Kovvuru, West Godavari District: Kovvuru is a constituency where MRP does not apply to liquor. The excise minister, who incidentally represents this constituency, redefined beer as a health drink! Officials, who are supposed to enforce the law, have turned into puppets in the hands of politicians from the ruling party and do their bidding regardless of propriety. In fact, they have facilitated the indiscriminate sale of liquor and mushrooming of illegal gambling dens. Their complicity is the most tragic aspect of it all.
The hallmark of Chandrababu Naidu’s rule, as seen in every aspect of government functioning here, is the brazenness with which TDP leaders indulge in illegal activities and act with unconcealed discrimination. The officials also have become helpless pawns under the ruling party’s pressure. I came to know about the extreme discrimination which an SC lady Sarpanch was facing at the hands of the TDP government. In the village of Chikkala, for the past two decades, the Sarpanch has always been from the TDP. Unable to digest the fact that a lady Sarpanch from an SC community had been elected, the TDP leaders are creating hurdles refusing to allow any development to take place in the village, I learnt.
Villagers who came and met me along with her said, “Sir, the district collector sanctions development work, but then he himself creates impediments using lower officials. He then makes the DPO issue notices saying that action would be taken for not getting the work done.” She gets warnings that the power to sign cheques would be withdrawn from her. “If work has to get done, you have to switch party loyalties,” they hint. Out of sheer compulsion, they have had to approach courts, the villagers said, in anguish. Is this what Chandrababu Naidu means by empowering SCs? Is this his notion of ensuring their progress?
Employees of Chagallu sugar factory regretted that they had met the district collector more than 20 times, but in vain. Justice still eluded them. Sugarcane farmers lamented that the collector has not been enforcing the Revenue Recovery Act with any measure of sincerity. Instead, he had been backing the management indirectly, they complained.
Without serving a proper notice and denying compensation to them, 220 kv power lines were being laid through the villages of Tadipudi mandal. Farmers who would suffer on account of this development protested saying that policemen stood guard while these lines were being laid. They pointed out that their lands would get severely affected. The worst part is that they would be paid only 10% of the registration value of the land! When they questioned the collector complaining about the injustice being meted out to them, he is supposed to have ridiculed them! These excesses were being committed under his supervision, they said.
“Sir, because of your Padayatra here in this district, the policemen and other officials have stopped hounding us. The minute you move ahead, they will return to torment us,” the farmers complained. Sand mining along the banks of Godavari was rampant and the mafia involved in this illegal activity used sophisticated equipment for the purpose, said farmers. They had moved the High Court in this matter in the past and filed a PIL. Vexed and angry with the brazen manner in which the illegal sand mining activity was taking place, people caught members of this mafia red-handed, but the collector did not act in the matter, they complained.
They criticised the Collector saying when he is involved in such activities himself, how can he check them. The fact that the same official is being continued as collector for four years, even while all kinds of illegal activities and irregularities are taking place in the district, and in spite of all allegations against him, shows his proximity to the ruling TDP, was their clear view.
The sharp contrast between what Chandrababu Naidu preaches in his meetings and what actually is happening at the ground level is clearly visible here, as it is everywhere else across the state. It is really deplorable that Chandrababu Naidu has reduced civil servants such as district collectors to mere pawns in the system, using them for his own illegal activities.
I have a question for the chief minister—is it not true that you have watered down and downgraded the system completely for furthering your own corrupt activities and those of your party? Doesn’t using civil servants for your corrupt activities amount to degeneration of the constitutional system?