After fourteen gruelling months in which he braved sizzling heat, biting cold and battering rain, Leader of Opposition in Andhra Pradesh legislative assembly and YSR Congress Party President, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, concludes his historic walkathon and mass contact initiative, Praja Sankalpa Yatra on Wednesday. In doing so, he will be writing a fresh chapter in the history of Andhra Pradesh and in the country itself. No leader in the history of this nation had ever undertaken such a long and arduous Padayatra. YS Jagan began his Praja Sankalpa Yatra on November 6, 2017 from Idupulapaya in Dr. YSR district.
By the time Praja Sankalpa Yatra reached its final destination of Ichchapuram in Srikakulam district, it crossed 3648 km and during the course of this walkathon covering 13 districts, 134 constituencies, 8 corporations 231 mandals and 2516 villages, YS Jagan reached out to nearly 1.5 crore people in the state, an unprecedented feat. The Praja Sankalpa Yatra has rightly been described as a 'yagnam' by senior party leaders.
All along the way, people thronged in large numbers to the Padayatra, interactions and public meetings. They poured out their woes to him on a variety of problems plaguing them in their day-to-day lives. If farmers complained of lack of sufficient water for irrigation or denial of loan waivers, they also faced other problems like spurious seeds distributed by the state government agencies. In many places, as in Srikakulam district in the most recent instance, farmers and fishermen, unable to pursue their traditional vocation were compelled to become migrant labourers.
In fact, Ichchapuram which marks the concluding point of the Padayatra as a constituency occupies the top place in this sad narrative, while YS Jagan found that the story of migrations was there in every village in Srikakulam. YS Jagan heard out the painful stories of migration, of local villagers forced to migrate to other places in search of livelihood. He was told that some end up in distant Kolkata or Chennai as construction labourers.
There were others who meet a worse fate. They find themselves in the prisons of Pakistan, captured by the Navy of the neighbouring country for straying into their waters. These innocent villagers are completely unaware of what they have done. He heard many such stories and assured the villagers of taking up their case. Others were cheated by brokers who promised them lucrative jobs abroad.
Farmers everywhere, all through the Padayatra came to YS Jagan to narrate their problems to him. In most places, the common problem they faced was the lack of government support. As a result, their produce did not fetch the required price. This was a widespread complaint which the YSRCP chief heard. Farmers could not even recover their investment in many cases and it was obvious that under the TDP rule, they found themselves at the receiving end with middlemen ruling the roost. The poor farmer invariably ends up in losses under Chandrababu‘s regime where overnight prices dip steeply, making life impossible for the tiller.
On the one hand, farmers everywhere are distressed by the fact that there is no rainfall, no support price for their crops and no water to irrigate their fields. They are plagued in addition to all these problems by spurious seeds, as was the case of farmers from Seetanagaram mandal. They were deeply distressed by what the government had done to them—it supplied spurious seeds them. As a result they lost their crops completely and have been pushed into debts. This is a unique case of a government cheating the farmer, they told YS Jagan, who was moved by their plight.
Farmers hoped that YS Jagan would soon come to power and Rajanna Rajyam would be ushered in. All of them across the state said that the Chandrababu Naidu government is an anti-farmer government. While this is the reality at the village level, the AP chief minister brags about awards for his contribution to farming!
Drinking Water and Civic Facilities
People in most places along the Padayatra route told YS Jagan that drinking water was a serious problem. In some places, it was supplied once in three days and even this was uncertain, villagers said. To make matters worse, what was shocking was that in some places, the ruling party leaders resorted to excesses on people who demanded regular supply of drinking water! In many places, people showed highly contaminated water which they were supplied as drinking water!
Drainage was a universal problem across the state, villagers told him.
Villagers in every village of every district complained that the pioneering healthcare initiative put in place by Dr. YS Rajasekhara Reddy had been completely watered down by Chandrababu Naidu. The poor suffered the most as a result of this. Villagers everywhere also complained about the sad state of affairs with respect to 108 services. It is ironic that this healthcare initiative which was started by the late Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy and which is being emulated by 16 other states, and countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, has been completely diluted down in its home state. Rampant kidney disease in the district of Srikakulam alone is sufficient to highlight the problem. Kidney ailments caused by contaminated water are very high in the district. Villagers told YS Jagan that Chandrababu had promised free medicines for patients suffering from kidney disease in every primary health centre and a nephrologist in every dialysis centre. This was two years ago in a public meeting at Palasa. Two years have gone by but there is no trace of any progress. The situation is the same in all the districts of the state.
The irony is that crores of rupees are being spent from the state exchequer on advertisements declaring a healthy and happy state, “Arogya Andhra Pradesh, Ananda Andhra Pradesh.” The deserving whose money is being spent on this propaganda campaign, continue to languish in poverty and are denied their due.
People all through the Padayatra complained that they were denied pensions, be they old age pensions or those of the disabled or widows. Cyclone Titli victims poured out their woes to YS Jagan saying they had been denied relief and compensation. Farmers complained saying that not even three-fourths of the amount spent on the crop was given to them as compensation. While this government has not paid compensation for victims of Hud Hud cyclone for years, suddenly it announced compensation to victims of Titli cyclone when the Praja Sankalpa Yatra was on its way to the area, the villagers pointed out to the YSRCP chief. Whatever little they got by way of compensation was only because of his Padayatra, they said.
The rampant corruption in which the Janmabhoomi committees were involved at the village level was exposed all along the Padayatra. People in village after village complained of the high-handedness of the Janmabhoomi committees--their interference in all matters at the grassroots level which turned them into extra-constitutional bodies. Democratically elected Sarpanches were bypassed by these committees and for everything from pensions to land or house allotment, the Janmabhoomi committees came into play.
Pervasive Corruption Under TDP
Apart from highlighting the corruption of the TDP government, YS Jagan also reminded people in his public meetings and interactions about the unconstitutional methods of Chandrababu Naidu, his luring of 23 YSRCP MLAs to the TDP, making 4 of them ministers, his discrimination against opposition MLAs by not allocating funds to their constituencies and several other such undemocratic tactics. The humongous scam surrounding Amaravati, the mouch-toute global capital where a brick has not been laid, huge irregularities in Polavaram, Pattiseema, Handri-Neeva, Veligonda and a host of other irrigation projects, all these instances of corruption under Chandrababu came to the fore during the course of the 341 day march. Similarly, the plight of the AgriGold victims and the greed of the Telugu Desam bigwigs was highlighted all along.
YS Jagan also took up the cause of Special Category Status to the state in every place, as the YSRCP had been doing for the past four years. He reminded the people of the state that it was the YSR Congress party which had all along taken up the cause of the SCS.
Today, YS Jagan stands on the cusp of scripting a new chapter in the history of Andhra Pradesh. Ichchapuram marks the culmination of a 341 day Padayatra, an unprecedented march in the annals of the state in terms of scale, size, duration, distance and people reached out to. It heralds a new dawn in the history of Andhra Pradesh. More importantly, it has created an awareness on a wide spectrum of issues central to the development of the state, apart from highlighting the evils plaguing it under Chandrababu Naidu. Praja Sankalpa Yatra it must be emphasized, has succeeded in resetting the moral compass of the state of Andhra Pradesh.