Ground Report: Tale of patta struggles, unemployment in the shadow of promised development in Kollapur

There are 2,29,399 lakh voters in Kollapur Assembly seat. Of the total voters, men are 1,16,975, women are 1,12,240, and transgenders are four.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Nov 29, 2023 | 12:00 PMUpdatedNov 29, 2023 | 2:31 PM

Several ST farmers are unhappy with the implementation of podu patta scheme in Kollapur region. (South First)

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

Ramesh Kumar, a resident of Kollapur’s Jatprole village, has remained unemployed for the last few years despite passing MTech with merit in 2014. He now helps his sexagenarian mother run a small hotel in the same village.

“I have written several government exams but couldn’t clear them. Most of these exams were either called-off due to question paper leak or other irregularities,” a dismayed Ramesh told South First. He added that he had worked as a contract-based employee in one of the government departments for three years.

He pointed out, “There are barely any employment opportunities, either in the government or private sector, in Telangana. Since BRS has come to Telangana, there are hardly any recruitments in the government.”

Telangana Assembly Polls Congress BRS BJP Kollapur Krishna River Unemployment

Ramesh Kumar has remained unemployed despite having a Master’s degree in engineering. (South First)

“Government job aspirants have been gutted by the incumbent government. Kollapur has all the resources, including sufficient water, but there are hardly any industries that can address the unemployment on a large scale,” he added.

“Despite Jupally Krishna Rao being Minister for Rural Development and Panchayat Raj before (from 2014-2018), his contribution has been nil,” Ramesh was critical. Krishna Rao is now with the Congress after being suspended by the BRS. He won the Kollapur ticket in 2014 when with TRS (now BRS)

This is not just the saga of Ramesh but of thousands of youths who are miffed with the BRS government for not conducting the government recruitment examinations effectively.

Though the Krishna river flows in the region, there are barely any industries set up. The incumbent MLA Beeram Harshavardhan Reddy has promised the setting up of processing units and bringing more industries to the segment; however, the assurances have remained unfulfilled.

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Tribes are unhappy with implementation of Podu Patta

Kollapur boasts a picturesque landscape with lush greenery and teeming wildlife, harmoniously complemented by the life-sustaining waters of the Krishna river. Despite this idyllic setting, a discordant note emerges as numerous farmers engage in cultivation on reportedly encroached forest lands within the region.

The conflict is palpable as the Forest Department endeavours to eradicate these illegal encroachments, asserting the need to preserve the natural ecosystem.

Simultaneously, a counter-narrative unfolds, with farmers, particularly those belonging to the Scheduled Tribes (STs), vehemently claiming ownership of the encroached forest lands. At the heart of this dispute lies the shadow of the BRS government’s podu land patta scheme, which grants title deeds to cultivators for such lands.

Telangana Assembly Polls Congress BRS BJP Kollapur Krishna River

Farmer Sukuna Naik blames the government for taking away his agricultural land. (South First)

Farmer Sukuna Naik, a resident of Yengampalli Thanda village, told South First, “The government has taken my two acres of agricultural land, claiming it is forest land. We have been farming in this land since my childhood. The BRS government had promised issuing title deeds to such lands.”

“I had applied for a podu patta for my land. I have neither got title deeds nor a passbook for my lands. We were dependent on that land as it is fertile. It has become difficult to run a family in the existing farm land. The taluka officials are not helping us in this regard. We have lost hope on getting back our ancestral land,” a disheartened Naik said.

Another young farmer, Shyam Naik, a resident of Yengampalli, told South First, “I had applied for podu patta but the government has given title deed for only half of the land. We are roaming from pillar to post for the last few months to get the patta for the remaining land.”

“The officials assure us of clearing the remaining land shortly. Even after following up regarding my file, shelling out money from my pocket, the authorities have not provided title deeds to the entire land. It is not just a story but several farmers, especially STs, in my village have got title deeds only for a few guntas despite having acres of land,” Shyam pointed out.

This clash of interests underscores the complex interplay between environmental conservation and the livelihoods of the agrarian community, especially the ST farmers who find themselves entangled in a legal and ecological conundrum.

