Ground Report: While industrial Hindupur seeks another wave of development, NTR’s enduring legacy continues to favour TDP

A TDP pocket-borough since 1983 with a sizeable Muslim population, Hindupur appears willing to look beyond the party's tie-up with BJP.

BySumit Jha

Published May 11, 2024 | 8:00 AMUpdatedMay 11, 2024 | 10:22 AM

Ground Report: While industrial Hindupur seeks another wave of development, NTR’s enduring legacy continues to favour TDP

One morning this May, clouds hovered over Hindupur town — part of the Hindupur Assembly constituency — in the Sri Sathya Sai district of Andhra Pradesh, bringing relief from the relentless summer heat.

Fathima and her son Hussain sat in front of a spinning machine in the locality where weavers stay, known as APJ Abdul Kalam Colony, a few kilometres away from the railway station.

They had just harvested silkworm cocoons, carefully boiling them to soften the sericin — a natural adhesive that binds the silk fibres and protects the pupa inside the cocoon.

Fathima delicately unwound the softened cocoons in a boiling pot, extracting the silk fibres as she did so. These fibres are then spun into threads using machines, their strength and continuity ensured by the spinning process.

Once woven, the silk fabric undergoes additional finishing processes like washing and pressing to enhance its texture, appearance, and durability.

“After collecting the threads, we’ll lay them out in the direct sunlight to dry,” explained Fathima. She added this was not the season for silkworm cocoons; typically, they get higher-quality cocoons during the monsoon season, resulting in superior threads.

Fathima also noted that it was not the work itself that made it challenging to sustain their profession, but rather the process of selling the finished products.

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Weavers weigh in

Fathima in front of a weaving machine. (Sumit Jha/South First)

Abdul Rahim, a 50-year-old weaver in the same colony, was busy drying threads in the sun after completing the weaving process.

“APCO [the Andhra Pradesh State Handloom Weavers Cooperative Society] buys our thread in Puttaparthi, which is around 70 km from here,” he explained.

Abdul went on to describe the challenges they face in selling their products. He said they have to arrange transportation to Puttaparthi on their own and deal with a registered society affiliated with APCO to sell their goods, as APCO only purchases from registered societies.

“We have to cover the transportation costs out of our own pockets to sell directly to APCO. That’s why we often prefer to sell to local private buyers,” he explained.

Abdul dries silk threads. (Sumit Jha/South First)

Abdul also reflected on how the town, once a hub for weaving industries in the early 1980s, shifted its focus to metal and other industries, leaving them dependent on APCO for sales.

Abdul admits that while the work itself isn’t the issue, the process of selling their products is a concern, especially when it comes to making a profit locally.

Meanwhile, the YSRCP government has introduced the “YSR Nethanna Nestham” scheme, offering ₹24,000 annually to weavers.

However, Abdul explained that weavers like him did not qualify for the scheme as they were not registered under a society. This benefit mostly reaches the Padmasali weavers’ community, which is registered under APCO.

Fathima, meanwhile, mentioned that forming a society was challenging for most weavers in their small, primarily-family-based community. “So, the scheme doesn’t reach us,” she explained.

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The town of NTR

“When TDP founder NT Rama Rao became the MLA from here in 1985 and subsequently the chief minister, he brought with him the first industry — the ‘Super Spinning Mill’. This marked the beginning of a cascade of industrial development in the town,” explained Hindupur-resident Babu Rao.

“I came from Mangaluru in Karnataka to work in the railwheel factory, which manufactures clips for railway lines. I retired from my job four years ago,” he added.

He emphasised how NTR’s leadership left an enduring impact on the town, even decades after his passing. “His legacy still resonates here,” affirmed Babu Rao.

The influx of industries such as Wipro Engineering, Burger Paints, British Paints, and the railwheel factory transformed the town into a bustling hub, complete with schools and hospitals.

“The town flourished thanks to these industries,” said Babu Rao. “The development spurred by these industries attracted people not only from the local area but also from states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala, and they settled here.”

He also highlighted NTR’s initiatives to address water scarcity in the region. “In the 1980s, NTR installed around 115 borewells in as many villages, alleviating water scarcity for the local villagers,” he recalled.

However, Naresh Kumar, who runs a stitching workshop, expressed concern about the challenges faced by local industries under the YSRCP government helmed by YS Jagan Mohan Reddy.

Naresh Kumar

“The Covid-19 pandemic halted operations in many factories, and the policies of the Jagan government exacerbated the situation,” he lamented.

“Small and medium-sized industries, which typically employ 15-20 people in metal works, have been hit hard,” said Naresh Kumar.

“During the pandemic, many of these industries closed temporarily, and upon reopening, they faced increased power tariffs imposed by the government. Unfortunately, 118 factories in the town have shut down due to these tariffs,” he claimed

He recounted the story of a fabrication factory that employed over 50 people and was renowned for its fabrication of road transport corporation [RTC] buses.

“These buses were supplied to RTCs in states like Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu. With the closure of the factory, not only did the fabricators lose their jobs, but so did the painters who were employed there,” noted Kumar, reflecting on the broader impact of industrial closures on the community.

