Jana Jagruthi Yatra (NAPM – AP)
16-Dec-2010 10am to 1pm – Hyderabad
Members and supporters of NAPM – AP assembled at Ambedkar Bhavan and thereafter moved towards Tankbund. K Srinivas, Editor, Andhra Jyoti Daily, garlanded the Ambedkar’s statue on Tank Bund and flagged off the yatra. Next stop was Kacheguda cross roads. From here, members of NAPM and representatives from various voluntary organizations walked towards Koti going through Sultan Bazar, distributing pamphlets, on the issues of Hawker’s Policy and Metro Rail, to the hawkers, small vendors, consumers, and shop keepers. The National Hawkers Policy, which aims at zoning regulations in cities will restrict the activities of thousands of hawkers of the twin cities. Due to the Metro Rail project, thousands of small shopkeepers, hawkers will be moved out, while many residents who live in that area will also be displaced. Land acquisition issues for metro rail were focused in the discussion with the shopkeepers. Alternatives instead of Metro Rail like increasing the number of RTC and MMTS services, to address the existing traffic problems in the city were stressed upon. NAPM member and HRF president, Jeevan Kumar, NAPM AP convener, BRK Raju, Professor Ramachdraiah Citizens for a Better Public Transport, K. Saraswati, Co – Convener, NAPM AP, addressed the press about the objectives of the Yatra, and issues of FDI in retail, Hawker’s policy, and displacement by Metro rail. NAPM demanded a public debate on these issues, as the project was sanctioned without any public consultations. The city yatra attracted many hawkers and shopkeepers. Afternoon, we left the city towards Suryapet of Nalgonda district.
6pm, Endlapally, near Suryapet, Nalgonda district
In the evening, we arrived at Endlappally, where a Sponge Iron factory by Saudamini Steels Pvt. Ltd. is proposed to be set up. Saudamini Steels Pvt. Ltd, already has a sponge iron facility in this village. And the people are already experiencing the impacts of pollution from this facility which is of a small capacity. The new project will have a capacity of 12000 Metric Tones of Sponge Iron production, using 20000 tones of coal and 10000 tones of Calcium Carbonate per annum. The effects of having improper ash disposal mechanism will contaminate the ground water. Air pollution will also occur due to SO2 and CO. A public hearing was scheduled on December 1st 2010.The villagers contacted NAPM to help with the public hearing. Dr. K. Babu Rao retired scientist and member of NAPM toured the villages before the public hearing and explained the issues from the project. A film on the impacts of Sponge Iron factories in Jharkhand, ‘the iron is hot’ was shown very widely in the villages. This also helped in building up the resistance movement. Hundreds of villagers were getting prepared to oppose the project in the Public Hearing. However, on the day of the Public Hearing it was announced that the Public hearing has been cancelled as the project proponent has decided to withdraw the project ‘temporarily’. But the people are sure that the promoters will come back with a different design / model, they told us that the company is coming out with new modified proposals and the local officials mentioned that they will conduct a fresh public hearing on this. This project, if taken up, will affect the lives and livelihoods of villagers from Elkapally, Endlapally, Pinlapally, Tekumatla, Elkaram. On our arrival, senior people of Endlapally welcomed the Yatris. The local peasant’s youth along with JJY (Jana Jagruti Yatra) volunteers took out a rally against the project walking through the village streets and invited the villagers for a meeting. By 7 PM, in the Hanuman temple, the women folk and peasants, young and old people gathered in good numbers. The meeting was presided over by Dharmajana Reddy, Advocate, and local leader. NAPM Co – Convener, K. Saraswati, briefly mentioned about the objectives of the JJY, and introduced the volunteers of JJY. Scientist Dr. Babu Rao, explained the problems from the Sponge Iron Factory to the local people’s health and agriculture. PS Ajay Kumar, Co-Convener of NAPM AP, talked about the problems in agriculture and the need to focus once again on agriculture. He said that due to the degradation of value for agriculture as an occupation, many youth are being lured with the promise of jobs in many places, and are thus ultimately becoming victims of Corporate and Governmental deceit – finally loosing their land, resources and ending up with menial jobs as contract labourers. Further, Mr. Delhi rao, activist from Sompeta, detailed various affects of industrial policy and briefed, how these policies had set a large scale campaign in Sompeta which sent back NCC packing. Local leader Shobha Rani called for united struggle to confront the Saudamini Project. .
After this meeting, the villagers hosted dinner for the Yatris and provided accommodation for the night.
17-dec-2010: Warangal Town, Warangal district.
