Chirala, Prakasam district: During the course of my Padayatra this morning, Mahubi met me. A poor Beedi worker, she struggled as a single parent, to support her three children. The limited reach of Arogyasri was once again highlighted when she said that her son required orthopaedic surgery for his leg, which she could not afford. She said “Anna had Arogyasri been available, my son could have undergone this surgery.” For four years now, she had been going around government offices for procuring ration card without any success, she lamented. Janmabhoomi committee members paid no heed to her pleas for help, she said.

With great difficulty and with the help of some well-wishers, she got her son treated at the Guntur government hospital, but his leg began to develop swelling yet again. For the past 10 months, her life had become a living hell. She said she had no choice but to go out and work every single day, if she had to earn a living to run the family.

Vinod of Ambedkar Nagar had a similar tragic tale to narrate. Vinod and his wife Jaya, are daily wage labourers who have no other means of support. Their only son has been suffering from high fever for the past several months. The fever simply would not subside.They ended up spending more than a lakh of rupees on investigations and treatment.

Finally, when they learnt of the cause of the unrelenting fever their son was suffering from, they were devastated. It was blood cancer which he was afflicted with. This shocking truth was the primary cause of the fever, which would not let up, they were told.

Their self-esteem took a severe beating and their lives were completely shattered. Although the capital city was not very far, it did not provide any treatment for cancer. As for private hospitals, treatment for this ailment cost over Rs.8 lakhs, they were told. Unfortunately for them, Arogyasri had severe restrictions and they would get only a meagre amount of the expenditure that they would have to incur. Moreover, they were told that if they could manage to provide the rest of the money involved, then the treatment would be given. They narrated their plight to me in voices choking with emotion and tears streaming down their cheeks. I was deeply moved and for a long time I was numb with emotion.

I am even more determined, stronger in my conviction and firmer in my resolve that Arogyasri should be restored to its former glory to cover the healthcare needs of all citizens. Who will the most deprived turn to in such cases?

The complete neglect which Chirala, once a great centre for handloom weavers, was now a victim of, came to light, when I reached the place during the course of my Padayatra today. It was indeed extremely painful to see how the celebrated community of handloom weavers are being neglected by this TDP government. The ruling party has reduced the famous community of weavers to daily wage labourers! What could be worse than this! A large number of weavers came and met me today. They told me that after Chandrababu Naidu came to power, their condition worsened.

Read: Chandrababu Lacks Commitment On Special Category Status: YS Jagan

It is true that the Chandrababu government has been completely indifferent to the plight of the weaver community. When Naidu began his padayatra, he had assured weavers in Hindupur on the very first day that he would transform their lives. This was a commitment Chandrababu had made back then! He stood next to a weaver alongside the poor worker’s loom and used these pictures for publicity. Four years have gone by since Chandrababu came to power. Loan waivers have not taken place, subsidies have not been given and bank loans are denied to poor farmers and other deprived sections of society. The weavers who bend every sinew in their body, shed every drop of blood and sweat to make a living and who have placed India on the world map, suffer from complete neglect. The TDP government does not encourage them in any way. Instead, it has only deceived them with false promises and assurances. APCO today, is a picture of complete neglect under TDP.

The local weavers told me that they did not get any insurance cards and that they were given piecemeal funds from the budget. Chandrababu sheds crocodile tears for them and they have seen through his game, the weavers told me. They were sinking deeper into the morass of debts and the TDP government whose responsibility it is to rescue them, continues to turn a blind eye.

I was even more convinced that the plight of the weavers needed the urgent attention of the government. My belief in this became stronger. It is imperative that weavers occupy their traditional place in society which made them famous across the world. I am determined to transform their lives.

I have a question for the chief minister—why is it that Arogyasri is not being extended to Hyderabad when it comes to the citizens of Andhra Pradesh, especially when they do not have access to better healthcare facilities here? Do the lives of the poor mean nothing to you? Have they no value in your scheme of things?