Interview: Will reserve 25% govt contracts for youth, says 27-year-old IITian-turned-BSP candidate Usha Dasari

While lauding the growth of the IT sector in Hyderabad, the electrical engineer claimed AP natives are getting more employment in the vertical than those from Telangana.

ByAjay Tomar

Published Oct 16, 2023 | 1:18 PMUpdatedOct 21, 2023 | 2:22 PM

Interview BRS MLA has monopolised education by running private institutes in Peddapalli, healthcare, employment also in shambles; says BSP's IIT-turned-'youngest' BC candidate Usha Dasari

Usha Dasari, who has got the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) ticket to contest from the Peddapalli constituency, is said to be the youngest candidate from the Backward Class (BC) community so far in the coming Telangana Assembly election.

The 27-year-old’s father comes from the Padmashali (weavers) community, while her mother is from the Vaddera community. Soon after their marriage, the villagers ostracised them for entering into an inter-caste marital relationship.

The couple moved on, rising above the retrograde social norm that had made them strangers among friends and relatives.

Usha Dasari seems to have inherited the daring qualities of her parents.

Politics was not an accidental occurrence for her. Before joining active politics, she laid a sound foundation by completing her BTech in Electrical Engineering from IIT-Kharagpur in 2018.

She had a stint with corporate firms and even considered sitting for the civil services exam, a dream of many across the country. But rather than being reduced to a pawn in the hands of politicians, Dasari — who hails from Kanagarthi village in Odela mandal in Telangana’s Peddapalli district — chose to enter politics herself.

Caste was instrumental in making Dasari take the political plunge. She demanded a caste census in Telangana while vowing to stand for the marginalised sections of society.

Usha Dasari during a campaign in Peddapalli

Usha Dasari during a campaign in Peddapalli. (X)

Dasari is glad that the Women’s Reservation Bill, guaranteeing 33 percent reservation for women in state Assemblies and Parliament, has been passed. However, she felt it was not enough. The young BSP leader wants 50 percent of seats to be set aside for women.

Dasari was nonchalant as she pointed out an advantage private educational institutions have over those in the public sector. Several MLAs from the ruling BRS own such flourishing private institutions, while public institutions remain neglected.

In a conversation with South First, Dasari shared her views and promises for the state, if her party comes to power: An acre each for the poorest of the poor, 10 lakh jobs in the coming years (of which 50 percent will be reserved for women), free and quality education of international standards to each and every section of society, 25 percent of government contracts for the youth, better infrastructure for government hospitals, and many more. Edited excerpts:

Interview: KCR schemes are conspiracies: Telangana BSP chief Praveen Kumar

Q. How has the transition been so far — from an  engineer to a civil servant aspirant to a politician?

A. I was exploring different fields and was not into one particular field during my four years in IIT, pursuing BTech.

My thoughts were like, ‘Should I take up a regular job? Should I become an entrepreneur, or should I explore more fields?’ I didn’t choose any before joining IIT.

After getting into IIT, I was exploring all options. So every year, I took up internships with various companies and realised that a regular job in the corporate field was not my cup of tea. With that realisation, I went to Delhi and joined a UPSC coaching centre for a year. I aspired to become a civil servant. Then I took a U-turn.

After reading extensively and gaining some knowledge, I realised that it was not my right path. It was because many IAS and IPS officers I have seen, after crossing a particular limit even though it was according to the Constitution, and rules and regulations, they are removed from the positions and transferred to one region to another. So, keeping this in mind, I thought I need to join politics. It is the right way.

But I never imagined that I will join politics at such an early age. The decisive moment was when Dr RS Praveen Kumar sir (BSP Telangana president), an IPS officer, took voluntary retirement. He reshaped the careers of several youngsters from the socially and economically backward communities. He was instrumental in revamping TWREIS (The Telangana Social Welfare Residential Educational Institutions Society) or Gurukuls from where a girl won a medal in the Asian Games.

Dasari addressing a rally

Usha Dasari addressing a rally in Peddapalli. (X)

So, I needed a leader who was ethically and morally strong to inspire me. Isn’t it a gamechanger when a student from a government educational institution participates in the Olympics? I released that both Telangana and India need such visionary leaders.

After seeing Praveen Kumar sir’s work, I said to myself that if I join politics after 10-15 years, I might lose out. I need to contribute. So I joined politics. Though it’s not early because, according to the Constitution, 25 years is the minimum age to contest to the legislative assemblies. So I don’t think I’m too young. This is the right age.

