The Chief Minister had earlier promised Village Revenue Assistants regularisation of jobs and hike in salaries along with promotions. However, the promises remain unfulfilled.

Telangana Village Revenue Assistants (VRAs) protestingVRAs at a protest site
news Tragedy Friday, September 09, 2022 - 19:27

Koraboina Ashok (25) a Village Revenue Assistant (VRA) in Kamareddy district of Telangana, died by suicide on September 3. Ashok, who hails from Bolaram village in Nagireddypet mandal, took his life only days after his colleague Challa Ramesh died by suicide in Machareddy in the same district. According to the VRA Joint Action Committee (JAC), which is heralding an agitation for better pay and perks, they have not been paid last month’s salary. The agitation began around 50 days ago.

According to reports, Ashok had taken an active part in the state-wide agitation by VRAs. Ashok’s father Koraboina Narayana said that his son feared that he may lose his job. “He didn’t have any hope as the government has not responded to the indefinite strike. On Saturday, he went out after dinner but never came back.”

According to his family, Ashok had taken a loan of around Rs 4 lakh and sold his buffaloes for Rs 2 lakh to acquire the VRA position from the community. In Telangana, the VRA jobs are reserved for certain Dalit and Backward Caste communities, and people who need the job make an informal payment, ranging from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 6 lakh, to the community to avail the job.

“My son thought that the government would give a salary as per the government pay scale and regularise his job. He was disturbed as there was no response to their protest. The government should fulfil its promise and give the same job to my younger son,” said Narayana.

In 2020, the Telangana government abolished the Village Revenue Officer (VRO) system and introduced the new Revenue Act to address land-related issues. Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao had earlier promised that VROs will be absorbed into different government departments. He had also promised regularisation and hike in salary as per the standard pay scale for VRAs. Assurances of promotions and appointment of kin of VRAs if they die in harness were also made. However, the promises have not been fulfilled till date, triggering unrest among the VRAs across the state.

VRAs are currently given a monthly honorarium of Rs 10,500. Working at the gram panchayat level, they play a crucial role engaging in works pertaining to village revenue and community development. VRA posts have been reserved for castes like Mudhirajs, a backward class community, and Malas belonging to Scheduled Caste. The reservation would differ from village to village based on the demographic composition.

Anthi Babu, a VRA, said most people who have taken up the role come from poor families and face financial difficulties. The denial of one month’s salary has also hit them hard. “We have been on an indefinite strike for around 50 days now and have kept our hopes pinned on the government. The government should consider our case on humanitarian grounds and take a favourable decision based on the CM’s promise,” says Babu, who is also a member of the association of VRAs.

Mettu Ravinder, Kamareddy district president of VRA JAC unit, said, “What we are demanding from the government are not luxuries but a decent pay scale and regularisation of jobs which will give us dignity. We will not stop the indefinite strike until the government issues an order that meets our demands.”

Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) founder and president Professor Kodandaram met Ashok’s family to express his condolences. Later, he also addressed the agitating VRAs to express his solidarity with their cause. He said that the state government should take responsibility of the deaths of VRAs as they happened due to the government's apathy.

According to the VRA JAC, over 20 VRAs have died across the state in the past two months. They allege that these deaths happened as they were distressed due to the government’s refusal to regularise their job and pay salaries as per the government scale, a long-standing demand.

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