Welfare branding burden set to rise in Andhra Pradesh?

New govt may face challenges if it decides to change political branding on kits distributed under ‘Navaratnalu’
The tablets provided to students still feature the Navaratnalu logo
The tablets provided to students still feature the Navaratnalu logo Photo | Express

VIJAYAWADA: Over the past five years, the education department has undertaken numerous reforms, yet educationists argue that these changes have not yielded the expected results.

With the previous administration, led by former Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, responsible for these reforms, the new government faces the challenge of reversing them, likely incurring additional costs.

The new administration may not accept the colours, emblems, or titles of the previous schemes, such as the Navaratna logo still appearing on tablets provided to students and the Jagan Navaratnalu emblem on kits distributed by the YSRC government, including bags, notebooks, and belts labelled ‘Jagananna Vidya Kanuka.’

The potential wastage of funds is significant as these items may already be prepared for the new academic year starting on June 12. Experts suggest that to avoid such wastage in the future, governments should refrain from using leaders’ names and images on publicly funded services.

Noted advocate Tandava Yogesh emphasised that political parties are granted power for only five years, and it is unreasonable to display political leaders’ photos and slogans on public service materials. He advocated for only the AP emblem on student-related items, urging political parties to avoid such competitive displays.

This issue extends beyond school supplies to other public services. By limiting the use of political leaders’ names, specifically ‘CM,’ the burden on the AP exchequer could be reduced. For instance, the inclusion of Jagan’s photo on eggs in the mid-day meal scheme faced criticism.

Reports indicate that lakhs of school bags, painted in sky blue for the emblem, have already reached mandal headquarters. The new government’s response to these materials and the ‘Vidya Kanuka’ items remains a concern. If these items are not distributed, the financial loss will be considerable, necessitating additional funds to produce new bags. Teachers are anxious about how the new Chief Minister will address this issue.

State Organising Secretary of the Andhra Pradesh Upadhyaya Sangam (APUS) CH Sravana Kumar suggested that given the State’s financial deficit, the new government should distribute the existing Vidya Kanuka materials if they are ready for distribution. He cited examples from other States to support this approach.

In the 2017-18 academic year, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath allowed the distribution of school bags with photos and slogans of former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav to avoid wastage. Similarly, in 2021, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin permitted officials to retain photos of former AIADMK Chief Ministers J Jayalalithaa and Edappadi K Palaniswami on 65 lakh school bags, saving `13 crore.

The case of AP highlights a broader issue of political branding on public services, which can lead to unnecessary expenditure and logistical challenges when administrations change. The emphasis should be on continuity and efficient use of resources, rather than rebranding materials for political gain. This approach not only conserves public funds but ensures services reach the beneficiaries without delay or disruption. As the new government steps in, addressing this issue pragmatically will be crucial for both fiscal responsibility and public welfare.

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