The struggle for land rights and the conflicting perspectives on sustainable land use highlight the intricate web of challenges faced by both forest officials and farmers in the region.

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A mixed bag of opinions 

While the farmers from the ST community are unhappy with the BRS government over podu land pattas, the others have mixed response over the development works and implementation of government schemes and programmes.

Telangana Assembly Polls Congress BRS BJP Kollapur Krishna River

Farmer Iranna Swamy gives high five to the BRS government. (South First)

Farmer Iranna Swamy, a resident of Jatprole village, told South First, “I am happy with the BRS government as without any hurdles I am receiving financial assistance under Rythu Bandhu scheme. This has helped the agrarian community a lot.”

“As promised, the government is providing water and power around the clock. Even the incumbent MLA Harshavardhan Reddy responds to our grievances. We continue to support the KCR government,” he said.

However, Venkatswamy, a resident of Kollapur, told South First, “Even after over 75 years of independence, the historic Kollapur mandal does not have good healthcare facilities. If there is any health emergency, we have to rush to Kurnool because Hyderabad is very far.”

“The rural areas are filled with RMP [Registered Medical Practitioners] doctors, who are not even qualified to be doctors. The government has to ensure quality education and health to all the people. But sadly, Kollapur has remained undeveloped for decades despite Jupally Krishna Rao being a Cabinet minister in the previous government,” charged Venkataswamy.

Despite constructing new buildings, at least 100 students are being forced to sit in dilapidated classrooms in the Government Boys’ High School, which was established in 1964, in Pentlavelli village.

Government Boys’ High School is in a dilapidated state in Pentlavelli village. (South First)

“The newly developed classrooms are equipped with smart classes. Only four rooms have been constructed and the remaining six rooms are being constructed. We are planning to open this for students from the next academic year. This has been developed under local MLA and other government grants,” the headmaster of the state-run school told South First.

He also admitted that all the classrooms are in a dilapidated state, but the school has sufficient teaching staff.

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Can the guarantees swing votes?

While the villagers already have their opinions about the incumbent government from pure experience, the BRS and Congress manifestos have further elicited a diverse range of opinions in the Kollapur Assembly constituency.

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), Indiramma Indlu (house site and ₹5 lakh for the poor), and Yuva Vikasam (Vidya Bharosa Cards worth ₹5 lakh).

The BRS, on the other hand, has announced the Saubhagya Lakshmi scheme (₹3,000 monthly for poor women), Rythu Bandhu, subsidised gas cylinders at ₹400 for eligible families, Aasara Pensions (monetary assistance to be increased to ₹5,000 gradually), disability pension (₹6,000), and the KCR Bheema Prathi Intiki Dheema scheme.

Telangana Assembly Polls Congress BRS BJP Kollapur Krishna River.

Woman farmer Unni Bhai is not hopeful about the BRS manifesto. (South First)

Women farmer Unni Bhai told South First, “I will get Aasara pension once in two or three months. The government is not even implementing the existing programmes, then how can I trust it for these freebies?”

“These freebies are just a trick to woo voters. If they had real concern, the incumbent government should have reduced gas prices and increased pensions when it was in power. Why didn’t they do it?” she asked.

Ramesh further added, “The freebies announced by the BRS and the Congress are not good for a healthy economy. They should have promised of bettering health and education infrastructure and providing more employment, not just in Hyderabad but also in other regions as well. I am not a big fan of both the manifestos.”

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Historic Kollapur Town

Kollapur, situated in the Nagarkurnool district of Telangana, boasts a rich tapestry of natural beauty, enveloped by the sprawling Nallamala forest and cradled along the majestic banks of the river Krishna.

The town is a treasure trove of historical and architectural wonders, with landmarks like the Someshwara, Sangameshwara, and Malleshwara temples dating back to 2nd Century BC, bearing witness to a glorious past.

The region is a testament to a bygone era, where hundreds of ancient temples, crafted over 1,500 years ago, dot the landscape.