JJY bus left at 6am from Suryapet and reached Warangal by 8.30am. The local activities were co-ordinated by Ms. Nirmala of Chetana Society, which works on weavers issues, and our accommodation and meals were provided by NAPM member and RTI activist Rakesh Dubbudu. A meeting was convened at Shatarani Chenetha Sahakara Sangham. Nirmala, activist from Chetana Society, narrated some of the problems that are posed among various weavers sections every day; and criticized government for its inadequate policies, and for its negligent attitude towards implementation of various existing welfare programmes. She demanded for sanction of immediate subsidy for raw materials, issuing of artisan credit cards, and complete restructuring and review of National Fibre Policy which if implemented will favour man made fibre which will benefit large corporations like reliance involved in the manufacture of artificial fibers. while impoverishing the weavers further, as they are dependent on natural fibers. While cotton farmers don’t get a proper price for their produce, cotton yarn prices are skyrocketing, impacting the lives of the weavers. In addition, the government has removed the provision of subsidies for the purchase of cotton and silk yarn, which is impacting the profits of the weavers and impoverishing them.
President of Shatarani Cheneta Sahakara Sangham, Rajendar, insisted that the raw material should be available at a subsidized price and criticized the government for not taking adequate steps to stop the migration of labour to other sectors where the daily wages are more than in weaving. He also briefly mentioned about the helplessness of present weaving community, aged around 50/60 years, as weaving is becoming increasingly difficult for them both from their age point of view and from their inability to adapt to the new job or a labour work, while the new generation does not find weaving attractive as a profession.
NAPM activists discussed the need for weavers coming together and form unions in order to campaign for their rights and also form a state wide federation and also promised to help the weavers by promoting their products among the public. The Yatris also visited two other societies in the weaver’s colony.
After lunch the JJY left for Manugur and reached there by Night. We were received by Subhani and Kishore of MORE organization, and Gadhi Babu of ASDS. Dinner and the breakfast next day, was provided courtesy MORE.
18-dec-2010 Morn: Eggedigudem Village, Manuguru Mandal, Khammam District.
The JJY reached Eggedigudem village 4 kms from Manuguru, by 8am. Here, the Yatris along with local villagers took out a rally in the village opposing the land acquisition by Singareni Collaries Lts, which is proposing to acquire 3000 acres of land from four villages. Later, a meeting was convened at Anjaneya swamy temple. The villages accused SCCL that the company wants to take their land only for dumping the Over Burden from the existing open cast mines, though they were claiming that they want to take the land for fresh open cast mines. Villagers also said, that there was no coal under their land, and if indeed there was any coal available, then they are willing to allow deep shaft mining, under their lands, which will help them in continuing their agriculture while the mining can also be continued. The four villages are Padma Gudem, Mallai Gudem, Kommu Gudem and Eggedi Gudem. The villagers alleged that the authorities are forcing them to evacuate and also luring them with jobs. So far, no development plans such as roads, drains, medical facilities etc., have been implemented in and around the mining area. The villagers have also demanded re-survey since EC has not been issued yet. Some of the local activists by name E. Rajaiah, E. Bhaskar Rao, A. Rajeshwari, L. Krishna Rao and Ganhi Babu, Director of ASDS etc., have participated actively. This was followed by a Press Meet at Manuguru.
11am – Press Meet at Manugooru
The meeting was presided by BRK Raju, State Convener of NAPM. He mentioned to the media about the purpose of Yatra which is to see the need, cause and problems of various projects posed in the name of development which are actually resulting in large scale displacement and destruction of livelihoods and ecology.
From Manuguru, JJY left for Chandragonda, also in Khammam District.
2pm – Chandrugonda, Adivasi Village, Khammam District.
JJY arrived at Chandragonda village by 2pm. From the outskirts of the village towards the market yard, the yatris took a procession a Vigilance Yatra on Forest Rights of Adivasis. Adivasi friends from surrounding villages in the Agency area, joined the procession. The procession ended at the Market Yard, where a public meeting was organized by APVVU and PVGSSS. Pentalam Chairman, Sayem Gangaraju, mentioned about 620 acres of land being cultivated and depended on, by 180 families, under dispute between revenue and forest officials. Both the officials at the moment are not allowing these families to harvest the crop: each claims that the land belongs with their respective departments. The villagers said they were in possession of the land since 40 years.
Bulli Narayana from Namavaram alleged that no pattas have been grated so far, for a forest land of 200 acres which is under ‘podu’ cultivation for more than 30-40 years.
