Chepara, Srikakulam : My Padayatra proceeded through Meliyaputti mandal where tribals live in large numbers. I felt very happy to be amidst them, as they welcomed me with traditional drum-beats and dances. The love and affection they showed in greeting me with the Dhimsa dance will remain an abiding memory for me. Representatives of tribal communities who met me in the morning narrated the atrocities to which innocent tribals were being subjected. They told me that this area was also badly hit by Cyclone Titli. Officials came to the region only after 15 days. Meanwhile, the local tribals who were waiting for relief, were put to untold suffering, they pointed out. While thousands of houses were destroyed by the cyclone, the officials put the figure at hundreds, playing down the devastation.
Even when it came to compensation and cyclone relief, the TDP government displayed petty discrimination, they observed. They sobbed as they recounted how cases were foisted upon them and they were sent to jail. What was their fault? Driven by the pangs of hunger, they went to the local Tehsildar’s office to question his inaction. How inhuman is this? However, the judge who heard their case and learnt of their plight admonished the officials for their high-handed behaviour.
The poor tribals expressed their anguish at the lack of encouragement for local tribal products. “Anna, even the Girijan cooperative body is being watered down. All our assets and resources are being turned over to private hands,” they lamented. Appanna of Bandapalli, a very poor tribal farmer, lost his entire crop in the devastation caused by Cyclone Titli. He received a letter (which had Chandrababu’s photo), stating that he would get a compensation of Rs.12,145. However, not a rupee has come into his account yet. He remarked that he spent more than Rs.1000 on going to government offices seeking cyclone relief which was promised to him.
Women belonging to Deenabandhupuram narrated their woes to me. Aruna Kumari is a student of B.Ed and has been working under the government employment scheme as well. However, although one year has passed, she has not been paid for her labour. Is this not deception? Members of the Indiramma differently-abled self-help group met me on my Padayatra today. They told me that no loan waiver was extended to them and that the much trumpeted government scheme, (Pasapu-Kumkuma assistance) was also an exercise in deception. Anyone’s heart would melt at the sight of these poor tribal, disabled women. The TDP government however, was unmoved.
A huge public meeting was held at Meliyaputti in the evening. I decided to halt the Padayatra for a day for people to celebrate Christmas.
I have a question for the chief minister—while people affected by the cyclone are crying hoarse for assistance, you are spending crores of public money on publicity claiming that cyclone relief has reached the needy. Are you not cheating the people of the state by doing so? Wouldn’t justice have been served if you spent money on relief and assistance instead of publicity?
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