This is a kind of story which you will rarely find in Mainstream Media. I am not claiming any moral righteousness, but have approached some media forums for space which they declined for reasons best known to them.
The Andhra Pradesh Government with the help of state machinery of the Police is making desperate attempts to quell down popular public unrest amongst masses which are on the verge of taking the form of popular movements and mass struggles. On the night of Sunday, 21st of December, around 1500 people across the state of Andhra Pradesh were arrested in different police stations on the pretext of ‘preventive detention’ under section 151 CrPc.
The Village Organizing Assistants (VOA) of the state, who are over 20,000 in number have decided to march to Andhra Pradesh Assembly in Hyderabad, under the banner of Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU) on Monday, 22nd December to demand their salaries which have been held up from the past 18 months. Their salary was increased from a meagre 1200 INR to 2000 INR in April 2012 by the previous Chief Minister of united Andhra Pradesh Kiran Kumar Reddy. While it is anybody’s guess as to how 70 INR per day would suffice to the workers even if their salaries were not held at a time when a three day meal would cost more than 100 INR.
The VOA’s are part of the DWCRA system and operate as scheme workers under the Indira Kranthi Pathakam (IKP). The basic duties of a VOA is to take the DWCRA and the Govt. schemes into the public, operate the bank accounts and promote savings of the DWCRA groups under their supervision and maintain the minutes as well as the notes of the DWCRA groups and get them insured.
The struggle which entered the 99th day today is being led by the Centre for Indian Trade Union (CITU), which is affiliated to the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The CITU leaders allege that even after the repeated demands and notices by the VOA’s, Chandrababu Naidu, the present Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh failed to respond to their problems. Venkateswara Rao, a CITU leader from Vijayawada says, “The Govt. doesn’t even have time to call us for talks even after 99 days of agitation. Since we have no other option left, we are forced to take up the Chalo Assembly programme.”
|Solidarity protest against the arrests of activists who want to protest peacefully and democratically. 2.30 PM, 22nd Dec, Vijayawada.|
42 year old IKP worker Dhanalakshmi questioned the dedication of the Govt. in solving the issue. “Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are formed at the same time. KCR, the Chief Minister of Telangana has been trying to solve the problem and has asked for a two month time to solve the issue while there is no such promise from the Govt. of Andhra Pradesh. Instead the ruling party (TDP) leaders ask us, ‘What have you been doing when the previous Govt. hasn’t given the salaries?” she says. CITU State Secretary and former MLA MA Gafoor has criticized the Govt. action calling it undemocratic and against the interests of people.
Meanwhile, in the assembly, the Opposition Party YSRCP led by Jagan Mohan Reddy walked-out of the house in support of the IKP workers. Yanamala Ramakrishnudu, the Finance Minister of the state announced on the floor of the house that it is inappropriate for the people to agitate without discussing the issue with the State Govt. which the agitators out-rightly criticize. They allege inaction from the side of Government.
Chandrababu, who rode to an electoral win with the famous slogan, “To put state back on Track, bring Babu back” and “You will get a Job, if you bring Babu back” seems to have forgotten his own pre-poll promises. Forget about creating new jobs, he has been giving a deaf ear to the IKP employees. Chandrababu, who has precedence of stifling mass struggles and democratic movements in his previous tenure when he ordered police action and firing against agitators fighting against hike in electricity charges in 2001 which killed 3 people seems to have failed to learn any lessons from that episode.
Stifling of Human Rights on the name of ‘preventive detention’ where the agitators who are on a peaceful democratic protest is a blot on the democratic society we live in, especially when that is to justify the anti-peoples measures the Govt. is following. Mr. Rao and others who have been picked up in the odd hours from their respective houses have been asked to come to the Police Station late in the night. All the IKP workers are ladies and the police knocked the doors of the houses of these ladies late in the night and arrested them too. When this journalist spoke to Maheshwara Raju, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Vijayawada, Mr. Raju says he has no other option except to follow the orders from the higher officials which came from Hyderabad.