Haripuram, Srikakulam district: My Padayatra began today with hundreds of well-wishers greeting me in the morning. Women from the village of Vankaluru greeted me in the traditional manner and made me cut a cake on the occasion of the New Year.
This place was once a fishing village far removed from development. With the government turning a blind eye to its needs, the villagers came together and decided to transform their hamlet into a model village as it stands today. Those who migrated to other places in search of livelihood after fishing became a difficult occupation, decided to contribute their mite to rebuilding their village and adopted their birthplace. It was heartening to know that everyone took part in development activities related to the village. This small remote hamlet serves as a role model in many ways.
The government’s deception, discrimination and neglect of victims of Cyclone Titli can be seen in every village. Villagers of Sriram Nagar told me that TDP men who were not eligible were siphoning off compensation for victims of the cyclone. Very few genuine victims were recognised by the government. All that they got from the government were cheques with Chandrababu Naidu's image. The villagers later discovered as they told me, that these cheques they received were purely for publicity. They did not receive a rupee as compensation, they lamented.
Bahadapalli is known as a place of origin of armed revolutionary movements. Representatives of farmers groups met me near this village. They complained that after Cyclone Titli devastated the region, they received no assistance from the government. Local people’s groups protested against this deliberate negligence on the part of the government, they said. When they took to distributing essential items and rice, they were charged with treason! If sedition cases can be booked against them, who were helping the poor victims, what sort of cases should be booked against Chandrababu Naidu who issued cheques as cyclone relief which had no value, they asked, with righteous indignation.
Women workers of cashew units from the same village met me. I saw their day-to-day hardships with my own eyes. Even if they worked all day and stood all the time while working, they were not even being paid Rs.200 as wages, they complained. It pained me to see their plight and my resolve to improve their lot got strengthened even further.
Mandana mandal from where the Padayatra proceeded today, is famous for palakova (a kind of sweetened milk cake), prepared from pure milk.
I hope and pray that this new year, the state will be liberated from the tyranny of this regime filled with deception, lies and hypocrisy. I pray that lives of all the people of the state should be filled with peace and prosperity and that the state should enjoy higher standards in all fields.
I have a question for the chief minister—my father supported the palakova cottage industry by reducing VAT to 4% from 12.5%, and increasing horticultural subsidy to 40%. Can you cite one step you have taken to help this cottage industry?