A Picture Of All-Round Neglect

Ullampurru, West Godavari District: Palakollu is an ancient capital of culture. It is the birthplace of several historical personalities, great men of art and literature and also occupies a very high place in the map of sacred pilgrimage centres. A Pancharama Kshetra which traces its history to Lord Sri Rama and Sita, it is a holy place of great religious significance. My Padayatra proceeded from Palakollu today to my great happiness. However, there was one discordant note. Such a historical place and ancient cradle of culture, today is a picture of neglect and corruption, thanks to the TDP regime.  How does one explain the fact that this town enjoyed abundant supply of safe drinking water from 1930 and yet today is struggling to quench its thirst!  This reversal in fortunes took place thanks to the current TDP government.

In the midst of such a worsening situation, my interaction with an old woman, Rameswarapu Lakshmi from a Nayee Brahmin family, brought me some joy. She told me that she had undergone heart surgery during my father, the late Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy‘s tenure under his landmark healthcare programme, Arogyasri.  She met me to express her gratitude.  She said—“In days when one’s kith and kin do not bother, your father also wrote a letter to me after the surgery, asking me to inform him if I had any problem.  See the level of his concern for the poor!” She carried with her the letter my father wrote, which she had got framed.  I was overwhelmed by this display of affection. Such was the adoration that the common public had for my father and for the work he did.  He lived in their hearts for that reason alone.

Further down, I met student representatives of BC/SC welfare hostels who said that the Chandrababu Naidu government was neglecting them completely. “Anna, the TDP government has so far shut down 653 SC hostels. In Palakollu alone, of the 24 which were there, 13 have been closed.  They are putting forth lame excuses that there aren’t enough students.  They also promised to build residential schools in place of these welfare hostels, but not one has come up.  The number of students who dropped out on account of closure of hostels, has gone up.

This government alone is responsible for the declining numbers in hostels. On the one hand, it does not release sufficient funds and secondly, the quality of food in these hostels is extremely poor.  The amenities provided to the students are simply terrible. Chandrababu Naidu is pre-occupied with ensuring that his proxies in the corporate educational sector benefit from his largesse. Isn’t this clearly a part of this plan?” This was the question posed by this group of angry students.  Chandrababu Naidu who is busy with his corrupt activities has no time to think of the welfare of such poor SC/BC students.

I saw how jobless youth were cheated by Chandrababu Naidu with the false promise of unemployment allowance. Some of them who met me near Palakollu were shaking with fury as they recounted how he had assured them of giving Rs.2000 as unemployment allowance and pointed out that four years down the road, they still did not get a rupee and Chandrababu Naidu no longer made any mention of this promise. “Anna, because you have been repeatedly highlighting this issue in your interaction with people, public meetings and speeches, during the course of your Padayatra, he has begun to draw up a plan to deceive us once again.“ They severely criticised him for promising to give a meagre Rs.1000 now.  Even this was subject to the scrutiny of Janmabhoomi committee members, who were blatantly partisan in their approach. The entire scheme was narrowed down to limit the scope.  Once again, this revealed Chandrababu Naidu‘s style of functioning replete with lies and betrayals, deception and false assurances.

I have a question for the chief minister—why is it that it is under your rule alone that more than half of SC/BC welfare hostels which have been functioning for decades smoothly, been shut down?  Whatever happened to your promise of constructing residential schools in place of these hostels?  Is there a record of even one such hostel having been built?  Is it not true that after the existing ones have been shut down and the promised residential schools haven’t come up, the education of these poor students from deprived sections of society, has suffered?
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