Jogannapalem Cross, West Godavari District: During the course of my Padayatra today, I was touched by an experience which showed that beyond relationships of blood and family ties, sometimes there are bonds which are forged between people which remain strong and time-tested. “Sir, my husband is in the throes of death. Even as he is battling death, he refuses to touch a drop of water in the hope that you would come and see him," an elderly lady who came to me accompanied by her granddaughter, said. At the far end of the road was their house, and as I stepped in to it, I saw that on the wall along with pictures of gods and goddesses, was a framed photograph of my father, the late Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy. The place they accorded to him in their hearts was something which touched me profoundly.
I spent some time with Katari Ramulu, a bedridden old man, whose face lit up with joy when he saw me. He worshipped my father and such was the level of reverence he had for him that when he heard of my father’s untimely demise, he was so overcome with grief that he got ready to throw himself under a train and commit suicide. Fortunately, he was rescued by some good Samaritans. “For six months he has been confined to the bed and for the first time it seems as if his joy knows no bounds,” said his daughter-in-law. There were millions of such common citizens in whose hearts my father had a permanent place. Tirupati Rao, who met me on my Padayatra, said, “Anna, my father is 70 years old and submitted an application saying that he had not been getting his pension. We received a telephone call very soon asking us as to which party we had voted for. When we replied ‘Jagan Anna’, they criticised us. And then, they withdrew not just the pension, but also took our ration card away. Today, we don’t get the rice which we used to get as a matter of right,“ he said.
Sarpanches who met me said, “Anna, we are Sarpanches only in name. We are figureheads with no power. When we get work done, the bills are not passed and we cannot get a single pension approved.” They lamented that for five months the staff had not been paid their salaries and they could not even pay power bills in their villages. The condition of minor panchayats was truly pathetic. This TDP government has completely watered down local governance they pointed and this was evident. The highlight of this was that after the chief minister’s son took over as the Panchayat Raj minister, things got worse.
Paramjyoti came to me with a two year old girl she was carrying in her arms and said that there was no security for women under the TDP, which was disturbing. She held a placard which read “Save the girl child.“
My poser to the chief minister—you had said in your party's manifesto that you would restore the panchayat raj system to its former glory. Instead, panchayats are in a state of near closure and are a picture of total neglect. Staff are not being paid their salaries, panchayats are not in a position to pay their power bills and do not have any power of their own. Promising that you would strengthen constitutional bodies, you have imposed extra-constitutional centres of power like the Janmabhoomi committees on them. Is this not deception and betrayal?