Ground report: Achampet villagers feel Dalit Bandhu hiding like elusive Amrabad tigers

The constituency seeks development and voters feel that they have been ignored.

ByDeepika Pasham

Published Oct 30, 2023 | 1:47 PMUpdatedNov 09, 2023 | 4:12 PM

Telangana assembly elections ground report

With the Telangana Assembly elections 2023 just weeks away, South First is bringing you ground reports from key constituencies. This series brings you voices from the ground, the mood of the voters, and issues that matter — as well as those that don’t.

The grass has grown tall after the rains, taller than a person of average height. Beyond the grassland lies the Amrabad Tiger Reserve.

Part of the Nallamala forest range, the reserve is home to around 23 tigers — elusive and rarely seen, but their presence is always felt.

A family returning from Srisailam stopped by the reserve. “Can you guarantee that we can see animals? Tigers or leopard,” a man in the group asked the security guard at the gate.

The guard has heard the same question before. “No guarantee, sir,” he shrugged. “It’s 4 pm now, and the reserve will soon close for the day,” he added.

The animals are elusive, but those keen on following them will see them if luck permits. Unlike the animals of Amrabad, life in hutments that welcome one to Achampet municipality in Nagarkurnool is visible but ignored. The Achampet Assembly constituency, a reserved seat for Scheduled Caste (SC) candidates, yearns for development.

Also read: Kharge slams KCR, says BRS chief turned Telangana into a pile of debt

Migrant blues

The blue plastic tents starkly contrast the concrete jungle in the backdrop. The tents and the buildings are two worlds, like parallels that never meet.

Migrated Muslim families huts in Achampet

The tents where the migrated Muslim families live in Achampet (Deepika Pasham/South First)

Around 10 families live in the tents, each having a wooden cot and cloth spread on the floor, where they receive guests. Firewood is stacked outside, along with a few utensils.

A woman busy bundling the firewood said they were from Gajularamaram in Suryapet. She, along with her husband, was forced to migrate to Achampet after incurring losses in farming back home.

Shareef (50) is the oldest among the 10 families. He is optimistic that the government would provide them with two-bedroom houses. Minister Guntakandla Jagadish Reddy had earlier helped him financially to undergo surgery for a renal condition.

“We are 10 Muslim families left in Achampet and many of us came here from Suryapet. We sell children’s garments by the road. We see our families back home only during Ramazan or Bakrid,” he told South First.

He further added that losses incurred in farming forced them to sell their properties and migrate to Achampet. “We started buying and selling children’s wear six years ago. We travel to Nagarkurnool and back,” Shareef said.

Asifa Begum (35) said she bought the garments from Charminar in Hyderabad. “We leave early in the morning and buy clothes worth ₹800 to ₹1,000. But transporting the clothes is difficult. Besides a shortage of buses, we have to pay extra for the luggage,” she said.

The children in the settlement attend the Minority Gurukul and IIT Basar. “Our request is to provide shelter and sanction funds to Muslim families under the announced minority scheme,” she demanded.

The families have Aadhaar and voter ID cards — the second one, much valued these days.

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Liquor and money

Bichiayya, a farmer in Achampet

Bichiayya, a farmer in Achampet. (Deepika Pasham/ South First)

Farmer Bichiayya was rushing to the venue where Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao was to address a rally. “Are you leaving? Where are the papers? Has anything been done?” he shouted at his friend.

South First caught up with Bichiayya, who corrected us that there was no party called the BRS. “The contest is between the TRS and the Congress,” he declared.

He was angry with the government that “inaugurates statues in Hyderabad” with the money that could be used for his community’s benefit.

“Half of the Achampet population is Dalits and most of the families have not received the Dalit Bandhu funds. The farmers are angry that statutes are being inaugurated in Hyderabad instead of the funds being used to waive off loans,” he said.

To many like Bichiayya, Dalit Bandhu remains elusive.

Bichiayya’s son drives a taxi in Hyderabad since the family could not earn much from their farmland.

“We have decided to give Congress a chance this time. Last time liquor was distributed during elections, but money was less. This year political leaders have not come to us yet. But they will come,” he added.

Lack of college

Padma was arranging vegetables on a makeshift platform. Her son was not interested in studies, so the family decided to educate the daughter. However, with Achampet not having enough colleges, she had to discontinue her studies.

My daughter was interested in continuing her education. But since we had to send her outside Achempet, we decided to marry her off. She now lives in Bommenapalle village. She would have been a teacher now if she had continued her studies,” Padma said.

Padma’s husband, a farmer, has not received the Rythu Bandu money this year, she said.

Commuting is an issue many people in Achampet raised. After sunset, women find it difficult to travel. “Then there are snakes too,” Padma added.

In Mallapur, a tribal hamlet, solar panels provide electricity. Malnutrition is rampant among children. The people in the constituency felt that the sitting MLA Guvvala Balaraju was focusing more on the Backward Communities (BCs), ignoring the needs of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SCs and STs).

Achampet Assembly constituency

Achampet Assembly segment in numbers. (Click on the image to enlarge)

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Broken promises 

The villagers also spoke of unfulfilled promises. One of them was an irrigation project.

The government has sanctioned ₹1,534 crore for the Achampet lift irrigation scheme’s stage-1 works. A reservoir with a capacity of 2.5 TMC was to be constructed. Water will be transferred from the Yedula Reservoir in the Wanaparthy district, constructed as part of the Palamuru project to the 2.5 TMC capacity Umamaheswara Reservoir to be constructed at Suraram in Lingala mandal.

The people and farmers of the Achampet constituency seemed worried over the incomplete works. “Where is the water promised for our farming lands,” a farmer asked.

A restaurant owner was keenly waiting for the chief minister’s speech to be uploaded on YouTube. “I want to know if the already announced integrated vegetable and meat markets will be opened this year,” he said.

A pregnant woman outside the recently inaugurated Area Hospital said the hospital has been remaining on the signboard. “There are only boards. We come here along with the Anganwadi workers. But the nurse has denied a scan saying we have to come the next day,” she said.

The villagers said the Junior and Degree colleges do not have electricity and several students fail to get admission. The Social Welfare Residential Schools’ are performing well. They want more such institutions.

They also claimed the benefits of Dalit Bandhu did not reach all the eligible people in the constituency.

“He does not meet or listen to us to know our problems,” Bichiayya said. The MLA initiated the ecotourism where several tribespeople and other villagers have been employed as guards and safari drivers. He was also responsible for the 100-bed area hospital in Achampet.

Also read: Former minister and Congress leader Nagam Janardhan Reddy joins BRS

Cong bets on Vamshi Krishna

One month ahead of the 30 November election, speculation has been rife in the constituency that former Lok Sabha member Pothuganti Ramulu might switch loyalty from the BRS.

A three-time MLA from Achampet, he had been a minister in the N Chandrababu Naidu-led government in united Andhra Pradesh, He later joined the TRS (now BRS) and successfully contested to Parliament from Nagarkurnool in 2019.

However, of late, he has been disgruntled due to the growth of Guvvala Balaraju. Ramulu has been staying away from active politics for a while., but he might make an announcement soon on his plans.

The  BJP has not yet announced its candidate in Achampet. The Congress has not replaced its candidate, Dr Chikkudu Vamshi Krishna, who had won in 2004, but subsequently lost to Balaraju in the next three elections.

In 2018, Balaraju won 87,841 votes, pipping Krishna, who managed a creditable 78,285 votes. The BJP’s Medipur Malleshwar trailed with 3,196 votes.