They have great respect for the Prime Minister but he should realise how desperate their plight is, the farmers say.

The desperate farmers of the eternally drought-prone Rayalaseema region have a unique birthday gift for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Since it’s the PM’s 68th birthday on September 17, hundreds of farmers in the region are sending him cheques of 68 paise.

This is all that they can afford to give him they say, because the government continues to completely ignore Rayalaseema and its farmers who are struggling to make even a basic living there.

Sudhakar Rao, a member of the Rayalaseema Saguneeti Sadana Samithi (RSSS) told TNM, “We have collected 400 cheques from farmers in the Kurnool district alone. We are taking this up in all the four districts in Rayalaseema.”

The Rayalaseema region consists of the districts of Kurnool, Kadapa, Anantapur and Chittoor.

YN Reddy, Vice President of the RSSS told TNM that the organisation decided on the unique protest because the Rayalaseema region, despite having the Krishna and Penna rivers flowing through it, has been converted into a desert through continuous neglect.

Though both the Central and state governments have promised many irrigation projects for the region, said Reddy, none of them have been completed. Meanwhile, the poor irrigation infrastructure had resulted in poor water allocation for farmers.

Reddy complained that government promises of industrialisation had not come through either. “We neither get industries nor water. They said there will be a steel plant in Kadapa, a Railway zone in Guntakal, and that central institutions will come up here. But nothing is there.”

Reddy said that their situation was much like that of Kuchela in Mahabharata, a poor friend of the deity Krishna, who is only able to offer him a meagre gift of a handful of puffed rice.

“While we have great respect for our Prime Minister, we wanted to wish him in such a way that he realises that we people from backward Rayalaseema can only afford so much like Kuchela in Mahabaratha,” he said.

“We hope that the PM will listen to us and announce a special package for the region and complete slow-going projects like the Dummugudem Tail Pond, the Nagarjuna Sagar, the Telugu Ganga and the Veligonda projects on a war footing,” he added.