Vol. XLIII No. 24 June 16, 2019

AP: AIKS Team Visits Severely Drought-Hit Ananthapuram

ON June 12, a team of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), visited the second most drought-hit district in the country after Jaisalmer in Rajasthan-Ananthapuram in Andhra Pradesh. Ananthapuram has been reeling under chronic and severe drought for over one decade. This district has seen thousands of farmer suicides in the last two decades and massive migration of lakhs of people due to lack of work, food and water. In spite of having rich mineral and natural wealth, it is now known as the district of drought, suicides and migration.

The AIKS team met hundreds of peasants, agricultural workers and the rural poor in several villages in the Chilamathur mandal. It also visited the disastrous Lepakshi SEZ, the incomplete Handhrineeva canal, the Hindupur silk cocoon market and other places. A press conference was held at Hindupur at the end of the visit. 

The AIKS team comprised its all India president Ashok Dhawale, Andhra state general secretary Pula Peddi Reddy along with other leaders of the kisan sabha , namely,  Venkatram Reddy, O Siddha Reddy, Vinod Kumar, Pravin, Khadirappa, Lakshminarayana, Adinarayana.

After the visit, the AIKS team demanded that the government immediately provide drinking water, work and prompt payment of wages under MNREGA, cheap grains under the PDS, fodder for cattle, adequate compensation for crop loss, loans to farmers for the new cropping season, cow insurance, strengthening of the dairy cooperative sector and more incentives to sericulture. With massive crop loss due to drought, milk and silk is the mainstay of the peasants in this region. 

The AIKS team also demanded the immediate completion of the Handhrineeva canal, which can provide water from the backwaters of the Srisailam dam over the Krishna River, to this perennially water-starved district. Only Rs 2,200 crore is required to complete this canal, which can provide 100 TMC(thousand million cubic feet-100 crore litres) of water to this district, and this can lead to its radical transformation.

The Lepakshi SEZ on the national highway began by the Congress state government and carried forward by the TDP state government, is a massive scandal. As many as 8,866 acres of land was acquired from thousands of farmers 12 years ago without any compensation awarded to a large number. Those who got it received only a pittance. There is no industry at all that has come up in this SEZ in the last decade. The delegation saw the so-called Lepakshi Knowledge Hub, which is a non-functional dilapidated structure. 

The AIKS team demanded that all farmers be given compensation at the current market rate for having lost the use of their lands. Also, as per the provisions of the Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation (LARR) Act, 2013, since nothing has come up in the SEZ all this time, the lands acquired must be returned to the farmers. 

The AIKS decided to intensify its struggles in Ananthpur district around all the above demands.