Sonia Gandhi promises development of Tirupati (Lead)

September 11th, 2008 - 5:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia GandhiTirupati (Andhra Pradesh), Sep 11 (IANS) Setting the tone for the Congress party’s campaign for the assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, party president Sonia Gandhi Thursday promised development of this temple town.Addressing a meeting of women members of self-help groups, Gandhi promised international status to the Tirupati airport, setting up of 300-bed hospital for children and development of Sri Venkateshwara Institute of Medical Sciences.

She said the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has already announced plans for expansion and modernisation of Tirupati railway station at a cost of Rs.20 billion.

“Given the historical and religious importance of this town, the government is taking a series of steps for its development,” she said.

Over 200,000 women attended the public meeting. The meeting was significant in view of the recent political developments in the state, especially launching of Praja Rajyam by Telugu super star-turned-politician Chiranjeevi.

Simultaneous elections to the state legislative assembly and Lok Sabha are likely to be held in March-April next year.

Sonia Gandhi, who arrived here on a day-long visit to the state, said upgradation of the Tirupati airport would not only benefit pilgrims but also generate new economic activity and employment opportunities.

She lauded the state government’s initiative for empowerment of women and effective implementation of National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS).

Criticising the previous Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government, she said it had neglected the agriculture and rural sectors and listed out the steps taken by the Congress government to improve the lot of people, especially in rural areas.

“The sugar factories which were shut down in this Chittoor district during TDP regime were re-opened by the Congress government,” she said.

Chittoor is the home district of TDP president and former chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu.

Earlier, the UPA chairperson praised the state government for taking the lead in women’s empowerment in the country.

She said the performance of the state government to empower women was not only admired by the rest of the country but had also aroused curiosity abroad.

“During my visit to other countries, I am often asked by women leaders about the programmes taken up by the Andhra Pradesh government,” she said while interacting with members of SHGs and NREGS.

“I wish to congratulate the chief minister for his leadership in ensuring women get fully empowered,” she said in the presence of Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy.

Soon after her arrival at Renigunta airport on a day-long visit to the state, Sonia Gandhi had an interaction with SHG members. Some women explained to her how the SHGs helped them earn livelihood.

“I congratulate each one of my sisters. Your dedication, courage and hard work is producing results,” she told the women.

Andhra Pradesh accounts for one-third of SHGs in the country. They are doing a commendable job in poverty reduction in rural areas. There are about 8.8 million women members of the SHGs, which get soft loans from the state government to run small businesses.

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