Ramavaram, East Godavari District: Mandapeta, from where my Padayatra moved today, is home to countless stories, the locale and setting of many a film shooting and is renowned for being the place to which the great spiritual gurus, Pedda Jeeyar Swami and Chinna Jeeyar Swami belong. One is reminded of Tapeswaram Khaja in these parts. Incidentally, this area has the highest number of rice mills.
Kollu Prasada Rao from D. Polavaram in Amalapuram constituency came and met me today. His father, Satyanarayana, a tenant farmer, toiled through the year and yet suffered serious losses. Driven into debt and unable to face the ensuing humiliation, he committed suicide in the agricultural field most dear to his heart, in 2016. His son told me that months had passed and yet the government did not respond to his father’s death and the promised ex-gratia amount had not reached the family. He reminded me that I wrote a letter to the government and it was only then that the state machinery woke up. The family got some assistance owing to the fact that I took up the case. He came to meet me to express his gratitude.
This reminded me of the sorry state of affairs with regard to the farmer. Whenever my father, the late Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy, would fly overhead he would gaze upon the verdant Konaseema region and remark that he wished all parts of the state were as green. He would often bring this up in the course of day to day conversation.
Sadly, after the demise of my father, the farmer began to suffer with crop holiday being announced here. The circumstances had altered so drastically. Farmers’ suicides became common everywhere from areas in north Andhra to the backward Rayalaseema region. Even this resource-rich area suffered no less and that is most disturbing because there was no dearth of water for irrigation here. The land is extremely fertile. For farmers of this region to be driven to suicide is a cause for serious concern. As long as the farmers are hostages to middlemen ruling the roost, the situation is not likely to change.
After I crossed Someswaram, women workers who were sowing paddy, came and met me. Although they toiled all day long in the fields, they said that they did not even earn enough to survive. One of them, Nagamani, said that while they waged a battle for survival, they were slapped with exorbitantly high power bills. The amount on a single power bill today was more than that of the added up amount of bills of 3 to 4 months earlier. Moreover, they found it difficult to find work on many days. “Anna, I wish to educate my children and ensure a better future for them.”
“I too desire a better tomorrow for my children and do not want them to work as daily wage labourers. But the fees are so high that my daughter had to drop out of her intermediate course because I could not afford to pay for her education.“ These were the words of Gangaratnamani, who said she did not know how her other daughter would be able to complete her engineering.
Does Chandrababu Naidu who had promised free education from KG to PG, have an answer for these poor women? Battula Bujji, Kondrapu Sasirekha and others from Someswaram expressed their anguish stating that they had appealed for houses which were promised to them several times, but in vain. I was reminded of my fathers’ pioneering housing scheme which he initiated here, in Padamara Kandriga in 2006. In 13 districts here, 24 lakh homes were built during his tenure, providing millions a roof over their heads. What pains me the most is the absence of integrity and sincerity in the present day rulers.
My poser to the chief minister—you had promised a state where there would be no huts or hovels. You had stated that all eligible people would be given houses along with 3 cents of land. Do you have any memory of this promise? Are you not deceiving people when you say that you would build 19 lakh homes when you have not built even one lakh houses in 4 1/2 years?