Guduru Court Centre, Sri Potti Ramulu Nellore district: This morning, Setti Subramaniam from Vendodu village came to meet me with his two daughters. He said that they belong to the potters’ community, which had been categorised under STs for generations. He showed me his own and his father’s certificates to this effect, issued by the government. “Anna for a year and a half now, we have been running from pillar to post around government officials to get caste certificates for our children. The authorities have been paying no heed to our pleas. We have relatives in other mandals who have got these certificates and yet our villagers are being denied these caste certificates. Let them decide what caste we belong to. I am worried about the future and careers of my two daughters,” he said amidst sobs.
It felt strange to learn that his father, grandfather and relatives had been recognised as STs and yet his daughters have been denied caste certificates! Is there any logic to this or justice in this? When their caste had been established years ago, if those children lose out on educational and employment opportunities, who will take the blame? The apathy and insensitivity of the TDP government and officials is causing widespread distress among parents such as these.
What kind of justice is this? When people ask for wages, is it fair to dismiss them from service? Chandrababu Naidu and his government have always looked down upon anganwadi workers. This is a well-known fact. These poor anganwadi workers have been reduced to bonded labourers and are paid insufficient wages. One wonders why Chandrababu Naidu is so hostile towards them! When these poor women asked for enhancement of salaries, he got them trampled by horses! This is the dubious distinction he enjoys in this respect.
These women came to me trembling with fear when it came to expressing their problems with regard to their salaries. In the past, at a meeting in Nellore on women’s day, in the presence of the CM, they had poured out their problems. Instead of lending a patient ear to these poor women, who had many grievances to narrate to the chief minister, Chandrababu threatened them. Over the next 24 hours 15 of the 24 women workers were removed from service! “We don’t know what fate will befall us now that we have come to seek your help,” they said. They requested media persons not to take photographs or write their names.
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The question that came to my mind once again was—are we truly living in a democracy? If someone has a different opinion, is this how cruelly and savagely one reacts? Anganwadi workers in Andhra Pradesh are paid lower than their counterparts elsewhere and their salaries remain unpaid for months on end. They have been reduced to bonded labourers and are made to work in every ruling party function or government program. They are made to spend money from their pockets and then denied the minimal facilities which the government ought to provide them with. Leave alone the enhancement of salaries which is their right, to remove them from their jobs is patently unjust! How unfair can a system be? The Telugu Desam government seems to go to great lengths to answer this question through its indescribably harsh treatment of these poor women.
In the evening, residents of Indiramma colony came and met me. They told me that this colony which comprises 1600 families had no water or power supply and that they did not have any basic facilities. When they approached the municipal authorities, they in turn directed them to the panchayat officials and when the panchayat officials were questioned they passed the buck right back to the municipal authorities!
Who gave these officials the right to lord over the common citizens in this manner? Are people of this colony not citizens of the state of Andhra Pradesh? Are they not entitled to basic facilities like other citizens? And to think that this district is represented by none other than the Minister for Municipal Administration! This attitude hardly comes as a surprise, coming as it does from the Telugu Desam government. How can one expect Chandrababu Naidu’s government to have the same focus and interest on the problems of these poor residents as he and his government would have on lands of the capital region?
Finally, I have a question for the chief minister—you speak very loftily about women’s empowerment, but when it comes to Anganwadi workers or women belonging to self-help groups and when they narrate genuine problems they are facing, why do you act with such vengeance? Don’t these common, suffering women have the right to ask you to fulfil the commitments and promises which you yourself made?