Sunday, June 21, 1998

Tribal women doggedly resist Naxal wrath

Published in The Indian Express on Sunday, June 21, 1998
RAJAHMUNDRY, JUNE 20: It was a well chalked-out Naxal plan to demoralise the tribal women of Pedamallapuram in East Godavari district. But, the scheme fell flat on its face as the women resounded their conviction to keep the Naxals at bay, come what may.
The Naxals' intention behind the midnight attack on the sleepy village of Pedamallapuram was to weaken the resolve of the tribal women, who have been leading an anti-Naxal movement in the agency area of East Godavari district.
But as has been the case with Pedamallapuram since the start of the movement in February, Naxals propose and tribal women simply dispose. A band of 40 Naxalites swooped on the unsuspecting tribal hamlet tucked away in the vast hilly tracts in the early hours of Thursday. After gunning down two tribal leaders, Jarta Rambabu and Bodoju Venkateswara Rao, the `Annalu' as the Naxals are known in local parlance then attacked 10 tribal women.
But, their ire was concentrated on Thonta Ramulamma and Bodoju Lakshmamma, the twins wholaunched the anti-Naxal movement. The incident far from demoralising and weakening the tribal women leaders has in fact strengthened their resolve to fight the Naxals and assert themselves. Their number has burgeoned and the men too have joined hands with the women in their fight to teach the Naxals a lesson.
That the tribal women of Pedamallapuram cannot be cowed down by acts of violence can be gauged from the fact that despite the danger hovering over the village, the women took an oath before Chandrababu Naidu yesterday to continue their movement.
``Had the Naxals attacked us in daylight, we would have taught them a lesson. But cowards as they are, they came in the cover of darkness after blasting the electricity transformer,'' says Ramulamma.
Pedamallapuram serves as a gateway to the agency area in the district. The hilly and bushy environs around the village provide a perfect camouflage to the Naxals to carry on their operations.
Further, women in around 50 hamlets in the agency area got inspired from the anti-Naxal movement in Pedamallapuram. This, the Naxals believe, will jeopardise their interests in the long run.

Saturday, June 20, 1998

AP farmers cross swords over dam

Published in The Indian Express on Saturday, June 20, 1998
VIJAYAWADA, JUNE 19: The ayacut downstream of the Tammileru river in Krishna and West Godavari districts is today on a power-keg. What could have been a simple issue between the farmers of Krishna and West Godavari, over the construction of a 120 mt rock-filled dam across the Tammileru by the ayacutdars of Lopudi village in Krishna district, has snowballed into a major controversy with some senior politicians on both sides of the border tightening their belts. The matter came to such a pass that a police picket had to be set up to prevent inter-district rivalry among the ayacutdars of Tammileru.
It all began early last month when a group of farmers of Lopudi and Gollapudi in Musunuru mandal of Krishna district began the construction of the dam with the active support of a legislator and some politicians. The dam, the Krishna district farmers argue, will stabilise the level of the ever-deepening river bed and thus ensure supply of water into the Gollapudi channel that irrigates around 800 acres in thedistrict.
On the other hand, West Godavari farmers got the work stalled on the ground that it would affect about 12,000 acres in their district. As the two legislators and other politicians on either side of the border entered the scene, indirectly, the dispute heated up. Officials of West Godavari and Krishna districts too jumped into the fray and dashed off letters to their higher-ups in the State capital in support of the respective ryots.
While the irrigation superintending engineer at Vijayawada argued that no riparian rights were involved as no new ayacut was proposed, the West Godavari collector pointed out that the construction was detrimental to the interests of the farmers . Apparently acting under political pressure, the officials in Krishna district issued technical and administrative sanction to the rock-filled dam without seeking the necessary clearance from the executive engineer of the Godavari special division at Eluru, who is also the conservator of the Tammileru river.
The farmers ofKrishna district have been drawing water from the river via the Gollapudi channel since 1935. Even in those days, the excavation of the channel was opposed by the then zamindars of West Godavari district. The matter was taken to court and the channel got legalised.
The farmers in Krishna had no problem till a few years ago. But, large scale quarrying downstream led to the drifting of sand and this resulted in water not flowing into the channel at the offtake point.