Vol. XLI No. 23 June 04, 2017

ANDHRA PRADESH: Rayalaseema Bandh Call against Govt Apathy Successful

P Satish

THE 24-hour strike call in Rayalaseema in Andhra Pradesh given by the CPI(M) and the CPI on May 24 against the negligent attitude of the state government toward the problems of the people of this drought-hit region was a resounding success. People from various walks of life lent their support to the bandh. It got tremendous response despite the repressive measures initiated by the Chandrababu Naidu government to foil it. A huge number of Left cadres was taken into preventive custody on the previous night and the state government made frenetic efforts to see that the bandh was a failure. Nevertheless, people in large numbers defying all odds and obstacles created by the government and police took part in the strike and ventilated their anger against the Chandrababu Naidu dispensation for its criminal negligence toward Rayalaseema. Other Left parties, the Congress, the BSP and the Jana Sena supported the bandh call.

Prior to the bandh call, a 48-hour siege of the Ananthapuram Collectorate was laid on May 16-17. It was led by CPI(M) Andhra Pradesh state secretary P Madhu, CPI national secretary K Narayana and CPI state secretary K Ramakrishna. Hundreds of cadres of the CPI(M) and the CPI participated in the protest. Several people were arrested and police lathi-charged the protesters.

Madhu lambasted the Chandrababu government for not taking any initiative in providing relief to the drought-hit Rayalaseema region. He said farmers in the four districts of Rayalaseema have lost Rs 11,000 crore in the last five years. Crop insurance benefits have been cornered by private insurance companies, whereas farmers were left in the lurch, he said. Wages to agricultural workers for the works done under the rural job scheme MNREGA have been pending for more than several months, which is hurting the workers.

CPI(M) leader M A Gaffoor refuted the statements of ruling party leaders that workers were migrating to other cities looking for greener pastures. Workers are being compelled to distress migration due to the prevailing drought conditions in Rayalaseema, he said.

Narayana and Ramakrishna highlighted the poor availability of drinking water and and lack of irrigation facilities in Rayalaseema region. Even after three years, the Chandrababu dispensation did precious little to ameliorate the drought conditions in the region, they said.

During the 48-hour protest movement, a decision had been taken to call for the bandh on May 24, demanding input subsidy, provision of crop insurance facility, payment of arrears of wages in MNREGA works, provision of drinking water facility, and expeditious completion of irrigation projects in Rayalaseema region.

As many as 184 mandals of Rayalaseema have been declared as “drought hit”. Out of these, 63 mandals are in Ananthapuram district. These mandals have been declared as drought-hit for the past six years. It speaks volume about the extent of drought in Ananthapuram district and the utter failure of the ruling classes in addressing the issues of the people.

Around 12 lakh people are expected to have migrated out of Rayalaseema region in the past few years, out of which five lakh are from Ananthapuram district only. Works on irrigation projects, which are intended to provide water facility to thousands of acres of land in the region, are moving at a snail’s pace. Thousands of crores of rupees under MNREGA works are being diverted to contractors in the name of water development works, leaving agricultural workers in disarray. The much-hyped Raingun scheme was a miserable failure highlighting the lack of cohesive approach towards the issues of Rayalaseema. Along with the people, cattle are also suffering due to the lack of availability of grass feed and water. The state was denied both special status and special package by the Modi government due to supine attitude of the Chandrababu dispensation. Rayalaseema region had to bear the brunt of this due to non-availability of funds. There has not been any worthwhile developmental activities and completion of irrigation projects minor or major, in the four districts of Rayalaseema, leaving the people in doldrums. This has caused deep-rooted frustration and repulsion in the minds of the people against the policies of the TDP government. Instead of taking relief measures on war-footing, the TDP government is offering prayers, ‘Varuna Japams’, in all temples for rainfall. This is the height of callousness and insensitivity of the Chandrababu government towards Rayalaseema.

Soon after the culmination of the 48-hour siege of the Ananthapuram Collectorate, the state government hurriedly announced payment of input subsidy, which will be given in the first week of June. Though it is paltry, yet this announcement was made due to the tremendous response to the protest activities demanding drought-relief measures being undertaken by the CPI(M) and the CPI. Comprehensive drought-relief activities as demanded by the CPI(M), the CPI and other parties are need of the hour and the relief measures must be undertaken under the joint supervision of all political parties, failing which benefits will be cornered by the ruling TDP Cadres only.