I began my yatra on Day 6 from Proddatur at 8.30 am. As I set out for the trek, I recalled that Kalamala village in Yerraguntla mandal, which is close by, is home to the ancient most and fabled inscription in Telugu language. This sixth Century inscription stands testimony to the ancient nature of the Telugu language. I felt that a befitting monument which announces to the world the glory of our language in all its resplendence, should be built there. The village also houses the famed Rayalaseema Thermal Power Project.
Proddatur is a very important commercial town of Rayalaseema. The town had seen its glory and made rapid strides when my late father was the chief minister of the state. After his demise, the city has remained neglected, the signs of which are all too visible everywhere in the town. This needs to be changed and Proddatur must be put back on the path of progress immediately.
As I began my yatra, the venerable MV Ramana Reddy garu called on me and congratulated me for the yatra. My deepest gratitude to him. I feel there’s little need to speak about how stupendous and astounding the public response is. There was overwhelming love everywhere and a groundswell of immense support. Even a day’s padayatra would show how people are miffed and deeply disenchanted with the present dispensation and how eagerly they are waiting to teach it a befitting lesson. Proddatur has a huge handloom weaver population. I visited the colony that my father had got constructed for the weavers, to know the conditions prevailing there. Many are them are not getting their pensions and those who are fortunate to receive their pensions, are getting a paltry Rs 200 a month. My heart writhed in pain when I came to know that despite all the day-long drudgery in the master weavers sheds, all they get is just Rs 200, which is not enough to support even their children’s education. It is not that they lack the skills. Their hands weave magic, but they lack basic support and succor. The powers that be are not sincere about the welfare of the weavers. There is a need to re-write the handloom story, not just of Proddatur but everywhere in the state. They are now on the throes of an unmitigated crisis.
Handlooms of Andhra Pradesh have a glorious history. Thousands of years ago, our fine muslin was shipped to eager clientele across the continents. Even now, our weavers retain their finesse, skill and mastery over the design and love for the loom. They can do wonders if only they are given an opportunity. Realising this, the late YSR had allocated Rs. 76 crore for a handloom park in Proddatur. He also tried to develop a handloom cluster by promoting affiliate industries. Now that he is gone, the project too is in a state of limbo. The present chief minister did give a host of assurances at the time of elections, but forgot them as quickly as they were given once the election was over.
By the time we could reach Proddatur, it was already afternoon. After lunch, we entered Mydukur constituency. By 6 PM, we were in Duvvur, a mandal headquarters town that has been turned into a haven of illegal sand-quarrying by rapacious TDP leaders. Many lives were lost by inadvertently slipping into the death pits left along the shores by these illegal sand miners. During YSR’s time, this region used to have irrigation facility for two crops. But, now, the water meant to be released in August is being released in November. There was no water supply during the last two years. In fact, the YSR Government had secured necessary permissions to construct Rajoli reservoir on Kundu river way back in 2008. If only this project had been completed, the KC Canal command area would have been stabilized and the farmers would have been able to harvest two crops. Today, all this has gone for a toss and the farmers are not even getting adequate price for their produce. They are unable even to recover the input costs. The loan waiver fiasco has duped them completely and today, they can’t even approach the banks for fresh loans.
Duvvur witnessed a huge public meeting in the evening. On Sunday, I covered 15.8 km. When I reached my camp site, I learnt of the heart-wrenching boat tragedy in Vijayawada, in which 21 people met a watery grave and others are feared missing. I was benumbed beyond words. I offer my deep and heartfelt condolences to the kin of the victims in this darkest and tragic hour of grief and sorrow. I directed the party workers to rush to the mishap site and ensure that the victims’ kin get justice.