Tanuku, West Godavari District: People find it comical when Chandrababu Naidu talks about concepts like welfare and empowerment. Practically every day thousands of people who have been cheated by his promises and commitments, interact with me. They tell me at length about the hellish experiences they have gone through over the last four years. The story is the same in village after village, town after town across the state—people’s lives have been a saga of suffering from the time that Chandrababu Naidu took over as chief minister.
Venkatalakshmi, a 70 year old is a case in point. This septugenarian has to work in order to survive. She simply has no choice if she has to make both ends meet. She said that she had repeatedly approached government officials for pension, but in vain. “When you come to power, please take care of people like us, my son,” she said. I felt pained by her narration of her suffering. I assured her that she would be covered by a pension scheme for the elderly under Rajanna Rajyam.
“How can the government cheat tender, young children?” This was the query posed to me by Uba Narsaiah of Velpuru. He was shocked and angry at the same time, as he asked this question. He had enrolled his granddaughter under the Bangaru Thalli scheme during the previous government’s tenure and had also secured a certificate from the district collector. However, this government was not releasing the money due to her under the scheme. He was furious that the Chandrababu Naidu government had withheld money which was due to her from the previous government. Students who suffered on account of the dilution of the fee reimbursement scheme by Chandrababu Naidu, met me today and described their problems. Chadalavada Naveen Kumar told me that the TDP government had no compassion even for the differently-abled and was equally insensitive towards them.
Lakshmi Durga, who met me near Velpuru, said “over the past one month, four cases of abuse have been registered. In the capital city alone the shocking call money sex racket was unearthed. What does all this indicate? The TDP government has failed to protect women and girl children, Anna,” she said. Mohammed Najeeb Basha, who met me near Tanuku, said that Banks were harassing him to repay the loans and that they had been deceived by the promise made by Chandrababu Naidu, who said that Rs.50,000 would be given to them. Banks even threatened to lock up their house, he lamented.
Everyone I met so far, recalled the golden era of my father, the late Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy and his welfare governance. Thousands of people tell me about how they had been benefited by his pioneering healthcare initiative, Arogyasri. People along every step of the way, speak highly about the fee reimbursement scheme and how they had been benefited by it. When farmers and women tell me about his vision and how thanks to him, they got interest-free loans and loan waivers in his tenure, I feel overcome with happiness. People everywhere recollect how he ensured all-round development of the state and brought in schemes to cover the welfare of SC, ST, BC communities, minorities and other disadvantaged social groups. They recall how his heart beat for the poorest of the poor. His actions bore testimony to the good work he did, they said. He showed the state what welfare governance meant, people pointed out.
In contrast, verbal jugglery is welfare in the eyes of Chandrababu Naidu, who thinks that he can deceive the people making false promises and assurances.
I have a question for the chief minister—you claim that you are fighting for reconstruction of Andhra Pradesh and that you are rededicating yourself to the cause of rebuilding the state. You speak of empowerment and welfare and make tall claims. Does destroying the cooperative system in villages amount to empowerment in your eyes? Is betraying people in the name of loan waivers, empowerment? Does denying pensions to the elderly, the disabled and other eligible, disadvantaged sections of society amount to welfare? Is diversion of funds meant for workers in the name of Chandranna Beema or insurance, called welfare? How should one describe you, who have completely watered down healthcare schemes meant for the the poor? Do you have any moral right to use expressions like welfare and empowerment, considering minority groups, SC, ST and BC communities, among other sections of society, feel cheated in the four years in which you have ruled over the state?