Ruth Mani, activist from PVGSSS, requested for the joint survey of forest lands to settle the disputes between the officials; and complained about the improper drawing of funds from the accounts of farmers by officials under NREGS scheme.
Gandhi Babu, Director of ASDS, and PS Ajay Kumar, Co-convener of NAPM explained about the forest rights act in detail and called united action for the best use of it.
9 pm – Suryampet, Annadevara Panchayat, Tallapudi Mandal, West Godavari District:
From Chandrakonda we traveled to Suryampeta. Here Pankajam Energy ltd, a private company, has purchased about 140 acres of land from the villagers of Annadevara Village. (The lands are adjoining the village of Suryampeta). The villagers are afraid of the impacts from the Thermal Power Plant which is being proposed by Pankajam Energy ltd, with an investment of over 2000 crores, on this same land. Full details of the project are known for example if the project is a Naptha based, Gas based, bio mass based or coal based. Babjee of APVVU promised to give the EIA report. It was a bit unclear how a project with such a huge investment could be set up in 140 acres. NAPM activists encouraged the people to fight against the project and promised to help them to get information and the ways and means to undertake the campaign. The villagers provided dinner to the yatris and we left for over night journey to Anakapalli, East Godavari dist.
19thDecember 2010 – 11am to 1pm – All Party Public Meeting.
Anakapalli, Visakhapatnam District, Vivekananda Charitable Trust Bhavan.The meeting was presided by PS Ajay Kumar, Joint Convener, NAPM. JV Ratnam, gave a power presentation on the effects of Bauxite mining and explained in detail about the danger of extinction of Sarada river and its tributaries, if the proposed Bauxite mining by APMDC takes effect. After the presentation, the elected representatives were asked to give their opinion. Ghanta Srinivasa Rao, local PRP MLA, called for united action in spite of different political views and takes. He also mentioned that the present land for bauxite mining legally belongs to SC/ST communities and criticized the government for violating rules, without considering the decisions of the gram panchayat. He concluded by reiterating the need of collective action against Bauxite mining.
BJP leader G. Nageswara Rao, said that his party will support the anti-bauxite campaign. Tatha Reddy, ex – Sarpanch of Chukkavanipalem, mentioned about Hindustan zinc which was established in 1977; that caused the damage of 30000 acres of land. He also said the company as on date, failed to provide even the basic promises that it has made. Bhadram from CPI, stressed on the need to increase the awareness levels of the people and suggested Mr. Ratnam to use his power presentation as one of the means.
2pm– Pittavanipalem village, Parawada Mandal, Vizag District.
JJY on its way to this village, stopped for lunch at Paravada. SADHANA, a local NGO received JJY members and arranged lunch for the team. After lunch, JJY team members visited ash pond of NTPC which was set up in 2002. The team was shocked to see the impacts of the power plant on Pittavani Palem village:
NTPC started its production in 2002 with fake promises of pouring out jobs for the villagers, in order to obtain their consent, and thus, captured fresh and fertile lands of most of the villagers. During the course of its operation: NTPC, as on date, created ash ponds in an area of 1500 acres and has further acquired 1200 more acres of land, for additional creation of ash ponds. The existing ash ponds have affected people of over 10 villages with various ailments such as infertility, disability, cancer etc. To add to this situation, the government is now proposing more thermal power plants in this area which are of higher capacity than the existing one. Some of the villagers of this village are being asked to give up their houses also in the wake of coming power plants.
After the visit, JJY members attended a public meeting organized in the village by Shaik. Ismayil, Secretary of Sadhana. He welcomed JJY Yatris and invited B. Ramakrishna Raju, Saraswathi Kavula, P.S. Ajay Kumar, Joint Conveners of NAPM, and Beena Dhilli Rao, Raghvaya from Sompeta Paryvaran Parirakshana Sangam on to the Dias. Ajay and Saraswathi spoke at length about the issues and politics of development and displacement and urged the villagers on the need to come together to resist the disrupting forces lining up in the process of peoples movements. Raju also briefed the villagers about present day’s dire need to stand together and emphasized that the root cause of the current problems stemming out of corruption begins with us, the voters, who are casting their votes for a bribe of few rupees. Dhilli Rao mentioned that Pittavani Palem was the source of inspiration for Sompeta people’s victory against NCC and expressed his sympathetic to Pittavani Palem villagers for all the consequences which have gone by, in the lives of Pittavani Palem. In the end, he also stressed on the need to stay united and progress in the movement.
