Kotturu Cross, Srikakulam district: Thousands of people walked alongside me in my Padayatra in the constituencies of Tekkali and Pathapatnam today. They shared the fond memories they had of my father with me. They recalled how he helped them and reached out to them.
Bendi Rajagopal of Sitarampuram, a 70 year-old, was a great TDP fan and follower. Now, he speaks of my father and his contribution in every breath. I felt very happy to learn of the reason behind this. When he was struck with heart disease, he was treated and cured thanks to my father’s pioneering healthcare initiative, Arogyasri. The surgery he underwent gave a fresh lease of life, he recalled as tears flowed down his cheeks.
I was equally touched by the eagerness with which 13-year-old Dev Mahapatro came to meet me. A child prodigy, he is a gifted artist who breathes life into his paintings. He also uses waste products to create toys and is a student of extraordinary merit. The picture he held in his hand was a reflection of the affection he has for me. It featured me and my father with the theme of Navarathnalu. He did not go to school for two days and spent all his time preparing this picture and wanted to get it autographed by me. He was overjoyed when I put my signature to his paintings.
The tragic aspect of this boy’s life is that he is a patient of thalassaemia. Battling this deadly disease entails blood transfusion every month. There is a dire need for Arogyasri to help people like him, he complained. Phalguna Rao of Kollivalasa is a victim of anaemia and undergoes blood transfusion every month. Added to this he had to undergo surgery of the hip bone. He was told that he was not covered by Arogyasri. He sought assistance from the Minister, who told him—“You get your surgery done and I will speak to the chief minister and get the entire amount reimbursed.” Based on the minister’s assurance, he got the surgery done after borrowing Rs.2 lakhs, pledging his acre and 90 cents area of land. Leave alone any reimbursement or assistance, he had to borrow money to travel several times to Amaravati to pursue his case with the Minister. His father Jagganayakulu narrated this experience with a deep sense of anguish.
Dalits and tribals belonging to Chintamani revenue division say that the TDP government would go to any lengths to deceive the poor in order to grab natural resources. They narrated several instances to me during the course of my Padayatra. The pleas of the poor to TDP leaders for water to irrigate their agricultural lands fell on deaf ears, they lamented. They said that if only water from the streams in the hills or a lift irrigation scheme was planned from the Left Canal of Vamsadhara project and channelised, their fields would yield gold. I was shocked at the reason behind the indifference of the TDP government to their plight. These lands hold huge reserves of granite. Therefore, the TDP leaders are trying to starve the area of water and use the arid land to extract granite after passing them on to their proxies. The leaders of the ruling party are trying to get these lands leased out to the minister’s PA who will serve as a proxy, they pointed out. Is this a government or an organised land mafia, I sometimes wonder!
I have a question for the chief minister—hospitals have been threatening to stop treatment under Arogyasri which is in any case restricted and limited under your rule. In the case of the your minister, you sanctioned lakhs of rupees for dental treatment in Singapore! Is it not inhuman on your part not to release funds related to Arogyasri which would serve as a lifeline for millions of the deprived?