Since the 17th century, Kollapur has been ruled by various kings, with the town serving as the capital city of the kingdom. Among the notable monarchs, Sri Venkata Laxma Rao stands out, leaving an indelible mark on the region.

The kingdom, marked by its well-planned irrigation systems and expansive thoroughfares, reached its pinnacle under the rule of these visionary kings.

The lush greenery and vibrant wildlife of the Nallamala forest, coupled with the life-giving waters of the Krishna river, create a harmonious ecosystem that has nurtured the town for centuries. Kollapur taluka also shares an interstate border with Andhra Pradesh.

Kollapur comprises seven mandals: Kollapur, Veepangandla, Kodair, Pangal, Peddakothapally, Chinnambavi, and Pentlavelli.

Despite having a rich heritage, Kollapur lacks basic health and higher education infrastructure and also barely has any employment opportunities. The constituency’s economy is largely driven by agriculture and tourism. Cotton, maize, groundnut, and paddy are the major crops grown in the Kollapur Assembly segment.

Businessman Kiran Kumar, who lives in Kollapur town, told South First, “There were a lot of issues in terms of education, health, and basic amenities after the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. The incumbent MLA has got a couple of institutions, including a horticulture college. There is a need for more professional courses offering institutions and industries to cater to local employment.”

“This region has potential to develop the tourism and industrial sector considering the available resources. Despite having the Krishna river, several villages had severe drinking water issues. With the effective implementation of Mission Bhagiratha, the drinking water issue has been resolved,” he added.

“The government has to give priority to the border mandals for overall development. As promised, Harshavardhan Reddy is developing ecotourism in Nallamala forest region. In the last five years, the Kollapur Assembly segment has witnessed development works in bettering the basic amenities infrastructure,” elaborated Kiran.

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Political equations

Kollapur Assembly segment is witnessing a close fight between the BRS and the Congress.

Interestingly, incumbent MLA Harshavardhan Reddy had won on a Congress ticket against BRS nominee and five-time former MLA Jupally Krishna Rao by a margin of 12,546 votes in 2018 Assembly polls.

However, he migrated to the BRS reasoning to take up comprehensive development works in his constituency in March 2019.

Condemning this, BRS former minister Jupally Krishna Rao pledged allegiance to the Congress. He is contesting on the grand-old-party ticket in the 2023 Assembly polls.

Telangana Assembly Polls Congress BRS BJP Kollapur Krishna River

Kollapur Assembly constituency. (South First)

The BJP has fielded Aelleni Sudhakar Rao, who unsuccessfully contested on the party ticket in 2018 Assembly polls. He managed to gross a mere 7.57 percent votes, where Congress got 46.36 percent and BRS 39.15 percent.

Local political commentator Keshav Reddy told South First, “The people are happy with sitting MLA Harshavardhan Reddy because he has carried out numerous developments in his very first term. Considering the opinion of his followers, he moved to the BRS from the Congress, but it has hardly made a negative impact on him in the 30 November polls.”

“With regard to Jupally Krishna Rao, he has represented the segment at five consecutive terms and served as minister in the YS Rajashekara Reddy and K Chandrashekar Rao governments. Yet his contribution for the development of Kollapur is barely recognisable.”

“On the other hand, the BJP is yet to make a big impact in the segment. Kollapur will witness a very close fight between the BRS and the Congress. However, the incumbent MLA Harshavardhan Reddy has an edge over Krishna Rao,” opined Keshav Reddy.

Interactive Map: Constituency-wise list of candidates of the 3 major parties

Caste dominance

Backward Classes (Yadav), Reddys, Minorities, Mudiraju, SCs and STs are dominant castes in the historic Kollapur Assembly segment.

There are 2,29,399 lakh voters in Kollapur Assembly seat. Of the total voters, men are 1,16,975, women are 1,12,240, and transgenders are four.

Keshav said, “BC (Yadava), Reddy, Minorities and SCs and STs are the deciding factors in Kollapur. People here consider caste and development while exercising the franchise.”

“The segment has witnessed a record 83.17 percent voter turnout in 2018 Assembly polls. It is expected to breach 85 percent in this election,” added political commentator Keshav.