Ulapalli, East Godavari District: Today’s Padayatra moved along muddy roads and highways on account of yesterday‘s heavy rain. It rained all through the day yesterday.
Anaparthi constituency owes its name and roots to the benevolent king Raja Anapothareddi, who prayed for its cultural efflorescence, prosperity and well-being of the people. The great poet and scholar Sripada Krishnamurthy Sastri hailed from this place. He was not only the first poet laureate of undivided Andhra Pradesh, but had also translated the Mahabharata, Sri Bhagavatam and the Ramayana from Sanskrit to Telugu. Anaparthi is endowed with abundance and yet over the past four years, the problems that people here have faced have grown manifold.
Among the first few files which Chandrababu Naidu as chief minister, lent his signature to, was one which scrapped belt liquor shops. The village, Pandalapaka, exemplifies the undermining and devaluing of the chief minister’s signatures on these files early in his tenure. The place is a glaring example of how free-flowing liquor can destroy lives and the social fabric of the community. Three women who met me at different points, narrated their tales of sorrow, describing vividly, how liquor had ruined their lives. Lakshmi, who came carrying her infant, told me that her husband, a factory worker, and a daily wage labourer, ended up spending most of his hard-earned money on liquor. Their domestic life is filled with bickering. They are constantly struggling to pay tuition fees for their children’s education, because the money is consumed by liquor. “Anna, for how much longer should we endure this torture? I have no desire to live,“ she said, as she sobbed continuously. I felt deeply disturbed by the fact that she had become so frustrated with life at such a young age. “Anna, we quake with fear when we pass through the lane which has a liquor shop. The rude comments and lewd gestures we are subjected to, make it very difficult for us.” She said that this was everyone’s experience and not confined to her alone.
Her voice choking with emotion even as she struggled to hold back her tears, Jayamma told me about her suffering. Her young son became a slave to alcohol and was in the throes of death. Spending a fortune beyond their means, they managed to save him from the jaws of death. Yet he did not give up drinking. “We are unable to bear the sight of our son’s life flickering and failing in front of our eyes,“ she wailed. She explained that her husband became an invalid after an accident and was incapable of working. Their son, who could have helped them in this hour of need, had now become a burden to them. Varalakshmi expressed her anguish stating that her husband who should have been their breadwinner had become a burden to the family because of his addiction to alcohol. “Sir, I thought I lost my young son to heart disease, unable to afford the treatment which cost Rs.5 lakhs. At such a critical time your father, the late Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy, came to our rescue by providing free treatment and fortunately, my son was saved.
It is this son of mine who works as a daily wage labourer now and supports our family. She expressed her gratitude to my father saying that she owed everything to him. In this village alone, hundreds of women had similar stories to tell of how liquor was destroying their lives.
Does the chief minister who seems to give the highest priority to revenue generated by liquor, ever see the suffering of these poor women? Does he realise how many families are getting destroyed by addiction to alcohol?
I have a question for the chief minister— do you remember that scrapping belt shops was among the first five files which you had signed upon your oath-taking ceremony? Is there a single village in the state today which does not have a belt shop? Page 16 of your manifesto says that de-addiction centres would be set up in every district. Has even one such centre been set up? You could not fulfill even the first few promises made to the people by way of signing files after becoming Chief Minister. Does this not amount to deception of five crore citizens? When a single promise is not fulfilled, what value does your manifesto carry?