With the Telangana Assembly elections 2023 just days 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.
Age has caught up with Yellappa. In the brightly lit room with whitewashed walls, he strained to see the visitor as South First met him at Raghavendra Colony in Gadwal.
Though age has affected his vision, 62-year-old Yellappa’s skill for weaving hasn’t diminished a bit. The fabric he weaves still matches the popularity of Sico sarees, so delicate and soft despite the silk and cotton mix in their border and pallu. He is one among the many weavers who make the pattu vastralu — or silk clothes — offered to Lord Venkateshwara at Tirupati during the Brahmotsavam.
In Raghavendra Colony, the gaudiness of sarees evades the life of weavers, who often work for 10 hours at a stretch to make both ends meet.
“I must work at least 10 hours a day. Despite putting in a week’s effort, the wages provided by shopkeepers, around ₹4,000, barely cover expenses, including the cost of labour and to meet my household expenses,” P Nagaraju, a weaver at Raghavendra Colony told South First.
“I’ve spent 25 years weaving sarees. I have no other skill, and I don’t own even an acre. It is disheartening that there are no welfare programmes for weavers in Telangana,” Nagaraju, who weaves Jari chiralu sarees, said.
There hasn’t been any increase in wages though the merchants sell one Gadwal saree for ₹12,000 or more. With a family to support, life has become very tough. “I urge the upcoming government to introduce subsidies or loans for weavers to improve their lives,” he pleaded.
The Jari chiralu has a Geographical Indication (GI) status. The weavers, who make these intricate sarees with zari, seek recognition and support from the government..
Yellappa doesn’t hold politicians in high esteem. “I have been into weaving for the past four decades. The government has done nothing to better our lives,” he quipped.
“Even the local MLA doesn’t listen to our grievances. They (political leaders) come here only during elections and after winning, they disappear. I have lost hope in the government,” Yellappa added.
The stark contrast between the soaring popularity of Gadwal sarees and the challenges faced by the artisans underscores the pressing need for initiatives that would support these talented craftsmen.
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Gadwal, a city and district headquarters in Telangana, has a rich history. It was the capital of Gadwal Samsthanam (state) under the Nizam of Hyderabad.
The city’s development is intricately tied to the imposing Gadwal Fort, constructed by Somanadri, and guarded by the Mallichetti Vamshiyulu.
Nagi Reddy, also known as Nagappa, played a crucial role in Gadwal’s history as Ayngarashakulu, literally bodyguard, but died in a battle with the sultans. Subsequently, Narsappa succeeded him but had to vacate the palace. The Gadwal Fort, a focal point of the city, houses ancient temples, including the Sri Chennakesava Swamy and Jammulamma temples.
The district is bordered by Narayanpet and Wanaparthy districts, as well as Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Established in 2016, it was carved out of the Mahabubnagar district. The Krishna river meets the Tungabhadra at Gundimalla village in Gadwal district.
Gadwal’s economic landscape relies heavily on agriculture, with major crops being paddy, cotton, chilli, and maize.
The Priyadarshini Jurala Project, a dam across the Krishna river with 62 gates and a 234 MW generation capacity, has significantly aided the farmers.
However, despite these agricultural strengths, Gadwal grapples with a lack of basic infrastructure in education and health, and employment opportunities remain scarce, challenging the overall development of the region.
“Gadwal hardly developed under the BRS rule. The BRS promised to develop Gadwal as a seed hub but nothing happened,” CPI(M)’s Gadwal district secretary Venkataswamy told South First.
“Post-Covid, many youths returned to Gadwal from Hyderabad and Bengaluru, seeking employment. However, the BRS government and the elected members have failed to generate employment opportunities,” he added.
“Gadwal lacks educational infrastructure despite a high-tech collector office. Students go to Wanaparthy for higher education. Private institutions are unaffordable to many.
“Unemployment persists, and the government led by KCR [Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao], has done little to address it or attract industries, despite the presence of two rivers,” lamented retired government employee Bhaskar Reddy.
Ground Report: Mahabubnagar grapples with ‘poor’ infra, unemployment
Voters’ opinion on BRS government
The dissatisfaction among the youth is palpable. Farmers, however, have a mixed response towards the various schemes of the BRS government.
“I had taken a loan and applied for Rythu Runa Mafi but did not get any benefits. The officials said that we don’t get the benefits of the farm loan waiver under the scheme,” farmer B Raju of Dahroor Mandal’s Pedhapadu village told South First.
“The BRS government had promised 24 hours of free power supply but we are getting electricity bills every month. If we don’t pay, the power is being disconnected. We have state-run school and Anganwadi but there are hardly any teachers,” he claimed.
The Aasara pension, Rythu Bandhu, Dalit Bandhu, Podu Patta, Dharani portal, Mission Bhagiratha, 2BHK housing scheme, and Rythu Runa Mafi are some of the flagship schemes launched by the KCR government since 2014.
