Santapuriti, Srikakulam district: It is said that ordinary individuals think about their own needs and themselves, while truly great men constantly think about others. My father’s endeavour to serve the people and improve their lot, his constant efforts to better their condition and his lasting contribution, have created an abiding place in their hearts for him.

Women from Kondampeta—Jyotirmayi, Reshma, Roopa and others, met me today. It pleased me no end to learn from them that every year in scorching summer months they set up water and buttermilk points to quench the thirst of wayfarers. Their devotion to my father grew to a point where the villagers of Kodulagummadi decided to build a temple for him.

This place of worship was built with donations from daily wage labourers and members of self- help groups. They also donated their labour and built the temple with their own hands. Is there anything higher than finding a permanent place in the hearts of people by serving them and doing good unto them?

Poverty is a curse and if it is compounded by disease, and to add to it, if the authorities do not extend a helping hand, life becomes miserable. Gouru Naidu of Pogiri completed his 10th standard 18 years ago, securing over 80% marks. He stood first in his school. However, not having the means to study further, he began to earn his livelihood through taking up painting jobs and working as a daily wage labourer.

Unfortunately, his daughter suffers from thalassaemia and requires blood transfusion twice a month, apart from medicines. The cost of all this comes to Rs.3000 a month. “We are barely able to survive and on top of it have been burdened with these expenses. We would be grateful if at least the blood transfusion is done free of cost,“ he said, as tears welled up in his eyes. A woman from the same village is a victim of HIV. Her husband succumbed to the disease. With tears flowing down her cheeks, she narrated her ordeal to me. She had been running around from pillar to post for the pension which was due to her, without any success. She was being denied this pension on one pretext or the other. If this is not a clear demonstration of government apathy and insensitivity, then what is?

Women from DWCRA self-help groups from Jagannathapuram—Shirdi Sai, Nataraja and Shivashakti groups, all of whom were Dalits, met me. They work as daily wage labourers and were repaying their loans. Believing Chandrababu Naidu‘s promise of loan waiver, they stopped paying their loans. With interest getting added to the interest amount, their loan amounts have now grown and banks have sent them notices for payment. All their precious savings have now gone towards the interest amount, they lamented. They were furious at these acts of betrayal by Chandrababu Naidu and, venting their anger, they said that they wanted to file a case against him under SC/ST Atrocities Act. I could understand their anguish and empathise with their condition. Chandrababu is directly responsible for the humiliation that they had to face.

A tenant farmer from Palakhandya, Ramana Rao, met me in the evening. He lost his entire crop at the time of Hud-Hud cyclone. He was delighted to find his name in the list of beneficiaries being given compensation by the Chandrababu Naidu government. However, he did not get a rupee after years. He went around government offices in an endless exercise of futility.

I have a question for the chief minister— is it just on your part to indulge in false propaganda about giving compensation and relief to victims of natural disasters such as floods and cyclones? Are such acts of political selfishness, while you are looting the funds, justified? Is this what you mean by your oft-repeated statement that opportunities can be found even in a crisis?

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