After the meeting, ‘Vikasama?Vinasama? (Destruction or Development?), documentary by Saraswati, was screened in the village after the meeting. The people received the film very well. Around 9’0 clock in the night; JJY team reached Paravada and took shelter at Sadhana NGO’s office.
20thDecember 2010– 9am – Press Meet, Public Library, Vizag
JJY left to Vizag from Parawada. The press meet was held at 9 am in the morning, and reporters from most of the print media had turned up.BRK Raju, K Saraswati explained the objectives of the Yatra and spoke about the days proposed visit to Kovvada and surrounding villages to campaign about the Nuclear Power Parks. Teddu Shankar, Convener for Coastal Areas, NAPM, explained about the problems being faced by the fishing community in Nakkapalli areas, due to chemical pollution. After finishing Press Meet by 10 am, team left to Kosta to do rallies in the villages which are going to be affected by Nuclear Power Plant, about the impacts in various forms of the proposed Nuclear Power Plant.
After lunch hosted by Ramu environmental activist from Budumuru village the team visited Patharla Palli, Kovvada, Mathsyalesham, Chinna Kovvada, Allivalasa and Geedipalem and took out rallies and conducted street meetings about the Nuclear Power Plant to be set up in that area and its impacts in various forms on land, livelihoods, ecology, fishing and most importantly peoples’ health. Most of these villages are fishing community villages. The response was a bit hostile from some of the villagers supporting the project but was good from the majority of the villagers who were opposing the project. One of key observations of the team in the area is that; in general, there is opposition to project in most of the villagers, but only few are venting out their opposition of the project. Many of the villagers also fear about local politicians and authorities if they don’t give their consent to the project.
21stDecember 2010 Rajayyapeta village, Nakkapalli (m), Vishakha dist.
Team left for Nakkapalli from Vizag and visited Rajayyapeta, a fishing village, affected by pollution from Hetero Drugs Pharmaceutical company which was set up around 2005. The company acquired land in the usual fashion promsing jobs – 1200, but only one person was given a job, that was the Sarpanch’s son. Despite activists campaining in the area, who told people not to allow the project, people consented in the hope of getting jobs. Now the company is realeasing its pollution through a pipeline directly into the sea. The air in the surrounding areas of the company is unbreathable with full of chemical smells. Peoples health is getting affected with abortions in women and various diseases among the people. One of the villagers told that the company had managed to manipulate the people by ‘purchasing’ their leaders – elected representatives. JJY activists participated in a meeting in the village organized by Teddu Shankar of FYWA.
More pharmaceutical and chemical companies, a midsized airport, a thermal power plant are proposed to be set in the same area. J V Ratnam explained about the possible impacts of these projects in this region using photographs and maps. PS Ajay Kumar spoke of the need for the community leaders to stand by the people and not become prawns in hands of corporate companies, who use various methods like bribes and political influence to lure community leaders. He also said that it is also the duty of every villager to take responsibility for their lives and their future, and not simply leave everything in the hands of the leaders. BRK Raju assured the people that NAPM AP will stand by and support the peoples struggles. Breakfast and Lunch was hosted by Teddu Shankar, FYWA. From here, the team left to Amalapuram.
22ndDecember 2010 – 9 am – Amalapuram:
JJY reached Amalapuram on the 21stevening and were received by the KG Delta Parirakshana Samiti who also hosted our dinner, accommodation and breakfast and lunch for the 22nd. The team left at 9am and visited three villages impacted by the sinking KG Basin. Here we found fields without crops due to presence of sea water in the fields and in some others lotus flowers were growing in fields that resembled water tanks, due to the stagnation of water which could not go back to the sea, due to the sinking of the land by several feet.
Prof. Krishna Rao of the KG Delta Parirakshana Samiti explained about the issue. Since the extraction of oil and natural gas in the KG basin began in the late 1970’s, the threat of the Delta sinking under the sea was looming. Prof. Krishna Rao, a native of this region and a geologist by profession, noticed this phenomenon, about 15 years ago and had been using all his efforts to alert the authorities on this issue. The oil and natural gas extraction in this region is dangerous because the bed rock of the Delta is made of sand stone. Thus, when drilling is happening, the surrounding layer is weakened since it’s a soft rock unlike limestone (which is the case in places like UAE and Iraq). This is resulting in the sinking of the earth layers and progression of the sea inland. This problem exists all over the world in sand stone areas wherever oil exploration is taken up. To avoid this problem, a possible solution is to fill the oil/gas wells with water or air after completion of exploration to stabilize the rocky layers. However, this process is many times more expensive than the cost of oil/gas exploration itself. Thus, in many countries oil/gas drilling/mining has been avoided altogether in sand stone areas. However, in the KG basin area, oil/gas drilling has been going on without refilling the gaps with water. Thus, today the Delta has almost sunk about 5-6 feet in some places like Narsapur. The Delta itself is only 10-12 feet above sea level. If this continues for a couple more years, the entire people of the KG Delta in five districts – East and West Godavari, Krishna, Guntur and Nellore, about 1.3 crore people, will have to leave the region, due to the salinity of all water resources and unproductive soil and will result in tremendous water and food scarcity. This region has an agrarian economy reaching 14,000 crores per annum and is the major provider of the food for the country, supplying over 1 crore tonnes of paddy alone.
