Pedavadlamudi, Guntur District: This day in history, fifteen years ago, remains a memorable day in history. It was a day when my father, the late Dr. YS Rajasekhara Reddy, took a historic decision to fight for the deprived and the suffering masses of undivided Andhra Pradesh. It is the day when he took his first step assuring people that he would stand by them, understand their difficulties on a first-hand basis, and find a solution to all the problems they were plagued with under the TDP government of the time. He took the first step in this direction by launching his historic Padayatra, Praja Prasthanam on this day.

His Padayatra, which wrote a new chapter in the history of the state, created a sensation and became an example for other leaders across the country. Arogyasri, free power supply and Fee reimbursement scheme were pioneering initiatives which were born out of his long, day-to-day interaction with the masses during the course of his Padayatra. Other states across the country emulated the example of Andhra Pradesh in this respect.

Read: YS Jagan’s Padayatra Reminds Us Of Dr YSR’s Praja Prasthanam

My father's welfare-driven governance, which earned him a permanent place in history as a great visionary, could be ascribed to a considerable extent to the Padayatra he undertook at that time. The rulers of today have watered down his welfare schemes and have replaced his golden rule with a corruption-ridden, authoritarian system of governance. My Padayatra draws inspiration from my father’s great walkathon. I too, walking in his footsteps, am committed to wiping the tears of the poor and stand by the suffering masses. It is my resolve to liberate the common citizens of the state from the tyranny of this corrupt rule.

My Padayatra proceeded through Mangalagiri constituency, a place of immense historical significance and a renowned centre of handlooms. It is a fertile region, home to a variety of crops, fruits, flowers and orchards of diverse kinds. Farmers and leaders who met me told me that they feared that all this would probably be relegated to history. They pointed out that turmeric which used to fetch them Rs.16,000 fell steeply to Rs.4000 and that when I pointed this out in the assembly the state government was forced to hike it slightly to Rs.6500.

However, TDP leaders turned into middlemen and looted the farmers in this respect, they pointed out. Today, as things stand, turmeric fetches Rs.5600 at best, they observed. Without a proper market price, turmeric farmers find themselves trapped in a cycle of debts. The case of tenant farmers is much worse. Without a proper return on their investment, without getting even half as much as they had sunk in, they are driven to suicide. I assured them that these days would not last for long and that better days were round the corner. Giving them this assurance I moved on.

Doctors from Guntur met me this afternoon. They pointed out how the government hospitals have been reduced to an abject state under the Telugu Desam government. They spoke at length about the indifference of the state government towards public health and how the pioneering healthcare initiative, Arogyasri had been watered down completely. They told me that the government had issued a GO this month, undermining and scaling down Arogyasri. As per the new directions 45% of the funds under Arogyasri would be allocated to patient care, while 20% would be spent on the salaries of contract employees and the remaining 25% only would be spent on the health care of the poor. Instead of scaling up Arogyasri and widening its scope, the TDP regime is determined to dilute it, causing great collateral damage to the health of the common poor.

I have a question for the chief minister—you constantly brag about having ruled the state for the longest period. During my father, the late Dr. Rajasekhara Reddy’s rule, memorable initiatives for public good and welfare of the poor, were introduced such as Arogyasri and fee reimbursement among others. In your long stint as chief minister, can you think of one such major scheme in the interests of the poor which you have implemented? Apart from corruption, atrocities on the poor and betrayals, is there anything else your tenure is associated with?