Booradu, Srikakulam district: My Padayatra was spent the whole day in Regadi mandal. Wherever I went, I could see the widespread neglect of the needs of the people by the ruling party leaders at all levels. I could see for myself the devastation wrought by the insensitive attitude of the government which did not have any concern for welfare governance. I heard the woes of kidney victims seeking help, learnt about the tragic conditions of brick kiln owners who were in need of assistance and the appeals of fishermen who are in a pathetic state —all these are among several instances of government neglect of common citizens.

Kidney problems have been on the rise in Ambakandi village over the past 6-7 years. About 15 victims of kidney diseases told me how government neglect had badly affected their lives. They told me that 20 people in the village had already succumbed to kidney problems, while 14 others did the rounds of hospitals.

It was the government alone which was responsible and it seemed completely unconcerned about their plight, they complained. The government did not pay attention to the fact that drinking water was the cause of widespread kidney disease in this area, as several experts pointed out. These were heart-rending tales which pained me.

It was extremely sorrowful to learn that even when people were losing their lives, they were forced to drink the same water through bore wells and other wells in the village. A spate of applications from the entire village for safe drinking water supply went unanswered, over the years, they said. Can’t the government provide safe drinking water to people? Isn’t this a minimum basic need it is meant to provide?

This morning, my Padayatra proceeded through a stretch which had a number of brick kilns. I spoke to several brick kiln owners. They told me with deep regret that they were all small farmers who were forced to set up brick kilns because there was no water supply to their fields nor did a drop of rain help them. They told me with moist eyes that though they set up these brick kilns with borrowed money, what they earned did not cover even the interest. It was equally painful to see potters who were forced out of their traditional occupation, working in brick kilns as labourers.

The story of Bulli Babu reflects the deception of the government when it comes to the experience of the small farmer. He took a crop loan after having pledged gold. Thanks to Chandrababu Naidu’s betrayal of his loan waiver promise, bank officials auctioned the gold. Driven by compulsion, he abandoned farming and set up a brick kiln. It would not be an exaggeration to say that there is hardly a farmer like Bulli Babu who has not been deceived by Chandrababu Naidu.

Women of nine fishermen families from Echherla mandal met me today and poured out their woes. They sought my help in overcoming the difficulties they faced. They told me about the devastation which was being wrought in the lives of fishermen in multiple ways—migration, steep hike in diesel prices (more than anywhere else in the country) by Chandrababu government, all these were among many factors which made fishermen’s lives miserable, they said. With such high diesel prices, how could the fishermen earn a decent living, they questioned.

The government did not help them in any way—with neither boats, equipment nor nets, they complained. And when there was a holiday season for fishing, they had no means to survive with no government support forthcoming, they lamented. When natural calamities struck, the government did not come forward with any assistance, they pointed out. Due to indiscriminate sprouting of industries everywhere, there was widespread pollution, which in turn, affected marine life. This compounded the misery of fishermen’s lives, as did the role of middlemen.

After spending a full day out at sea, very often fishermen returned with barely enough to make a living. Caught in such trying circumstances, some of them left for Gujarat, they told me. During the course of their fishing activity, if they crossed into Pakistan territory, they were apprehended and then there was no further news from them, they told me as they sobbed. Till their return, they spent sleepless nights, they said. If only the Chandrababu Naidu government had supported them and come to their rescue, the question of migration of fishermen would not have arisen, they pointed out. There is no doubt that it is government indifference to the plight of the community of fishermen which is responsible for this sad state of affairs.

I have a question for the chief minister—apart from using backward and socio-economically deprived sections of society as vote banks, have you taken a single step in the positive direction for their betterment? You seem to have suddenly remembered BCs as elections are approaching, after having forgotten all about them in these four and a half years. Do you think it is enough if you give them iron boxes and a pair of scissors? What answer do you have to these beneficiaries who say that driven by greed for commissions, inferior tools at higher prices are being supplied to them?