Ulapalli, East Godavari District: In spite of the fact that it had been raining all night and though there was a steady drizzle since this morning, thousands of people lined the Padayatra route to meet and greet me. Their warmth and love overwhelmed me.
As I crossed Ulapalli Lanka, I noticed several farm workers waiting to see me and to interact with me, unmindful of the fact that they would lose a day’s wages. It was a touching experience to see them braving the rain, waiting for me.
Walking on crutches with great difficulty, Tirumalasetty Sriramulu, a differently-abled student approached me. This eighth grader had tremendous regard for my father, the late Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy and for me. His mother, a single parent is a worker at a tailoring shop and barely manages to make two ends meet. And then, she also has to educate and support her son with her small income. “Anna, I am a good student and perform well in my studies. After I grow up, please help me find a job. I want to take care of my mother," he said. His words left me touched.
Satyanarayana, a tenant farmer, told me that he had taken 2 acres on lease last year. He cultivated rice on this land and even though the produce was good, he suffered a loss of Rs.40,000. Without a proper price for his crop, denied any assistance or support price from the government, without a loan waiver from banks, he borrowed money from private lenders at steep interest rates. The poor farmer sank into a debt trap and blamed the network of middlemen for this crisis which farmers in Andhra Pradesh face today.
“This government brags about loan waivers given to tenant farmers, but no bank has waived the loan of any single farmer here," he said with anguish. He requested me to pay attention to the plight of tenant farmers once our party comes to power. One can imagine what the condition of tenant farmers in other parts of the state is, if this is the abject state to which they are reduced in the fertile Godavari delta region! Inevitably, this is the state of farmers each time Chandrababu Naidu, who claims that farming is a fruitless exercise, comes to power.
I have a question for the chief minister—your party manifesto states that the support price would be fixed in accordance with renowned agricultural scientist, Dr MS Swaminathan’s guidelines. Your party trumpeted this and yet in your 29 visits to Delhi as a BJP ally over four years, did you take up the issue of support price with the Centre even once? Did you write a single letter to the Union government on this burning problem? Your manifesto says that tenant farmers would be given ID cards and loan facilities. What happened to this promise?