Parvathi, the resident of the Kodihalli village in the Lepakshi mandal of the Hindupur constituency, highlighted that over time, people had become disillusioned with agriculture in the constituency, as the outcomes didn’t often favour them.

“In villages, farmers are now converting agricultural fields into plots to sell to small industries or individuals from outside the state who want to build houses,” she said.

Kumar elaborated on the consequences of this trend: “Once these people sell their land, they will have money for a year or two. They will spend it on luxury items and liquor before it eventually runs out.”

He added: “After that, they will resort to working in factories or commuting to the railway station every morning to catch the train to Bengaluru.” Thus, he highlighted the cycle of temporary prosperity followed by hardship that many in the community face.

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Rural in urban setup

As the evening settled in Kodihalli village, about 8 km from Hindupur town, women strolled leisurely along the village road after the clouds teased them with the promise of rain that never came.

A notable characteristic of this village is the division of labour: Most men are employed in factories, while the women primarily do household chores.

“We mostly stay at home. The hard labour in factories isn’t something we can do, so our days are filled with household tasks. Sometimes, we visit our fields,” explained Parvathi.

She reflected on her early marriage that brought her to the village. “I was married when I was 17. The village was developed, and most local men had jobs in factories rather than relying on agriculture,” she recalled.

“My would-be-husband became a supervisor in a fabrication factory, and so my father thought it was the right time for me to get married,” she recounted.

“Most of my time is spent on household chores,” Parvathi explained.

Parvathi shares her story with South First

Parvathi shares her story with South First

While the men in the community praise the work of NTR and TDP, women like Parvathi have a different perspective. “When the men leave for work, we stay with our in-laws, taking care of children, cooking, washing dishes,” she noted.

“We have to wait for our husbands to return even for something as simple as buying school supplies,” she lamented.

“Now, with the Amma Vodi scheme, my granddaughter receives ₹10,000 directly from volunteers, which gives us some freedom. I also receive ₹3000 through Cheyutha. This money gives us some independence,” explained Parvathi.

She appreciates not only the financial support but also the assistance from volunteers, who she said even help the likes of her with tasks like booking gas cylinders.

However, Parvathi expressed concern over one of her sons, who now commutes daily to Bengaluru for work.

“Bengaluru is about 100 km from here. He used to work in a local mill, but it closed down due to Covid-19. Unable to find employment here, he now travels to Bengaluru every day by train to work in an electric fan factory,” she shared.

Babu Rao added his perspective, criticising the lack of development under the new government. “Previously, people used to come here for work. Now, the trend is shifting towards Bengaluru due to government policies,” he remarked, highlighting the challenges faced by the local community.

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The political pulse

Since the first election in 1952, the constituency witnessed only Congress and independent candidates winning until 1983.

Soon after, a cine star formed a political organisation called Telugu Desam Party. Since then, no other party has had a chance in the constituency.

NTR, who would go on to become the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, was first elected from the constituency in 1985 and remained MLA until his death in 1996.

His son Nandamuri Harikrishna took over as MLA. His other son and Telugu film star Nandamuri Balakrishna has been the MLA since 2014. He is contesting from the constituency again this time.

Despite being named after the Hindu religion, the constituency has a high Muslim population. Even though TDP has aligned with BJP, the Muslim population doesn’t appear to be bothered.

“We have lived here with each other in harmony. The temples and mosques are in the same lane,” said Abdul.

“A flower seller outside the temple is Muslim, and a tea seller outside the mosque is Hindu. We don’t discriminate based on religion at all,” he added.

He also pointed out that the community always supported TDP because of the work the constituency has seen.

A kid takes a bath in tank water during the summer in Hindupur. (Sumit Jha/South First)

“Even though BJP is aligning with TDP, our perception of the regional party has not changed. BJP was with TDP in 2014 as well, and we were fine with them back then as well,” recalled Abdul.

“It’s the leaders who believe in harmony; Balakrishna and Chandrababu Naidu are those leaders who keep everyone together. They don’t divide people on the basis of religion,” he said.

YSRCP is gearing up for its third election in Hindupur in the upcoming election cycle. It has been unsuccessful in unseating Nandamuri Balakrishna despite its efforts in the past two elections: 2014 and 2019.

In 2014, it fielded Naveen Nischal, followed by Iqbal in 2019 — both without any luck. Looking to strengthen its position for 2024, it has made Iqbal an MLC, but his survey reports have unfortunately not been favourable.

Now, YSRCP has fielded TN Deepika from the seat for the upcoming election. The party has asserted that Deepika’s Backward Class (BC) status and the woman card will greatly benefit her in the election.

Deepika is the wife of Venugopal Reddy, a YSRCP leader from Hindupur. Her parents are Kurubas, which is a BC community, while her husband belongs to the Reddy community.

That is why TDP disputes Deepika’s BC status. The party claims that, according to tradition, a woman inherits the caste of her husband after marriage, making Deepika a Reddy.

Regardless of these disagreements, YSRCP believes that Deepika’s combination of being a Reddy and a BC, along with the woman card, will significantly boost her chances.

(Edited by Arkadev Ghoshal)