Village that stood up to might of TRS govt

Four elders of the village on a fast on Tuesday opposing the Mallannasagar project in Vemulaghat, Telangana. DH PHOTO/E T B Sivapriyan

To be precise, for the past 906 days at least four members of this sleepy village in Telangana’s newly-carved Siddipet district have been sitting on a fast opposing the Mallannasagar Reservoir project of the TRS government.

The protest that began on June 5, 2016, has been continuing even today, and the sentiments against the government that has been doggedly pushing for the Rs 9,800 crore ambitious project, have just got shriller as election is approaching. The Mallannasagar Reservoir is envisaged to help irrigate 12 lakh acres in Siddipet, Medak and Ranga Reddy districts, and the work is on despite protests from Vemulaghat residents.

The villagers, who have been demanding compensation for acquiring their land under the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, have unanimously decided to vote against the TRS candidate from Dubbaka, S Ramalinga Reddy and support C Rajkumar of the People’s Alliance in the December 7 elections. Vemulghat has 2,000-odd voters and the population is over 4,000.

Vemulaghat, which is located in between Gajwel and Siddipet — the Assembly constituencies represented by Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao and his nephew K Harish Rao, respectively, would lose 5,200 acres of agricultural land due to the project. Villagers also allege that only the aforesaid two constituencies have witnessed development in the area at the cost of other villages and towns.

The villagers are up in arms against the government, as it offered only Rs 6 lakh per acre as compensation, and demand at least three times the price since they would be left with nothing after the village submerges once the project sees the light of the day.

On Tuesday, four old men of the village — A Mallaiah, M Ram Reddy, P Sankaraiah and C Pochaiah — undertook fast on a dais overlooking Mahatma Gandhi statue.

“We voted for the TRS in 2014 in the hope that the KCR government would protect the interests of the farmers. The entire village participated in the protests demanding separate Telangana state and supported the TRS. But today, we are being projected as enemies of the state due to our protests,” A Mallaiah told DH.

While most of the villages close to Vemulaghat have accepted the compensation, this village stood up against the might of the state administration.

“A few weeks after we began the protest, farmers were lathi-charged by the police in Siddipet. The villagers became more resolute in their opposition to the project after the incident,” Ranga Reddy, a farmer who would lose 22 acres of his land including the house that he lives in, said.

“All we ask is fair compensation and nothing else. We want the compensation to be paid according to the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. I went to jail during the Telangana movement and we supported the TRS. But today we feel cheated,” Reddy said.

Asked why the villagers have decided to support the Congress, another farmer Srinivasa Reddy said: “It is the Congress government in Delhi which brought this act in Parliament. So, we expect the Congress leaders to understand our situation and help us. We hope the Congress will heed our request,” he said.

Another farmer, Karunakara Reddy, who owns five acres of land in the village, charged that the TRS government is vindictive towards the villagers. “We had to go to the court to get benefitted from a scheme that provides Rs 8,000 to farmers for buying seeds every year. Why is this government dead against us? We are protesting in a peaceful manner,” he said.

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Village that stood up to might of TRS govt

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