Sangam, Sri Potti Sriramulu Nellore district: This morning, during the course of my padayatra, a woman whose condition was truly pathetic came to seek my help. She could barely manage to eke out a livelihood and to make matters more miserable for her, she had a seven year-old daughter with a chronic liver condition. The child’s ailment requires a liver transplant surgery. While she is willing to donate a part of her liver to save her daughter’s life, the surgery costs lakhs of rupees. She did not know who to turn to she said, as she sobbed.

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If only the Arogyasri healthcare scheme did not have the restrictions it now has, her child could have easily undergone surgery. In a life-threatening health condition what does a poor individual do? Shouldn’t the rulers spare a thought to their plight? My conviction to consolidate the Arogyasri healthcare scheme in a comprehensive manner got strengthened even more this morning.

As I walked past the Sangam barrage, I was overcome with sadness. Each step I took required great effort. If only, if only, my father the late Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy had been alive today, this project would have been completed a long time ago. The British rulers had the foresight to envision this project keeping in mind the water scarcity in this region, as also the monsoon conditions. It was planned for the benefit of future generations. That was more than a century ago.

After Independence, though several rulers had come and gone no one spared a thought to this barrage. It was my father who took it up with a sense of determination to ensure that more than 1.5 lakh acres of agricultural land would be irrigated through this project. After his untimely demise, the Sangam barrage stands as a symbol of the negligence and apathy shown by the current TDP government.

Even while I was engrossed in these thoughts, women from the ST colony near the barrage approached me saying that they had repeatedly asked for toilets and for necessary funds to be sanctioned for this. Their pleas fell on deaf ears, they complained. On account of this, they experienced a sense of shame over and over again, they said. I felt that it is not they who should feel ashamed because of the absence of toilets and sanitation, but the rulers and the authorities in question.

Women from the Dalit Wada off YS Peta came to me saying that bills for toilets which had been constructed have not been paid in all these months. Against this background, I found Chandrababu Naidu’s statement farcical. He said that he would take up a protest if people and authorities did not build toilets in villages! What could be more ridiculous?

This is even more ridiculous considering the fact that corruption has reached its zenith under Chandrababu Naidu and this can be seen in the matter of construction of toilets in villages. Money is claimed for old ones, those which are incomplete and also ones which have not been built at all! On the other hand, the deserving poor are not getting approval for toilets! Or, in their case, funds are not being released for ones already built! How does one reconcile Chandrababu Naidu’s absurd statement with the ground reality which we see? The local Janmabhoomi committees have to recommend the sanction of toilets in villages, as well! To what level the ruling TDP can stoop can be gauged from the fact that there is clear discrimination against people of other parties even in the matter of release of funds for toilets! When the leadership at the apex of the system in AP is neck-deep in corruption, is it any surprise that those on the lowest rung are no different? If the top leadership is involved in corrupt deals running into thousands of crores, is it any surprise to see TDP followers and Janmabhoomi committee members at the micro-level, looting the state exchequer in the construction of toilets, pensions and ration cards?

Finally, I have a poser for the chief minister—you said you would stage a protest against people if toilets are not built in villages. Owning responsibility for this pathetic situation, shouldn’t you be staging a protest against yourself and your government?