It was cold outside this morning as I set out from Chipparapalli in Chittoor. It was a cloudy morning with no trace of the sun making its appearance. I walked from Poothalapattu constituency to Gangadhara constituency in Nellore. This is among the most backward constituencies in this district plagued by a number of problems. People complained that nothing had been done over the last four years and none of their concerns addressed.
On either side of the road I found sugarcane fields, guava groves, flower nurseries, gardens and orchards. Paradoxically, the farmers everywhere in this district seem to be suffering the most. The farmer has no means of selling his produce for a proper price and worse, there are no storage facilities. Once the crop is harvested, invariably the farmer plays into the hands of middlemen out of sheer compulsion. No wonder the farmer who strives through the year looks so haggard, feeble and forlorn. Sugarcane symbolises sweetness. But for the farmers here, sugarcane seems to cause only bitterness.
After lunch in Manikyarayapalli, a farmer came limping to me—he had a bandaged foot and in his hand he held a glass of sugarcane juice and some dark jaggery. When I asked as to what had happened, he replied “Anna, while working in the field I hurt my foot because of which I have developed fever. Even so, I wanted to come and see you and tell you about my troubles.” The farmer’s condition moved me very much as did the faith he reposed in me, considering the fact that he was not well.
He told me that his family members worked all through the year to produce jaggery and yet their efforts were wasted because the produce did not yield the minimum price. The money they get is barely enough to pay off the loans and the interest liabilities. All the sugar factories are in private hands which compounds their problem. These private players decide on the prices and have a say in determining the market price.
The farmers here are therefore driven to make jaggery, but Chandrababu has branded the jaggery here as Nalla Bellam or dark jaggery. Thus, the farmer is compelled to sell his produce to private sugar factories. The government has in reality broken the back of local farmers by shutting down cooperative sugar factories.
The state of granite industries in this district is no different. As soon as he became the chief minister, Chandrababu Naidu imposed power charges and royalty on granite because of which a number of industries suffered huge losses. However, in Kuppam, his own constituency, he reduced the royalty by Rs.1000, which was not done anywhere else. Ironically, his proxies and crony industrialists in the granite sector there have benefited enormously from this boon bestowed upon them. Elsewhere, granite units were forced to shut down because the business is no longer considered viable. What a tragedy!
In conclusion, I have a question for the Chief Minister. You have granted many a boon and several favours to granite industries in Kuppam. Is this justified on your part? Why have you not extended similar concessions to industries elsewhere? Why this discrimination? Is it proper to abuse your authority to bestow favours on your cronies? Is this what you mean by a transparent government?