G. Konduru Mandal, Muthyalampadu Cross, Krishna District: Two girls from Chitti Nagar in Vijayawada, Rama Devi and Sravani, met me today during the course of my Padayatra near Kotturu Tadepalli. The tale of suffering they narrated to me, left me shaken to the core.

Their father, an alcoholic, came home drunk every day and beat their mother up. He also thrashed the two of them mercilessly, in his drunken state. He abused them using foul language and took away every rupee their mother saved, including her meagre savings to buy rice. Often, he landed up at their school and created a commotion there. Other girls from their school would not speak to them because their father was an alcoholic, they said, as they wept narrating the horror of everyday life they experience.

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I was deeply moved by their tale of sorrow. Due to no fault of theirs, these innocent girls became a victim of the TDP government’s flawed policy on liquor. The government in its greed, has been encouraging the mushrooming of liquor shops everywhere. As a result, thousands of people in village after village, have been enslaved by alcohol. At every point, in every village and town, during the course of my Padayatra, I have come across countless such tales so far and have recounted many of them. The TDP government appears to have become blind to the suffering of people in its greed for revenue.

Further down, in Vemavaram, by the road, I paused to look at a boy who was making pots from clay. Pawan Kumar was all of 12 years old. I asked whether he attended school. “He goes to school, but what is the use? Studies no longer guarantee jobs. At least if he learns this skill, he would be able to survive“, said his mother. I assured her that things would not remain the same always and that better days would come soon. I asked her to ensure that her son goes to school and studies well. There were about 100 families which depended on pottery for a livelihood in that village. Their life became a struggle for survival under the TDP government. I was shocked to learn that the sand mafia and soil mafia allied to the TDP, had imposed restrictions even on the mud and clay which they were supposed to use to make pots and other items of daily use!

Employees belonging to the Telugu Akademi met me and told me about the rank corruption which the Akademi had become a victim of. The printing of textbooks had been outsourced by the Chandrababu Naidu government for commissions to some bigwigs and crores of rupees were paid to private publishing contractors. The entire issue of supplying textbooks lay in their hands now and they did not follow any timelines.

Textbooks were not supplied even after half the academic year got over, they lamented. This caused great difficulty to the students, they pointed out. Two prominent corporate college networks printed books in violation of rules and supplied them to students, they said. They showed me newspaper cuttings which detailed how Narayana, who heads one of these corporate institutions, had been taken into custody by the police in a similar case in 2010, for violating the Copyright act and publishing textbooks for sale.

They expressed their anguish fearing the loss of their jobs if the TDP government continued to patronise these networks. Wherever you go, you only see greed driving this government’s policies. At other times, this government has a brazenly vindictive attitude towards people. In other words, the one quality which it should possess, sincerity, is missing in its implementation of welfare schemes.

Andhra Pradesh as one, is fighting for special category status. Youth have taken to the streets in protest. People from all walks of life have joined them. To ensure that the voice of five crore people of Andhra Pradesh resonates all the way to Delhi, let us support the bandh and ensure that there is a peaceful and total shutdown across the state.

I have a question for the chief minister—is it not true that you have always tried to dilute the struggle for special category status to the state? Instead of getting your MPs to resign or take up an indefinite fast, you commented well ahead that bandhs are a ‘waste’. You got notices issued to leaders taking part in the bandh saying that stern action would be taken against their involvement. Moreover, your party distanced itself from the bandh which shows how serious you are about special category status. Does this not amount to diluting the fight for SCS? Instead of fighting for SCS, your party chooses to take action against those participating in the Bandh! Is it just to crack down upon the opposition and people’s groups which are fighting for special category status to Andhra Pradesh? Is this not betrayal of this core issue on your part?