Also read: BRS manifesto aims to steal thunder from Congress’ 6 guarantees

Q. So Dr Praveen Kumar is your inspiration to join the BSP, and not any other political party?

A. Yes, Praveen Kumar sir is the primary reason; but the secondary reason is the political party which he chose. If Praveen sir had chosen BRS or Telangana Congress or BJP, I wouldn’t have joined the BSP. Neither would I have joined any of those parties.

I chose BSP because it supports the socially backward sections such as BCs, OBCs, SCs, STs, and minorities. These communities do not have enough representation.

Take for instance, the judiciary. Seventy-percent of advocates belong to upper-caste communities and only 30 percent belong to the BC, ST, SC and minorities communities combined.

So, the majority of people are not represented in the Supreme Court and high courts in India. There is no proper representation of minorities and women in bureaucracy, in administration.

As a woman, I want my voice to be heard. But if I won’t be given a voice, how can I air my views?

Caste is a major factor that brought me to the BSP. My parents had an inter-caste marriage and were banished from their villages. Their lives were completely shattered and they started from scratch. My dad pulled a rickshaw to eke out a living while my mother worked at construction sites.

Even now, people are not accepting inter-caste marriages throughout the country. People marrying outside their castes still have to pay some money — ₹1 to ₹2 lakh to the village heads or community leaders.

The inter-caste couples should not be penalised. They should be encouraged. But it is not happening.

So caste is still a predominant factor. I want to eradicate this caste system.

Q. How do you see caste-based politics and how will you eradicate it?

A. In Dr BR Ambedkar’s work, Annihilation of Caste, he said it could only be done when every community is being represented equally and everyone enjoys the fruits of the Constitution.

The BCs, SCs, STs and the minorities have been denied access to proper education, clothing and other things. So to eradicate this disparity, I support the reservation system, which can uplift the backward community.

The BSP has promised to field candidates from BC and other minority communities in 60 to 70 seats out of the 119 Assembly constituencies. So they might be benefiting from that reservation. So this is one way to ensure their representation in Assemblies and to make them voice their opinions. It is one way of doing it.

The second is that most contracts from industries and government are going to the upper-caste communities. Such contracts should also go to people from backward communities.

Dr RS Praveen Kumar (5th from left) and Usha Dasari at a rally.

Dr RS Praveen Kumar (5th from left) and Usha Dasari at a rally. (X)

The BC community members do not have enough funds and political power. Hence, they cannot win the contracts.

So, the BSP has promised a population-wise presentation in all government contracts. We will give proportionate representation in every field.

Additionally, these communities are backward because of their educational qualifications. We can see that people hailing from BC, ST, SC communities become gram panchayat workers, labourers, constables, etc. But if we give proper education to the backward communities, they can also become IPS or IAS officers.

Praveen Kumar sir empowered them so that they can reach new heights. They can contest in Olympics and even scale the Mount Everest.

So, with education we can usher in a change. The BSP is promising good quality education and medical facilities to all.

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Q. What are some of the issues dogging the Pedapalle Assembly constituency?

A. The Pedapalle voters elected the sitting MLA Dasari Manohar Reddy of the BRS twice. He has private educational institutions. And there are even allegations that he is illegally grabbing lands of temples and is part of the sand mafia. We have evidence for his illegal activities.

So, primarily, the elected person turned out to be like those we all fought against for Telangana. But now Telangana has been bought by people from other states or even countries.

Second, agriculture is at a loss in Pedapalle, where people have been dependent on farming. There are no employment-generating industries in the constituency. So, due to these factors, people are becoming daily wagers.

Dasari Manohar Reddy is running an educational institution, the Trinity Educational Institutions, which is gradually forcing the closure of government schools in Peddapalle. Hence, no proper and free education is available in the district.

People are unable to send their children to local government schools, and cannot afford private institutions. They are availing loans to provide proper education to their children.

A lack of medical facilities is another issue. Pedpalle town is the district headquarters but there is not even a single MRI or CT scan facility available. We have to travel out to access such facilities. So, during medical emergencies, people have to travel, leaving it to god to decide whether they should live or die.

When I speak to little children, I realise their big dreams like to become a doctor or a police officer. But for those who have cleared the 10th class, their only wish is to get a job. There’s a difference in big dreams getting reduced to getting any job. When I asked the reason to a degree student, the response was that he could earn some meagre amount. This is the reality now.

After graduating, many of them become auto drivers or daily-wage workers or agricultural labourers or run small eateries. Their dreams are shattered. It is a huge risk for Telangana and India.

The young population is not moving towards development. The young population is trying to earn meager wages.

Q. What are the BSP’s promises to Peddapalli?

A. These issues are not confined to Peddapalli. The whole of Telangana is facing these issues.

MLAs like Malla Reddy are establishing institutes and even universities, which demand high fees, and the government has failed in holding TSPSC exams. So, keeping education in mind, we will be providing free and quality education of international standards to every section of society.

Dasari and BSP workers hedl a condoloence meeting after the alleged suicide of 23 year old Pravallika in Ashok Nagar, Hyderabad

Usha Dasari and BSP workers held a condolence meeting after the alleged suicide of 23 year old Pravallika in Ashok Nagar, Hyderabad. (X)

The next thing is healthcare. The BRS government is doling out freebies, including the KCR Kit, Aarogaya Sree (reimbursement during medical issues after treatment in private hospital), etc. However, such freebies do not change the appalling condition in hospitals. We will be providing quality medical facilities in government hospitals so that one need not depend on private hospitals.

These two are the topmost promises in our manifesto.

The third is employment. We are promising 10 lakh jobs — both in the private and public sector. Since most of the contracts right now are going to the upper-caste people, we will reserve 25 percent of government contracts for the youth. This is because only they will have different ideas and they can implement them.

Also read: Congress’ Karnataka model 2.0 for Telangana: 6 guarantees

Q. The sitting BRS MLA Dasari Manohar Reddy has been representing the constituency since 2014… 

A. The people of Peddapalli are fed up with all these leaders, who are like 69 years old, wanting to retain power.

I am not against those who are 69 years old, but I’m against them for not giving an opportunity to others, even within their own party. The people are fed up with such rule.

Coming to the Congress, Ch Vijaya Ramana Rao is likely to contest. He had contested on a TDP ticket and had been an MLA. The people have given him an opportunity.

Despite being MLAs, they could not change anything. They couldn’t change the lifestyle of a family or a person. So the people right are seeking a new face, a fresh, radical thought.

There are many radical thinkers among today’s youth. Whenever I visit a village, several youngsters are joining me, and sharing their ideas to better the villages.

I think a discussion should happen as these leaders are not even listening to the people. They have totally rejected the people.

Q. What is your take on the recent caste census? Do you think Telangana should take it up?

A. In Telangana, Samagra Kutumba Survey was done in every district by the BRS government using public funds, but the figures are not officially released.

We can see where this is going. Since the upper-caste communities have formed the government, they are not releasing the result of the survey that was carried out using public funds.

They scared that if they release the result, the BCs will demand their share in the budget and in the Assembly. The government is scared to share power with the BC communities.

Usha Dasari

Usha Dasari. (X)

Telangana has around 60 percent OBC population. The Padmashali community, to which I belong, comprises six percent of the state’s population.

So, around eight people should be representing the Padmashali community in the Assembly. But the community doesn’t have even a single MLA.

In the BRS list, the Mudiraj community (mostly fishers) doesn’t have a representation. There are around 60 lakh people from the community in the state.

Several other such communities are not not given tickets. Is it because we are so backward that not even one of us is eligible to be a member in the Assembly?

The government is not even interested in sharing power with the SCs, STs, and minorities. So, there should be a caste census, as you have mentioned.

Also read: Telangana custodial assault: BSP wants HM replaced

Q. As an engineer, what do you anticipate would be the growth of the IT sector in Hyderabad and elsewhere in Telangana?

A. The growth of the IT industry is very good. But Hyderabad is a metropolitan city, and I expect more local residents should get jobs in the sector. I am saying this because people fought for Telangana and around 1,300 people, including youngsters, had sacrificed their lives for Telangana.

But right now, though Hyderabad is an IT hub, local young engineers are not given jobs even though they are qualified. So, IT is just a showpiece to highlight Hyderabad’s influence.

Many majors like Google, Amazon, and Apple are in Hyderabad. So if they are in Hyderabad, we expect that youngsters from Telangana will get some priority in employment.

But right now, the people of Telangana are not adequately represented in the IT sector. People from Andhra Pradesh are establishing themselves in the IT field.

Another thing is that there are people who are interested in establishing industries and companies. However, they are being neglected. They need financial and social support.

So I am happy that IT is growing in Telangana. But people from Telangana need more representation.