Sanyasirajupeta, Vizianagaram district: As soon as my Padayatra commenced this morning, contract teachers working in tribal welfare residential schools met me. Incidentally, all of them are members of tribal communities.
They narrated their problems to me and described how they had been working for 16 years now on a meagre salary, in tribal villages where basic facilities were lacking. They were paid for only 10 months in a year. “We continue to work like daily wage labourers in the hope that our services would get regularised one day. But this government wants to fill up the posts we are working on currently, showing them as vacancies in the proposed DSE to be held. Our jobs are now threatened,“ they said, expressing their deep anguish. These teachers were furious with Chandrababu Naidu for planning to remove them from service altogether, after having promised to regularise their services at the time of elections. “Is is the reward we get after working in these tribal villages in such difficult conditions for so many years? What will happen to us now? They wondered what they would do at this age, and I could empathise with their condition.
Epidemics of killer fevers have been raging through northern Andhra region and Vizianagaram has been among the worst hit. Members of the families of victims of these killer diseases from the village of Karasavalasa, met me.
Kothamma, who lost her father at a young age became an orphan after she lost her mother to the deadly fever. The story of Naveen was no different. Venkamma lost her grown-up daughter to the killer fever. Gowramma became a widow after she lost her husband and as for an elderly villager, Chinnaiah, with the death of his daughter who fell victim to the epidemic, the responsibility of raising her children fell upon him.
Their stories filled me with sadness. The abject neglect on the part of the TDP government when it came to sanitation facilities, drinking water, which was highly contaminated in all these parts, unchecked mosquito menace, total absence of doctors and medical facilities, unresponsive 104 services—these were clear signs of government apathy, affecting 200 lives in a village of 250 people. As many as 11 people died and the government has still not woken up from its slumber.
The doctors remained unresponsive till the local MLA threatened to resign. The Chief Minister has remained unmoved by the tragedy even as it has been unfolding on this scale in Karasavalasa and other villages in these parts. Though it is the government which is directly responsible for these deaths, the victims are not covered by the much-touted insurance scheme, “Chandranna Beema.” Nor have the victims received compensation. How do these poor villagers survive?
Many villagers came and met me today and told me about problems regarding health facilities and the denial of Arogyasri when it came to their problems. Ratnalu told me that this was the case when she wanted to get leg surgery done for her daughter. This was also the experience faced by Tarun who sought to get treatment for a mental condition. They were denied Arogyasri coverage. HIV patients not being given pension, thalassaemia victim, Padma’s parents getting no help and having to spend whatever they could from their meagre resources, Kanaka, who with no government help forthcoming left her daughter with a grievous spinal condition untreated, Venkatesh, whose kidneys failed, driving him to debts—there were countless tales of government indifference to the growing health care needs of the people.
My Padayatra today held a mirror up to the medical and health facilities provided by the Chandrababu Naidu government. What response does the chief minister, who holds the health portfolio, have to these raging problems across a spectrum of health conditions? Villagers from Sayasirajupeta, a tribal village, met me at the camp office today. More than 40 people from this village are government employees and incidentally, all of them were given these jobs by the previous governments.
In the four and a half years of Chandrababu Naidu's rule, not a single villager got a government job. In view of Mata Paidimamba celebrations, which have great significance for devotees in the northern Andhra region, I halted my Padayatra in the afternoon.
My poser to the Chief Minister—you had bragged that you controlled the sea, conquered droughts and kept cyclones in check! Don’t you feel ashamed when people die in large numbers due to fevers?