2pm – Narsapur, West Godavari District.
After visiting the villages, the team went back to Amalapuram for lunch. From here, the team left for LB Charla village in Narsapur Mandal of West Godavari District to meet the local farmers. Here too, similar impacts as in the East Godavari Villages were seen. There meeting was presided by Mr. Krishna Rao. Local farmer and spokesperson of KG Basin Parirakshana samiti Mantena Suryanarayana Raju briefly explained to the team and to the local farmers on the present political situation in the region and called for immediate action from the government, for which he sought the assistance of NAPM AP. He told that they have formed themselves as KG Delta Parirakshana Samiti few years back and been fighting since then in all possible ways. One of the key things he mentioned was the ongoing case in High Court, which revealed the vested interests of the government on the issue. Following are the details of the case.
A PIL was filed about a couple years ago seeking immediate disposal of the ONGC, Reliance and other companies which have been extracting oil and natural gas in the region and thus, completely stop the oil and gas extraction activities. Following it, High Court ordered for expert committee which submitted the same to government a year ago, highlighting the possible worst impacts on the Delta area if the Oil and Gas extraction was not stopped with immediate effect. The government is yet to file this report in the High Court; which exposes the malafide interests of the government and lobbyists. On the other hand, there has been heavy loss to the farmers for the past 2-3 years with the land becoming saline due to the ingress of salt sea water into the fields. The scale of the problem is such that the farmers are able to witness salt water in the farms, underneath and above the crops. Many of the farmers expressed their agony that they will have to leave farming altogether.
Prof. Krishna Rao, activist and a retired zoologist, also briefed about the scientific facts behind the issue and about all his efforts for the past 15 years in trying to bring to the situation to the light of public and to the public authority. BRK Raju, PS Ajay Kumar, spoke on the dire need to launch massive campaign in order to bring the government on to the task and assured the farmers and their representatives that NAPM AP will stand by them to the best possible levels. Post this meeting, a press meet was held at YN College, Narsapur and all the facts and issues of the KG basin were put forth by the NAPM team and local representatives. From here the JJY left for Palakollu where we were hosted by Mr. Raju
23rdDecember 2010 – Bhimavaram, West Godavari District
This day was partially rest day, due to a dharna staged by TDP members in support of Chandrababu Naidu’s fast on farmer’s issues. We however could manage to leave Palakollu after noon, and thus arrived in time for the press meet at 3pm on the KG Basin issue at Bhimavaram. Press Meet was attended well by the local media, and many were shocked to hear about the issue. They promised to do their best to create awareness on this issue among the public. From Bhimavaram, the team went to Kotta Pusala Marru village in the same district. Here the local tank which was used for drinking water, turned saline. And today, the village has to depend on outside supply for water. Here, the team stood by the side of the tank on the main street, and sang songs about the importance of saving water, the KG Basin issue and about the need for people’s movements to save the region and did a short rally through the village. Pamphlets about the Yatra, “Melokolupu” were distributed to the onlookers, which resulted in a few intense discussions with the local people. Then the JJY team left for Guntupalli Village near Vijayawada. We were hosted and received by Mr. Venugopal a local farmer and activist from Guntupalli.
24thDecember 2010 – 7am – Guntupalli Railway Wagon Workshop
The area surrounding the town of Vijayawada is impacted by the presence of two thermal power plants – the govt. owned Coal based VTPS and the private owned gas based Lanco Kondapalli Thermal Power station (KTPS). In addition there are multiple chemical industries and oil reprocessing units dumping their pollution into the air and into the water bodies including the Krishna River. On this day, we reached the Guntupalli Railway Wagon workshop by 7am and distributed pamphlets about the impacts of thermal power plants on environment and people’s health along with pamphlets on the harmful effects of GM Food and Melokolupu. It is learnt that a lot of the employees who come to work in the Guntupalli Workshop, suffer from various ailments of the respiratory system, due to the air pollution from the nearby VTPS – Vijaywada Thermal Power station now renamed as Narne Tata Rao Thermal Power Station. A photo exhibition by JV Ratnam on the health impacts from Thermal Power Plants was done at the entrance to the railway workshop, where the team members each held one photograph. A train bringing the employees came at 7.12am, and within the next few minutes, hundreds of people were given these pamphlets. Some of the people, stopped by and discussed about the issue with the team members and a couple of them, showed interest to work with NAPM on this issue. From here, we reached Kavuluru village.
