Davajigudem, Krishna District: Gannavaram is a place steeped in history. It was represented thrice by the legendary Communist leader, P. Sundarayya, who in those times dined with Dalits and fought against social inequalities and injustices. The iconic ‘Iron Man’ Kakani Venkataratnam also hailed from this place. The great Viswanadha Satyanarayana, a Gnanpeeth awardee and one of the greatest figures in Telugu literature, belonged to this place. To see such a historic region degenerate into a den of corruption, irregularities, discrimination and illegalities, is tragic indeed. It is a blot on their memories and I’m sure causes a lot of pain to their great souls.
Nagaboyina Sivasankar of Vempadu village joined the Padayatra along with a chariot called YSR Prabha. “Anna, during your father, the late Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy‘s tenure, thousands of surgeries were performed under the pioneering healthcare scheme, Arogyasri. The surgeries cost lakhs of rupees in many cases and yet they were done free of cost. Thanks to him, my father underwent one such surgery which saved his life. Dr. YSR has a permanent place in our hearts and minds. We are convinced that you alone can restore this state to its former glory as he once did,” he said. The trust and confidence he showed in me was motivating and moving.
This morning, Sarpanches and MPTC members gave me a representation listing out the problems they faced. “Sir, we have been reduced to the movies. Public money is being misused in our name. All procedures and norms are being openly violated. We get no help or any kind of cooperation from the government. Most of the time we do not even have the required information or intimation. As if this is not enough, we are being tormented and persecuted on the basis of party affiliations. The government has adopted a vindictive course of action towords us," they said with a lot of anguish. Pravin Kumar, Sarpanch of Gannavaram said, “They have scant regard for Constitutional procedures. Beginning with loans and pensions down to small jobs related to development, nothing gets done. Over the last six months, panchayat staff have not been paid their salaries and no cheque is getting passed. This is also true of bills. People who elected us feel let down by us and we are helpless. Janmabhoomi committees have emerged as extra-constitutional power centres. Usurping our power, they are looting public funds and have turned into mafias,” he said, in a voice shaking with anger.
The contrast between Gandhiji’s ideal of achieving Ram Rajya through Gram Swaraj and the current TDP government’s callous treatment of panchayats could not be more stark. Chandrababu Naidu had the gall to celebrate Panchayati Raj day, considering he once said that panchayats were a waste. “Panchayat funds were of no use,” Chandrababu said. Isn’t it shameful for him to now celebrate panchayat Raj and its virtues? Instead of speaking about protecting the grassroot level democratic system of the panchayats and villages, Chandrababu Naidu asked the people to protect him! How bizarre can it get! After terminating people of the state for four years you take public funds and have been persecuting the common citizens in myriad ways, then ask the people of the state to standby you and protect. This shows moral bankruptcy on your part more than anything else! It is clear that Chandrababu is pricked by a guilty conscience.
I have a question for the chief minister—after having deprived the village level democratic institutions of their rights and powers, crushed the rights of people’s representatives, and after foisting extra constitutional power centres in the name of Janmabhoomi committees, after having watered down the Panchayat Raj system completely, are you worthy of celebrating the National Panchayati Raj Day?