Hyderabad: A special package of Rs.2000 crore for the development of old city of Hyderabad has come as Ramadhan gift for Muslims, who are an overwhelming majority in the walled quarter.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy announced the package during his recent surprise visit to the old city to see the civic amenities in the most neglected part of the state capital.
Muslims constitute 70 to 80 per cent of 15 lakh population of the old city, which is famous for historic Charminar, Makkah Masjid, magnificent palaces and centuries-old markets. However, the majority of the habitations here lack basic civic amenities and were neglected for decades by the successive governments.
Muslims constitute 40 per cent of the total population of 40 lakh of the booming city of Hyderabad.
Despite the enormous tourism potential and the grandeur, the old city became notorious for its haphazard growth, chocking traffic and law and order problems. It is thus presenting a contrasting picture when compared to the well planned twin city of Secunderabad and newer and glittering Information Technology hub called Hitec City or Cyberabad.
The seat of governance of the erstwhile princely state of Hyderabad, the old city also faced the most serious problems of poverty and illiteracy. Though Muslim political party Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) dominated the political scene here by capturing Hyderabad Lok Sabha seat in every election since 1980s and by bagging five assembly constituencies, the governments continued to ignore this part of the city.
At a time when the old city was abuzz with unprecedented economic activity during Ramadhan, Rajasekhara Reddy tried to win the hearts of Muslim residents by visiting their habitations. This was his first visit to the old city after coming to power in 2004. While hailing the leadership of MIM president and former Member of Parliament Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi, he promised to provide better civic amenities in the next four to five years.
He announced that underground drainage system would be laid at a cost of Rs.800 crore. The package also covers improvement of sanitation, drinking water supply, construction of houses and development of parks.
However, Rajasekhara Reddy is not the first chief minister to make such promises to change the face of the old city. His predecessor N. Chandrababu Naidu had visited the old city on several occasions during his nine-year tenure. During 1980s and early 1990s, the then governments had also launched some initiatives like setting up Quli Qutub Shah Urban Development Authority for development of this part of Hyderabad but they failed to provide sufficient funds.
A section of Muslim leaders has termed the new package a political gimmick. They are not sure whether the government will fulfill this promise and pointed out Rajasekhara Reddy failed to provide five per cent reservations for Muslims in jobs and education.