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Andhra Pradesh polls: Naidu promises to double honorarium of volunteers

Amid the political heat over the volunteer system in Andhra Pradesh, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) President N. Chandrababu Naidu on Tuesday promised that if voted to power TDP will not only continue the system but will also double their honorarium.

The former Chief Minister promised that volunteers would be paid Rs10,000 per month against the Rs 5,000 they are receiving currently.

He made the promise amid a continued war of words between the ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) and TDP over the volunteer system which was introduced by YSRCP after coming to power in 2019.

About 2.60 lakh village and ward (in urban areas) volunteers were appointed by the Jagan Mohan Reddy-led government to extend citizen services at the doorsteps of the beneficiaries.

Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy during the campaign for next month’s elections has been claiming that if voted to power TDP would scrap the volunteer system and discontinue pensions and other welfare schemes his government is implementing.

The ruling party blamed TDP for the delay in the disbursal of social security pensions as the opposition party had petitioned the Election Commission that the pension disbursal should not be allowed through village and ward volunteers. Every month the volunteers pay pensions to the beneficiaries at their doorsteps.

However, Chandrababu Naidu has now made it clear that if TDP-JSP-BJP is voted to power volunteer system will continue to extend citizen services.

He assured that volunteers will not be removed from service but made it clear that volunteers should be cautious and not work for the YSRCP in the coming polls.

On Ugadi, the Telugu New Year, Naidu promised to double the honorarium of volunteers. “As a part of the TDP-JSP-BJP Alliance, I promise that we will continue the volunteer system in Andhra Pradesh. This is our message for all the volunteers on Ugadi. We will also increase the pay amount from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000,” he said at Ugadi celebrations organised by his party.

Earlier, Naidu had alleged that village and ward volunteers were working as ruling party activists. He also warned that they will not spare those working to serve the interests of a political party once TDP returns to power.

The opposition parties have been alleging that volunteers were working as ruling party agents and also indulging in illegal activities.

In July last year, allegations by Jana Sena president and Tollywood actor Pawan Kalyan had triggered a huge row.

Pawan Kalyan had claimed that volunteers appointed by the state government were behind human trafficking.

Taking serious note of this, the YSRCP government had accorded permission to prosecute Pawan Kalyan for his defamatory statement against volunteers and the government.

The state government issued a Government Order (GO), directing the public prosecutor to file a complaint in a competent court of law against the JSP leader.

The GO cited Pawan Kalyan’s speech of July 9 at Eluru in which he stated that volunteers are the sole reason for the cause of missing 29,000 women according to NCRB data in Andhra Pradesh.

Stating that the volunteer system was set up with a service motto, Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy had said that people with questionable character have been passing objectionable comments. Only cultureless people would criticise the volunteers who have been extending selfless service to the people with responsibility, he had said.

The Chief Minister dubbed Pawan Kalyan as a political volunteer and package star working for TDP for the past 10 years.

“The 2, 60,000 volunteers, with 60 per cent of them being my sisters, are known to locals in the neighborhood. They work like family members extending services transparently irrespective of caste, creed and political affiliations,” the Chief Minister said.

Elections to the 175-member Andhra Pradesh Assembly and 25 Lok Sabha seats are scheduled on May 13.

The TDP, JSP and BJP have come together to form an alliance to take on the ruling YSRCP.

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