Nearly one-and-a-half years after the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, a growing discontent in the Rayalseema area is on the verge of turning into a movement.
The Rayalaseema region comprises four districts - Kurnool, Kadapa, Anantapur and Chittoor, all drought prone areas.
In the beginning of November, K Venkata Subba Reddy, the president of Rayalaseema Rashtra Samiti (RRS), an outfit floated for a separate state - not unlike the TRS party for Telangana, asked for a Rayalaseema state with four districts of the region, Prakasam and Nellore from Andhra and a few districts from Karnataka and even Tamil Nadu.
â€śSeparate state is the only solution. Successive governments have neglected the region. We demand Union government to carve a separate state by December 2018 with a special package of Rs 10 lakh crore,â€ť Reddy demanded, failing which he threatened of a region-wide strike.
A report in The Hindu adds:
Simmering discontent is visible among the political class as well as the general people as they feel alienated from the developmental activities in the new State, which started its journey with a deficit in its finances and without a capital of its own. One of the prime factors behind the disenchantment of the people is said to be the priority given to the Krishna and Godavari delta regions in the process of development â€” be it in the setting up of the new capital or the push given for accelerated development of infrastructure and industry â€” ignoring areas like Anantapur, a perennially drought-prone district with all mandals declared as drought hit for the fifth year in succession.
However, even with all the noise generated on the ground and on television channels, the pro-Rayalaseema agitation has not managed to mobilize effectively - until now.
Many groups and organisations have started springing up on Facebook and other social media to create awareness on the issue, with some even involving NRIs to support their movement.
Prof. K. Sadasiva Reddy of Sri Krishnadevaraya University, Anantapur, who led a pro-Rayalaseema agitation from the University told Deccan Chronicle "The routine protests were being neglected, we have decided to use social media as a force to change the mindset of governments to take positive decisions towards the region."
The group mostly consists of Rayalaseema youth, IT professionals, entrepreneurs and other educated professionals, many of whom come from a farming family.
"When the bifurcation of Andhra happened, there were a few proposals including one of Rayala Telangana but we still went with the residual state as we had some trust that the state government may finally listen to our woes," says Thirumal Prasad Patil, a 36-year-old IT professional from Anantapur who is one of the brains behind Rayala Sena.
"We also had our hopes that (Chandrababu) Naidu may build the capital this side, so we see some development but when he announced the location of Amaravati, we were 'half-killed' at that point," Thirumal adds.
In March and April, a group of individuals, mainly IT professionals got together and thought about how they could develop the region.
"In around May and June, lot of suicides started happening and that was the turning point for us," Thirumal says while adding that "everyone pooled in and helped the family of a farmer in one particular case, but that got us thinking on what we can do at a larger scale."
"Since then, over the past six months, we have been speaking to experts in various fields from agriculturalists, retired judges, senior police officers, journalists and many more and we have set an agenda. Many NRIs also started contacting us once the Facebook page was up and they have offered their full support," Thirumal says.
(One of the meetings with irrigation experts)
According to Thirumal, one of the main reasons why the area did not get a lot of mass appeal is because there are a large number of small groups for the cause but there is no unity among them.
"We are planning to form a Joint Action Committee in January and hold a big meeting in Hyderabad with every Rayalaseema group we can find, so that we can put them under one banner. This is an issue-based fight and we are focused on our goal. We are prepared for wherever the agitation takes us," Thirumal adds.
However, the movement is yet to be taken seriously as the Andhra Deputy Chief Minister KE Krishna Murthy called upon TDP workers last week to strongly rebut the charges and 'rumours' by the opposition parties that the government is neglecting the development of Rayalaseema region and alleged that the opposition was spreading false stories.