Eeteru, Guntur district: By the time I walked past Kondubhotlavaripalem, the Sun had got scorchingly hot. Even in this blistering heat, thousands of people walked alongside me briskly. There were lush green fields all around as we moved apace. One sight which stirred my heart and had me rooted to where I was at that moment was profoundly touching—many women were rushing through the fields to come and greet me. The way they were running through the green fields made my heart swell with joy. They were waving out to me as they came bounding through the fields. I waited for them and yet they would not stop running. There was a culvert which was about knee-deep. Even that did not deter them. They came rushing on to the road where I stopped for them.
They came panting and gasping for breath. They ran up to me and greeted me saying, ‘Anna’, and surrounded me. They held my hands and spoke to me with great love and affection. They told me that they were from Marripudi village and work as daily wage labourers in the fields across the road.
One young woman said, “Anna, I cannot tell you how I happy we feel.” An older woman standing by her side said, “This is a day we will never forget in our lives. Your father, the late Dr. YS Rajasekhara Reddy, gave us a roof over our heads. It was only after he came to power that we could get three square meals a day.” Another woman, Lakshmi added, “That is the reason why when we learned about your visit, we came to see you without even finishing our lunch,” she said, showing her soiled palms. My eyes filled with tears when I saw the affection of these women. I had walked barely a few metres further down the road, when the same scene replayed. Women labourers from Kevipalem, who were working in the nearby fields, came running to greet me.
They narrated the problems they faced under the TDP government to me. One woman said, “Anna, for all of us your father is someone we worship. He helped us in every way.” Even before she could complete what she was saying, another woman, Jyothi, told me that it was during my father’s time that her husband had fractured his leg and thanks to Arogyasri, the pioneering healthcare initiative implemented at that time by my father’s government, her husband could undergo treatment at a corporate hospital in Guntur. They did not have to spend a penny on his surgery, she said, adding, “Anna had it not been for Arogyasri, it would have been impossible for us to get the surgery done, spending lakhs of rupees. Today he goes to work, something I was uncertain of that time.”
Another woman labourer, Jangam Malleswari, said, “Anna, when I wanted to come and see you, my landlord asked me not to go. I told him that I did not need the wages for today and came away. In fact, I did not know that you were coming. Had I known I would not have gone to work today and we would have walked along with you. When we see you walking in this sizzling dry Sun for our sake, we feel overwhelmed.” The gratitude these women showed towards my father was deeply touching. I expressed my deepest sense of thankfulness to them. I thought that any amount of service for such, deprived segments of the social strata who benefit from your good work, is not enough. After I walked for some distance, over 100 differently-abled people met me. They said, “Anna we live in a very unjust system under the TDP today. During your father, the late Dr. YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s period, certificates would be issued on the spot to the differently abled, after a special camp. Every disabled individual got pension in his time. Today, under the TDP, without the recommendation of Janmabhoomi committees, nothing moves and we do not get our pension without bribing them. Even if an individual suffers from 100% disability, he has to bribe the Janmabhoomi committee members to get pension through their recommendation. 90% of us get Rs.1000 as pension, but the government claims that it is giving Rs.1,500 to all the differently-abled, which is nothing but false propaganda. The government turns a deaf ear to our pleas for jobs and houses, as promised. All commitments made to us during elections have been consigned to the dustbin.”
I have a question for the Chief Minister—the government should have been extremely compassionate and generous towards the differently abled. Instead, why is it that they are denied their due and Janmabhoomi committees have been unleashed upon them? Isn’t it inhuman to discriminate against the disabled?