9 am – Kavuluru village – impacts from VTPS
Here the team stood at the village square and sang songs on the impacts of thermal power plants and distributed pamphlets. Ajay Kumar and Saraswati spoke to the people on the need to prevent further expansion of the Thermal Power Plants, which is being planned now. Here, there were not many people. The Team did a short padayatra through the village and at the next center, there was a larger crowd. The singing and speeches were well received. However, though the people realized the problem, they were not too keen to take up the issue, due to the local political situation and a general lethargy among the people. Some farmers complained about the problem from the release of the waste waters from the VTPS into their local streams which is affecting agriculture and the drinking water.
10 am – Kattubadipalem village –
Here, the team did a short padayatra and once again the cultural team did its best to attract the people’s attention. This village has the added problem of release of wastes into the local streams, by the chemical industries and the oil reprocessing units in the nearby industrial area. The team also examined the water in the stream which smelled of diesel and chemicals.
11am – Kondapalli –
With two thermal power plants, one coal based and another gas based, Kondapalli town, famous world over for its wooden toys, today suffers with a loss of the wood that is used for the making of these toys, due to the impact of pollution from the VTPS. Even the Lanco Kondapalli TPS, was creating irreparable damage with its use of Naptha for power generation. It was seen that even houses were getting cracked up due to this Power plant. So due to public pressure and court directives, LANCO had to bow down and use Gas instead of Naphta. However the problems from the VTPS continue unabated, while some problems from KTPS linger on.
JJY team did a demonstration on the Main street of the town and sang songs opposing thermal power plants. A sizeable crowd was distributed pamphlets and the team members had very extensive discussions on the issues like voters and citizens responsibility in the entire matters, on accepting money for votes and finally, the need to react. We also did another demonstration at the Power Plant Junction. Here we got to interact with some employees of VTPS, who said that many employees suffer from multiple diseases but the authorities, never share the information about the results from their health reports. From here, we stopped for lunch and went to visit another village Tummalapalem on the banks of Krishna River.
3pm – Tummalapalem village
This village is on the banks of Krishna river and most of the people in this village are fisherfolk. However, due to the influx of waste waters from the thermal power plants into the Krishna River, fish are dying in the river. Even the Algae in the river is dead and is seen floating on the surface. The JJY team did a street corner meeting on the banks of the river. The fisher folk agreed to the existence of problems but expressed their helplessness in fighting the powers that be. BRK Raju gave them assurance that NAPM will stand by them. However, the fisherfolk were expecting NAPM to lead the campaign and promised to stand by NAPM, as dedicated people. This, we told them, was not possible for NAPM, that the movement should be led by local people, and NAPM will support in various ways.
5pm – Guntupalli village
In this village close to the VTPS, living without an air-conditioner even in peak winters is unthinkable. However, there is least resistance from the public on this matter. JJY met the Sarpanch of the village, who explained the problems in agriculture due to the pollution from the VTPS. “Paddy yields have come down drastically, while there is no lentil crop – black gram – since a few years. Today, black gram just doesn’t grow in these areas, while it was a major crop in this region 20 years ago”. Venugopal Rao explained that when Naptha was used in KTPS, life was a total torture. After a discussion with the village sarpanch, the team left for Chirala in Prakasam district.
25thDecember 2010 – Prakasam District
We were received by Emmanuel at Chirala. The local committee working on the issue of struggle against the Ultra Mega Thermal Power Project, too care of our stay and food.
9am – Challareddipalem, Nayanipalli Panchayat, Vetapalem Mandal
JJY team arrived at Challareddipalem village, one of the villages that is to be affected by the VANPIC project – the Vadarevu Nizampatnam Port based Industrial Corridor, to be set up between Vadarevu in Prakasam to Nizampatnam in Guntur district, where in nearly 28,000 acres of land is to be acquired, in this region, and a large portion of lands have been already acquired. More specifically this panchayat of Nayanipalli is to be affected by a 4000 MW Ultra Mega Coal BasedThermal Power Project. The people of these villages are opposing the project, as it will impact their fishing, agriculture and most importantly their health. The JJY team stopped at the village square and the cultural team performed some songs, which helped in gathering the village people. Here the team members explained the details about the impacts of the Thermal Power Projects, which JV Ratnam showed a photo exhibition and explained the minute details of the impacts of thermal plants.
