‘Gifted’ villagers want to get back to Telangana

‘Gifted’ villagers want to get back to Telangana

People in Kannayigudem village narrating their tales. (DH Photo/ETB Sivapriyan)

The birth of India’s youngest state might have brought smiles on the faces of everyone in Telangana, but it has turned upside down the lives of people in more than 200 villages which were an integral part of Khammam district. 

As you step out of this famous temple town, a green board welcomes you to Andhra Pradesh and seven km later, another board thanks you for visiting the state.

The villages, mostly dominated by tribals, located on the seven-km stretch, have been part of Khammam district for decades, but suddenly, have become "outsiders" for the government of Telangana since they technically belong to neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.

Except Bhadrachalam, the abode of Lord Ram, all villages in the mandal and six others in the district were transferred to Andhra Pradesh just days before Telangana came into being on June 2, 2014 – the reason being, majority of the villages in these mandals come under the submergence area of the ambitious Polavaram project being undertaken by Andhra Pradesh government.

As a result of the transfer, the villagers have been put to innumerable sufferings as the nearest Andhra Pradesh town is at least 50 kms away, and they cannot avail the benefits of the services of the Telangana government since they belong to a “different state.”

“No development has taken place in our village ever since we were 'gifted' to Andhra Pradesh. The government hospitals in Bhadrachalam and other areas in Telangana turn us away since we belong to Andhra Pradesh. The nearest hospital in Andhra Pradesh is 60 kms away. How do we go?” L Anitha, a daily labourer who belongs to Kannayigudem village, told DH.  

Though Telangana’s ruling TRS opposed the move to transfer these villages to Andhra Pradesh, Parliament passed an amendment to the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act. A few months ago, all 211 villages and 34,000 families were added to various Assembly constituencies in West and East Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh.

While the Bhadrachalam town, just a couple of kms away, sports a festive look with colourful banners and flags of political parties, the nearby villages are just mute spectators of the festival of democracy.

Majority of these villages have been traditional supporters of the CPM – its nominee won in 2014 elections, but since his village is now part of Andhra Pradesh, he opted out of the contest here. 

“We cannot vote in Telangana polls as according to the government, we are part of Andhra Pradesh. We cannot narrate our sufferings in the past four-and-a-half years in words. We are neither here (Telangana) nor there (Andhra Pradesh). We have lost out on all benefits of the Telangana government,” Vijayalaxmi, who runs a departmental store in Yetapaka village, told DH.

Though the Andhra Pradesh government has created a revenue district and opened its offices close to the villages, residents say it does not solve their daily problems. Since the village is part of East Godavari district, its headquarters Kakinada is 230 kms away.

D Eswari, who heads a women’s self-help group in Chenampeta, said that they were “second-class citizens” of Andhra Pradesh and wants to be part of Telangana.

“Since the nearest town Bhadrachalam is in Telangana, it is ideal that we are also part of Telangana,” she said, adding that students are worst-affected since government colleges in Bhadrachalam ask them to go to Andhra Pradesh.

T Aluvelu of nearby Chenampeta village said, “The nearest college is in Chinthanur, 60 kms away. How are our children supposed to travel 120 kms a day? Why can’t the government just announce that our villages are part of Telangana, so that we live peacefully like those in other villages just a few kms away,” Aluvelu said.