Praja Sankalpa Yatra Diary, Day 65: Are the lives of common citizens so inconsequential?

Vikruthamala (Chittoor): If the ruler of a state is driven by selfish needs and objectives, if he is steeped in corruption, then the damage it does to the state, a state like Andhra Pradesh, is a fact which is all too evident today. If he puts his own selfish interests above those of the state, then the devastating consequences such an attitude could wreak upon all aspects of governance impacting the people, was something that I could see once again today.

Neither the lives of people nor the interests of the state matter to our leader driven by such selfish purposes. At Thatneri Cross, the family members of Munikoti met me. His is a familiar name to the people of the state—Munikoti gave up his life demanding special category status for Andhra Pradesh in 2015. On August 9 that year in Tirupati he set himself ablaze seeking special category status for Andhra Pradesh. At that time TDP leaders MLAs and others shed crocodile tears and assured his family members of getting an ex-gratia amount of Rs.5 lakhs sanctioned by the government.

The TDP leaders made this declaration and gave assurances to this effect. But to this day no such compensation has reached the family of Munikoti. What is one to make of this? Isn’t this a classic case of plain deception? Chandrababu Naidu claimed that special category status was like a Sanjeevini or a magic cure. He said that 10 years would not suffice, but that the state needs 15 years! That is the importance he pretended to attach to special category status. These statements of his raised hopes and aspirations of millions of the young and unemployed across the state.

However, after the chief minister himself became embroiled in the infamous “notes for votes” case in 2015, when it became obvious that MLAs had been bought over, and when it emerged that there was clear evidence against him, he conveniently changed his tune. To wriggle out of the cases he was enmeshed in, he mortgaged the interests of the state, as well as the issue of Special Category Status when it came to dealing with the Centre.

Chandrababu now sings a different tune—is Special Category Status a Sanjeevini or magic cure, he now asks! This has led to a lot of despair and distress among the people of the state. Three months later, Munikoti set himself ablaze demanding special category status for Andhra Pradesh. When people across the state pointed their fingers at Chandrababu Naidu, Ministers MLAs and others came rushing with their crocodile tears and announced an ex-gratia amount of Rs 5 lakhs to be paid to his family. However, as time lapsed the matter became a forgotten chapter and they went back on their promise. Starting from releasing the promised ex-gratia amount to Munikoti’s family to ignoring the plight of thousands of other youth whose precious lives have been wasted waiting for the special category status, the TDP government has not only turned its back on its assurances and commitments, but also watered down the entire issue.

Chandrababu Naidu met Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently. When the state was looking forward to hearing some good news on special category status which would have helped the youth, we learn that he sought more constituencies for greater representation of his cronies in the system! Isn’t this the height of deception? He is a leader who would sacrifice the interests of the state or betray his own father-in-law for selfish gains!

In the afternoon, I stopped at Chennampally village by the Swarnamukhi stream where a group of youth approached me with two bottles of water—One contained water which flowed in the nearby stream and the other, drinking water supplied to the village. They pointed out that effluents from chemical factories set up in Gajulamandyam industrial estate flowed into the stream affecting the agriculture, health and lives of 15 nearby villages.

They also lamented that water used for irrigation as well as ground water was contaminated. Their repeated pleas to authorities at various levels fell on deaf ears. If a government is insensitive to basic necessities such as safe drinking water supply and is unmindful of the consequences of pollution on the lives of people, how can progress be achieved? Are the lives of common citizens so inconsequential?

During a get-together of the BCs at Papanaidupeta, every single speaker lashed out at Chandrababu Naidu exposing the myriad ways in which he betrayed them. Chandrababu had devoted four pages in his manifesto to BC welfare and was replete with promises and assurances, not one of which was fulfilled.

Not every politician can take millions of people for a ride with false promises and assurances of this kind and remain unfazed. Any leader worth his salt would consider it to be sinful to think along these lines leave alone adopt such an approach in practice.

In conclusion, I have a question for the chief minister. Why did you change your tune on the special category status? Is it because of your fear with respect to the note-for-vote case? Why are you not hitting out at your partner in government, the ruling party at the centre on this matter? Why have you mortgaged the interests of the state with respect to Krishna-Godavari waters? Why are you unable to protect the interests of the state at all?

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