The entire village seemed very active with even little children shouting slogans of “Power Plant, Go Back”. The campaign has a big help in the form of local activists Nagarjuna and Emmanuel who are consolidating all efforts to oppose the plant tooth and nail.The villagers showed the lush green fields that are under threat of being acquired by the State Govt. for a private company.
11am to 1pm – Kataripalem, Nayanipalli Panchayat, Vetapalem Mandal
From Challareddipalem JJY reached Kataripalem. Here, a team of activists have undertaken a relay hunger strike at the entrance to the village, near the highway, opposing the Thermal Power Project. JJY went to the village square, where a public meeting ensued under a large neem tree. After some cultural performances local activist Nagarjuna spoke about the campaign, while the representative of Praja Rajyam Party, Ramana, spoke at length to the people on the ills of the project. BRK Raju, convener, NAPM AP, spoke about the various struggle going on in different parts of the state, especially Sompeta, and exhorted the people to take inspiration from the Sompeta Struggle. He also added about the kind of support NAPM can give for the campaigns. PS Ajay, spoke about the energy policy and the false propaganda made out by the government agencies regarding the actual requirement of energy for a 9% GDP. Many of the local women listened with great attention. It was very evident that the people were well enthused to fight a good fight, and many attended the meeting, despite it being a Christmas day.
1pm-2pm – Vetapalem Mandal Headquarters.
Here the team stood at the town circle and after some cultural performances, Saraswati addressed the people gathered over there, about the impacts the Power plant in Nayinapalli is going to have on the people of Vetapalem, and said that the problems are not of the Nayinapalli panchayat alone, but of the entire district and state and asked the people of Vetapalem town to join the struggle against the Ultra Mega Thermal Power Plant. Melukolupu and Thermal Power pamphlets were distributed here. Some of the local people joined the team and sang songs. One old man sang songs about the skyrocketing food prices. The entire street became lively with everyone joining in the song and one feeble old lady breaking into a dance.
4pm – Motupalli panchayat
Motupallem panchayat people have been campaigning against the VANPIC since 2008 and their campaign was led by Shankar, a resident of Motupalem village. This campaign has withstood all kinds of external pressures till date. JJY walked through the village in a padayatra, giving slogans and singing songs. Later, the villagers too joined in the padayatra and PS Ajay spoke to the people on the need for a cohesive campaign and also discussed on issues like energy policies, impacts of thermal plants.
6 pm – Pedaganjampattanam
The best part of the day was the last meeting at Pedaganjampattanam, another major panchayat in Prakasam district. Here, many of the people have been under great pressure to give up their lands. Some had already sold their lands, while most others have not done so. The JJY team and local villagers took out a short procession through the main street and a public meeting was organized by the village sarpanch. While asked about the problems in the village, some of the local people, spoke about the problem of land acquisition and how most of them do not have any pucca rights on their lands, while some of the local leaders have been misleading the people with tall promises. One young man spoke about the historical importance of Pedaganjampatnam and said if the project – VANPIC comes in then this history will be wiped out. He also added that if people sell their lands for money now, how long would that money last he questioned? And he exhorted everyone in the village not to sell their lands at any cost and to fight to save their village. He said, if we have land, it will feed us and provide us for generations together. Veeraiah an activist from Naguluppalapadu mandal, opposing the GENCO Thermal Power Project, called for the people of Pedaganjam to join hands to intensify and strengthen the fight. The call was joined by Nagarjuna of Vetapalem Mandal and some other leaders from neighbouring mandals. PS Ajay spoke on the issues concerning land rights vis-à-vis the assigned lands which are now being taken away from the local people. The meeting was well attended by nearly 200 to 300 people. From here JJY left for Nellore
26thDecember – Nellore Town
7am – JJY went to meet the members of walkers club. Here many eminent personalities of Nellore town gathered together after their morning walk. NAPM cultural team performed a couple of songs after which some of the walkers club members too sang some songs. It was a lively event, but with some serious discussion after about the impact that Nellore district will have with nearly 27 thermal power plants coming up – with a capacity of nearly 35,000 MW. It could be a death sentence for the entire population of Nellore and its surrounding districts. JJY team joined the walkers club for breakfast.
