Pentapadu, West Godavari district: After paying my respects to the mortal remains of one of our senior leaders, well-wishers and a multi-faceted genius, Duvvuri Somayajulu, I returned to resume my Padayatra. The heaviness of the fact that we will miss his wisdom and sage counsel remained with me as I set out this morning.
Venkatravamma, who hailed from a very impoverished background, came to me with her son who suffered from acute kidney failure. The poor woman is ready to donate one of her kidneys. Unfortunately, the hospitals in the state lack adequate facilities and Arogyasri is not extended to Hyderabad. Private hospitals say that the meagre assistance provided by the government would not cover the cost of surgery and other related expenses. On the one hand, she doesn't have access to resources to pay for the surgery amounting to lakhs of rupees. At the same time, it breaks her heart to see her son sink with every passing day. This is the state of affairs under Chandrababu Naidu when it comes to healthcare of the poorest sections of society.
Healthcare professionals, who constitute the backbone of our medical system met me this morning. The government doctors lament that though they are ready to offer their services, state-run hospitals are denied facilities and proper equipment. On the other hand, doctors of corporate and private hospitals say that the state government does not settle long-pending bills for years on end. "In such a situation, how do we serve the public?", is their genuine question.
They are denied benefits of government welfare schemes saying that they are government employees, but do not get pensions, health cards or other benefits. The contract employees of the Health and Medical Services department complained that they are being discriminated against in this fashion.
Dentists who met me told me how they ended up paying lakhs of rupees to complete their course, after fee reimbursement had been curtailed. They found themselves trapped in a very difficult situation lacking the means to start a private practice with the government not coming out with a notification on their appointments and unable to work on meagre salaries offered by private set-ups.
The state of pioneering services such as 108 and 104 is pathetic. They are not paid for months on end and their pay structure has remained frozen for years. Worse, there are fewer vehicles today and those in a dilipidated state. The employees face disciplinary action if they raise questions or even termination. This is the sorry state of affairs under TDP today, and it only strengthened my resolve to set things back on track.
Tadepalligudem has been a hub of activities, with all-round development long before Independence. It has always enjoyed good facilities including roads, a rail network and water transport. There are thousands of daily wage labourers from various sectors who are not in any organised category and who spend their lives working in godowns, warehouses and market yards. These coolies or helpers said that on days they found work, they were paid and on other days they were forced to starve. They did back-breaking work lifting heavy sacks and all kinds of load. This led to spinal and other problems at a very young age, they lamented. They developed breathing problems in their forties, they said, as they shared their sorrowful tales. I felt deeply disturbed at the insecure life they led.
I have a question for the chief minister—Your manifesto makes a slew of promises, as many as 15, to workers in the unorganised sector on page 31, including health insurance, social security and interest-free loans. Is it not deception to go back on your word? Is it not a grave sin to let down these poor daily-wage labourers who depend on their physical work for their living on a day-to-day basis?