Poothalapattu, Chittoor :Today, after I began my walk, near Tenepally, I spotted a 108 ambulance and was reminded of my father, the late Dr. YS Rajasekhara Reddy. Back then, during his tenure when he introduced the pioneering 108 ambulance service, it won accolades across the country and was hailed as a model scheme worthy of emulation. No wonder, it was adopted in 20 other states where it is being run effectively. Today in stark contrast, this exemplary service holds a mirror to the inefficiency and incompetence of the current TDP Government.

Right next to the ambulance stood some employees of this service who came to me and said— “Sir it is because of your father, the late Dr. YSR that we got these jobs. During his time we experienced no difficulty, but today we are put to great suffering and our situation is pathetic. Our pay has not been enhanced for years now. And for the past three months we have not been getting our salaries. Even the medical facilities that we are supposed to provide are not there and many vehicles are being run even without a fitness certificate. Employees are subjected to great harassment, sir. Many of us have been working for more than 10 years and cannot seek jobs elsewhere. We could not ever imagine that things would come to such a pass. Out of affection and reverence for your father and because of the trust and faith we have in you, we came here to meet you.”

During my father’s time, this service proved to be a lifeline for villagers and saved the lives of thousands of rural folk in remote villages through the prompt service it rendered. Unfortunately, 108 has become a victim of Chandrababu Naidu’s rule—a scheme which is being run efficiently in several other states which had emulated AP’s example, is languishing in the state where it originated! What is the reason for this apathy towards 108 which provides services to the poor? On the one hand, it is because of the rampant, pervasive corruption which has become synonymous with Chandrababu Naidu’s Rule. On the other, it is because the present day rulers fear that 108 is so closely associated with my father that they do not want this service to flourish, regardless of how useful and purposeful it is. 108 has become a target of petty politics under TDP, which is the saddest part of this entire thing.

Around the time that my yatra for the day was coming to a close, some Dalit friends from Kuppam constituency came to meet me. They told me—“Sir, we are from Sodiganipalli village of Gudipalli mandal. There are two temples in our Dalitwada, namely Mala Gerigamma and Sudra Gerigamma. TDP leaders have forcibly occupied valuable land belonging to the temples and are planning to plot out this land. We have been going around government offices from pillar to post, but our pleas have fallen on deaf ears. There is no one to heed our appeals not even the collector. We pray at these temples with a lot of devotion and faith.” This is happening in the Chief Minister’s own constituency where his followers are occupying temple lands and planning to sell them and the Chandrababu’s insensitivity to this issue is worrying to say the least.

It is not as if we do not know Chandrababu Naidu’s attitude towards dalits. We saw very recently an instance in which a Dalit woman was subject to indescribable harassment in Jerrypothulapalem. This incident continues to haunt public imagination as does Chandrababu Naidu’s inaction. Now even temple lands are not being spared, not even those belonging to dalits! Recently, we also saw the case of Sadavarthi temple lands in which Chandrababu used his proxies to try to acquire temple lands. Not even land belonging to the revered Kanaka Durga Temple was spared! If you think and act with such brazenness and impunity, Mr Chandrababu Naidu, will your followers be any different?

Finally, I have a question for the chief minister. Is it not true that land was forcibly acquired from Dalits by your proxies in several projects related to capital construction without requisite compensation being paid to them? “Would anyone wish to be born as a Dalit?” is what you had said and therefore, can one expect anything better from you?