9am – Demonstration at Gandhi Statue – Nellore town
Here, the JJY team climbed up the traffic island near the Gandhi Statue and sang songs about the need to campaign against the Killer Thermal Power Plants, and some volunteers distributed pamphlets. But except for the local police, not a single town’s person enquired what the whole issue was about. From here the team did a short rally towards the Press Club where the Press was addressed by Dr. G. Vijay Kumar of JVV and BRK Raju of NAPM, about the dangers from the proposed Thermal Power projects and called for a large scale campaign on the issue.
12pm – Nelaturupattapupallepalem
This is one of the fishing villages that is indirectly impacted from various power projects and directly impacted by GENCO Thermal Power Plant. The project is already under construction and the people are worried about their future. Already due to the Krishnapatnam Port and its dredging work, fishing has declined to a great extent, while most of their lands were taken away for the GENCO Thermal Power Plant by the government. Not a single person in the village found employment in GENCO which is currently under finishing stages. The labourers were brought from Kurnool and Mahboobnagar districts, while the security personnel were brought from Chattisgarh, and UP. During the time of a public hearing of another Power Project of Nelcast Pvt.Ltd, NAPM team had visited this village earlier in January 2010. At that time, the company had spent a lot of money and liquor and lured the public to not speak out against the project. Today, many of the people are regretting. The general sentiment in the village is that they have been duped by their leaders.
However, JJY team infused some hope to the people, that all is not lost and that the project can still be stalled and also gave them the assurance to stand by them in their struggle. The Press Meet and the meeting in Nelaturu were organized by Raja Reddy, of APVVU, also a member of NAPM. After a short lunch break, the team went to Kadiri town in Anantapur.
27thDecember 2010, Anantapur district
JJY team was hosted by REDS and MYRADA in Kadiri town of Anantapur district.
12noon to 2pm – Amadaguru Mandal – JJY team met with farmers who sold their lands to a proposed SEZ – Science City at REDS office in Amadaguru Mandal headquarters. Most of the farmers were from the village of Tummala- Kottapeta. Most of their lands were assigned lands, where in the government gives them use of land, but no permanent rights. Thus, each person was promised 1lakh 25 thousand rupees per acre – a sum which was very high in a place where land value was as low as 25,000 per acre. Thus, many farmers were lured to relinquish their rights and were given two cheques as payment. But only one payment was encahsed, while the other cheques were not paid for as in the middle, the Science city project itself was scrapped. So, now, the farmers are wondering about their money.
Ajay Kumar, joint convener of NAPM AP, spoke to them and said, that NAPM will be able to support them in case they wish to take back their lands, but cannot help really if they wish to sell their lands, (in the sense of getting better prices etc), as it is against the ideology. A discussion of various land issues and their nitty gritty ensured, where in finally, with a promise of coming back once again, the JJY team left for Lepakshi Mandal in the same district.
4pm to 7pm – Koduru Village and Hamlets – Lepakshi Mandal.
In this place, a huge SEZ by name Knowledge City is coming up over 16,000 acres land in two mandals. About 9,000 acres land – mostly assigned land has already been acquired by the govt. the people received about 1.25 lakhs. Now most of the money is spent away and many are regretting their decision to having sold their lands. They said that at that time, they were attracted by the lure of money. JJY team discussed the problems of losing land, and warned the people not to heed to the sweet talk of politicians etc. In two villages, street corner meetings were held at the village centres, which attracted many local people. The local people appreciated our efforts in trying to spread awareness, but many said that we should have come much earlier. But, it was pointed out to them by Mr. Basha State Vice President of HRF that HRF had indeed gone from village to village telling people, not to sell their lands, but no one listened. At this one man said, “yes, we all wanted money at that time, what’s the use of realizing things now?’ However, JJY team and Mr. Basha assured the people, that indeed if they wish to claim back their land, they can do so and that there are legal provisions for such a take back. Suresh Babu, principal of a local college and Rayalaseema Convener for NAPM AP, had co-ordinated the trip to Lepakshi, and we were joined in the entire day’s efforts by Mr. Basha of HRF and Adinarayana, of CSA.
The street meeting in Koduru itself was very lively with interactive street plays and singing, and the locals joining in the performances. After a final sumptuous dinner on the way back to Hyderabad and a long overnight journey to Hyderabad, the Jana Jagruti Yatra ended on the morning of 28thDecember, after deciding for a follow up meeting to enlist a core team of volunteers and plan for a long term action on how we have to work on various issues.
Thanks and Regards
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