Maheswarapuram, West Godavari District: As I stepped into West Godavari district this morning, I was reminded of my mother’s words—“My son’s heart beats for the common people. He will serve the poor with dedication in the same way that his father did. He has the same commitment in him.” Today, I recollected my mother’s words, as also the fact that it was her blessings which spurred me on my Padayatra along every single step.

As my walkathon approaches the milestone of 2000 km, I am reminded of the countless mothers who came to me with their problems and blessed me. My head bows in reverence to all the mothers who encouraged me and had kind words for me. They treated me as one of their own, much like their son and displayed the sort of love and affection which words cannot describe. I began my Padayatra today by paying my respects to all mothers on the occasion of Mother’s Day and extending my greetings to all of them.

My day was spent listening to the problems of the fishermen community. They narrated their plight to me and how they lost their means of livelihood, suffered from lack of drinking water supply and a host of other problems of day-to-day living. “Sir, how can we drink this water?” This was the question posed by some women from Deyyampadu today, who held a bottle of foul-smelling coloured, murky water to me. This was supposed to be drinking water which was being supplied to them! “Canals do not supply drinking water and the borewells yield saline water. We have no access to proper drinking water at all. The day we get a fair amount of drinking water is something like a festival to us. This contaminated water has led to a steep rise in kidney problems, skin diseases and hypertension cases among the people here.” The villagers here were a deeply disturbed lot and expressed their anguish to me.

Further down, another group of women carrying children, began to weep inconsolably the minute they saw me. They told me that their lives have been ruined on account of the devastation which had taken place in the Kolleru lake region. Our children should not suffer the fate we did,” they said. “Anna, I wanted to pursue education, but the problems of the Kolleru region have made life impossible for all of us. These problems have compounded our misery,” she said. “The policies adopted by these rulers have ruined our lives. Instead of educating me, my parents got me married off at a young age,” she said. “As a result, my dream of studying further dried up in the same way that the Kolleru Lake did.” She wept as she narrated her condition to me.

What can one say about these rulers? In a region which is renowned for its water resources, they failed to supply drinking water to these villages! The villagers complained that they do not get a bare minimum of adequate drinking water! This is unforgivable to say the least.

Fishermen who met me on the way said that this region was famous for fishing and the water bodies here, especially the Kolleru lake was like a mother. “It is our Gangamma. We were leading a peaceful life carrying on our fishing activities. Thousands of species of birds flocked to the lake from across the world. Today, however, the fishermen here have had to migrate in large numbers because survival has become a challenge. Only a leader with determination like you can transform our lives and bring things back to normal here,” they said. “We will be waiting for this day eagerly,” they said in one voice. My resolve to do everything in my power to serve the deprived and the needy, to touch their lives and to ensure that justice is done to them got strengthened even further after I met these fishermen.

The corruption underlying the mess which surrounds the Polavaram project came to light today. Tribals and others who got displaced from their villages in this region, on account of the corrupt ways of the Chandrababu Naidu government with respect to the project, met me today. They said indignantly, that the project had turned into a curse for them. It is inhuman on the part of the TDP government to treat the tribals and those who have been displaced from their villages, with such apathy. These innocent tribals and villagers had forsaken everything they had to be cheated by the government thus! After a month in the Krishna District, my Padayatra entered the West Godavari district today.

My poser to the chief minister—Isn't it plain exaggeration to claim that you would supply water from the Pattiseema project to the Rayalaseema region? Isn't it plain incompetence on your part that people in the Kolleru region are denied drinking water? Isn't it true that water from Prakasam Barrage is being drained into the sea, because of lack of storage in Pattiseema? Can anything be worse?