“I have not registered my properties with the Dharani portal because I am not aware of it. I am happy with the BRS government. I am benefitting from Rythu Bandhu, Kalyana Lakshmi, and Rythu Run Mafi,” farmer Krishna said.
Expressing gratitude to the KCR government for implementing Mission Bhagiratha, farm labour Bharati, a resident of Atmakur village, told South First: “I used to travel 3-4 km to get drinking water. After the government implemented Mission Bhagiratha, we are getting water at home. This is a big relief for women.”
Several farmers, especially elders, have not registered themselves with the Dharani portal in rural Gadwal. “I have not registered. I am neither planning on buying nor selling any land. I have a title deed for my land. Why should I register,” asked farmer Somashankar, 57, a resident of Chintharevula village.
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Agriculture worker Sujata is miffed with both the BRS and the Congress.
“The government has not done anything for me. Their promises are confined to speeches. I will not trust the assurances of the BRS and the Congress’s guarantees until they are implemented,” the 42-year-old woman told South First.
“I get ₹300 a day if I work from the morning to evening. The government provides a mere 5 kgs of rice per ration card, which is not sufficient. It also does not give any grocery items. The prices of vegetables, grocery items and cooking gas are soaring. How would the poor survive,” the mother of two asked.
The Congress has announced six guarantees, including Mahalakshmi Yojana (₹2,500 monthly for women), Gruja Jyothi (free electricity up to 200 units), Cheyutha (₹4,000 monthly pension for senior citizens), Inidramma Indlu (house site and ₹5 lakh for the poor), and Yuva Vikasam (Vidya Bharosa Cards worth ₹5 lakh).
The BRS has announced the Sobhagyalakshmi scheme (₹3,000 monthly for poor women), Ryuthu Bandhu, subsidised gas cylinders at ₹400 for eligible families, Aasara pension (monetary assistance to be increased to ₹5,000 gradually), disability pension (₹6,000), and the KCR Bhima Prathi Intiki Dheema scheme.
“At the time of polls, all parties make promises. After being voted to power, they are not bothered about our welfare,” Anjanamma, another farm worker and resident of Chinna Chintharevula told South First.
“I do not believe in these promises until they are implemented. We have to work in the farms for meagre wages till we die. I have provided good education to my children and I am praying that they get good jobs,” she added.
“I am not a fan of freebies. The government should strengthen the education and health infrastructure instead of giving free electricity, financial assistance, and reducing cooking gas prices,” businessman Rajashekar Boya told South First.
“The freebies won’t result in the development of the constituency. Why hasn’t the BRS reduced the gas price, increased pension, and announced health schemes when they were in power for two consecutive terms? These are just political gimmicks to attract voters,” he dismissed the promises.
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Internal squabbles may affect the Congress
The Gadwal Assembly segment is witnessing a close contest between the BRS and the Congress. The segment comprises five mandals, Gadwal, Maldakal, Ghattu, Dharoor and Kaloor Timmanadoddi.
In 2018, BRS candidate Bandla Krishna Mohan Reddy defeated his nearest rival DK Aruna of the Congress by a margin of 28,445 votes.
Mohan Reddy secured 1,00,057 votes, and Aruna managed 71,612 votes. The BJP’s G Venkatadiri Reddy lost the deposit as he got only 1,900 votes. DK Aruna later joined the BJP.
After five years, the BRS has once again fielded Mohan Reddy, while the Congress has Gadwal Zilla Panchayat’s former chairman Saritha Thirupathaiah as its candidate. Boya Krishna, who unsuccessfully contested as an independent candidate in 2018, is the BJP candidate.
Local Congress leaders have been opposed to the candidature of Saritha, who joined the party from the BRS. Even the District Congress Committee president Patel Prabhakar Reddy, who was a ticket aspirant, quit the party after the high command decided to field Saritha.
“Gadwal would have witnessed a triangular battle if Aruna had contested. However, with Aruna opting out of the contest, the competition is now between Krishna Mohan Reddy and Saritha Thirupathaiah,” local political commentator Vijay Reddy told South First.
“Saritha has established a rapport with the people. However internal issues may affect the Congress’s chances in the elections. The BJP’s Boya Krishna, who secured 1.11 percent of the votes in the previous polls, is not expected to make any significant impact,” opined Reddy.
Ground Report: Unhappy weavers, beedi workers in BJP-held Dubbaka
Backward Classes (BCs), Padhmashali, Reddy, minorities and Scheduled Castes and Tribes (SCs/STs) are the dominant castes in the segment.
There are 2,53,869 voters in the Gadwal assembly segment, with women outnumbering men. “Of the total votes, women are 1.29 lakh, men are 1.24 lakh, and others are 10,” according to the Election Commission of India.
In the previous Assembly polls, the Gadwal recorded a voter turnout of 83.94 percent.
“The people here consider party, caste and development. The parties also lure voters with liquor and money,” Vijay Reddy added.