are threatened by ‘outsiders’.
Lakkoju Siva Parvati, an old-age pensioner, says, “While volunteers have been very helpful, there is a flip side as they insisted that we support the ruling party. They threatened that we will be declared ineligible for welfare schemes if we fail to attend public meetings of the government or ruling party. We are under threat of cancellation of our welfare schemes if we do not follow their instructions.”
I-PAC campaign managers, however, deny any interference or intimidation and claim the volunteers act as last-mile delivery partners.
As Reddy’s ‘Memantha Siddham Yatra’ (we are all ready) ends, he is hopeful his promises or ‘navratnalus’ will hold good. The election campaign was a mirror image of his Prajasankalp Padyatra in 2019 when he covered over 3,000km on foot over a year, from Idupulapaya (Kadapa) to Ichchapuram (Srikakulam).
The campaign graduated to the slogan ‘Jagan Kasom Siddham’ (people’s cry for Jagan). With movie dialogues and a catchy campaign song ‘Maa Namakkam Nuvve Jagan’ (Jagan is our belief), the effort was to stay top-of-mind.
In March, Opposition leader and ex-chief minister Chandrababu Naidu of TDP went to the EC complaining that the volunteer system’s continuation was a violation of the code of conduct and had the doorstep delivery of pensions stopped. He had also been strident in his criticism of the system but later backtracked to say that not only would welfare reforms and the volunteer scheme be continued but that the honorarium to volunteers would be doubled.
Whether Jagan stays on as chief minister, only June will tell; but his model of governance – or at least some parts of it – may well live on.


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