Mangalagiri, Ambedkar Circle, Guntur District: A number of women belonging to Panakalaswami Colony of Atmakuru panchayat met me this morning during the course of my Padayatra. They narrated at length the difficulties they were facing on a day-to-day basis. “Anna over the past four years, every single day, hundreds of trucks go rumbling through our village all through the day and night. Sand is being excavated indiscriminately and these trucks which fetch crores of rupees to TDP leaders are wreaking havoc here. The air here is unfit to breathe and the condition of the roads is beyond description. Houses are filled with dust. Many among us have fallen prey to sickness. What is worse is that there is a cloud of fear of accidents hanging over our heads all the time. We are unable to sleep at night because of the noise made by these trucks and our children are unable to study, especially at a time when exams are being held. While we expect them to give us a breather for at least four hours at night, they show no such mercy. Road accidents have taken place. Protests and demonstrations have been of no use. Officials and police back this illegal activity to the full, instead of protecting our rights. They are foisting false cases on us accusing us of being against developmental activity of the capital.”

Read: YS Jagan Interacts With Weavers In Mangalagiri

With tears in their eyes these women narrated how the area around the pond in their village had been dug up 15 m deep. It is shocking to see the sand mafia spread its tentacles across the length and breadth of Andhra Pradesh under the active patronage of the Telugu Desam rulers. How inhuman it is on the part of the TDP leadership to patronise this large network of sand mafia syndicates across the state, which are destroying the ecosystem everywhere, only to earn hundreds of crores of rupees!

Further down on my Padayatra, I visited a workshop of handloom weavers at Atmakuru and learnt of the difficulties being faced by the workers there. It was shocking to learn that they spend the whole day working and yet are barely able to make a living. On a good day when there’s work, they get Rs. 250, and on other days they have to report for work regardless of being assigned any. They manage to find work for 20 days in a month. Sankara Rao, a weaver, told me that he had spent four decades in this field.

There were 24 such workshops in Mangalagiri which was the Number 1 centre at one time, he said. Now only four are left, he lamented. If the government does not step in urgently, even these units would be shut down, he feared. Gopi was an MBA graduate, who on finding himself jobless, decided to take up his traditional occupation and was working in the unit there. He was despondent about his future and was barely able to survive on the limited income that he could get. It was indeed very sad to see an educated young man suffer in this manner, without any help from the government either in terms of job placement or supporting his traditional occupation. One wondered what happened to Chandrababu Naidu‘s promise of job for every home! Where was his unemployment allowance? Isn’t Chandrababu Naidu responsible for ruining the handloom industry?

The sacrifice of our YSRCP MPs Who have put their lives at stake battling for special category status to Andhra Pradesh will be written in letters of gold. I congratulated them once again on their determined struggle and their indefinite hunger strike in the national capital. The protest for SCS being waged by YSRCP MPs is a matter of pride for Andhra Pradesh. It makes me proud to see people across the state respond spontaneously to the call for protest by YSRCP and hold highway blockades everywhere demanding SCS. I bow my head in gratitude to the people of the state.

I have a question for the chief minister— you had promised that the TDP would create facilities which would help our handlooms to find international markets, that loans would be waived, health insurance would be given, a handloom park would be designed and provided houses, sheds and a whole range of other promises .... The TDP manifesto says it all on page 21. There are 23 such assurances and four years have gone by. Have you been able to fulfill at least one of those promises? Does this not amount to cheating the weaver community?