Great men never die. Immortal souls live through their work, their ideals and accomplishments. As Mahatma Gandhi rightly observed, when asked about his message “My Life is my message.” This is true of Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy as well. YSR, as he popularly known, lives through his work of lasting significance and far-reaching impact.
Even today, wherever we go, we find him idolised in every single village, town and city across the length and breadth of Andhra Pradesh. His smiling face remains etched in our hearts and flashes on the mind’s screen each time we think of Arogyasri, Indiramma Housing, Fee Reimbursement Scheme, Jalayagnam, free power supply and a wide spectrum of other welfare measures he had initiated. We find countless individuals coming up to his son the current Leader of Opposition in Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy on his padayatra, to describe how they benefitted from Arogyasri or the fee reimbursement scheme, for example.
Only a visionary of Dr YSR’s stature could think of pension for the old, without which they would be reduced to indigent paupers with no means of subsistence? It was only he who as a doctor knew the trials and tribulations of the differently-abled that could think of raising the meager dole that was being dished out to the disabled?
YSR’s pioneering Jala Yagnam irrigation project that helped the growth of sustainable agriculture would have turned AP into the ‘Swarna Andhra Pradesh’ that he envisioned it to be, had it been carried through to its logical end.
The doctor in him saw the decline of government hospitals during the TDP era and the growing healthcare needs of a population weighed down by poverty. He unveiled the Arogyasri health insurance programme for BPL families through which they could avail themselves of free treatment up to a maximum limit of Rs 2 lakhs!
Another pet project of his was the Indiramma housing scheme, which gave millions of homeless across rural Andhra Pradesh an abode which gave them dignity of life. It was a housing scheme that was unprecedented in terms of its scale and magnitude.
Dr YSR’s two rupees-a kg rice scheme gave sustenance to millions of the poor and deprived and ensured that no one in the state was denied minimal means of subsistence.
He empowered the poorest sections of society with education through the fee reimbursement scheme. During the YSR era, the scheme provided full reimbursement of the college tuition fee for the underprivileged. This is one of the reasons why the late chief minister became hugely popular and respected among all segments of the population.
All his schemes were aimed at providing social welfare to ensure that every citizen in the state was not deprived of his basic necessities — food clothing and shelter. All his exemplary schemes are being watered down by the ruling TDP dispensation that is unconnected with the needs of the poor villagers across the state.
The current state of affairs in the state clearly reflects the fact that the present leaders lack the muscle to push the Centre to help the state. One glaring example of this approach is the weak-kneed response of the TDP to the need to push for Special Category Status for Andhra Pradesh over the past four years. The ruling party has been equally lackadaisical when it comes to burning issues such as the Kadapa Steel Plant or the Vizag Railway zone to cite two examples.
No other leader in living memory demonstrated the concern which Dr YSR did for the backward sections of society, including the minorities, SCs/STs and BCs. A fact that has been validated by thousands of people, especially on YS Jagan’s padayatra. It would be pertinent to point out that the floor leader of AIMIM in Telangana Legislative Assembly, Akbaruddin Owaisi had reiterated on more than one occasion that it was no other political leader but YSR and YSR alone who gave 4% reservations to the Muslim community.
In the annals of Andhra Pradesh, YSR alone strode upon the political stage like a true giant standing tall among all other public figures. To this day, no single political leader has been able to eclipse his aura. For the people of both the Telugu speaking states today, Dr YSR lives through his ideals and the causes he espoused. They now see his reflection in his son, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy.