The Dalits have alleged that the land they were cultivating was forcibly acquired by officials and local contractors.

They snatched away our farmland 20 Dalit families protest against Andhra govtBy arrangement
news Protest Saturday, September 02, 2017 - 18:09

As many as 20 Dalit families in Andhra Pradesh’s Prakasam district, have alleged that the land that they have been cultivating for years, was forcibly acquired by officials and local contractors.

The incident has been reported from M Muppalla village of Naguluppalapadu mandal.

The Dalits alleged that they were forced to stay away from their paddy fields, which they inherited from their forefathers, after officials acquired it for the state government’s ‘Neeru Chettu’ programme.

The landless farmers now claim that they either have to work in someone else’s field or take up another profession, to eke out a living.

The Andhra Pradesh government had launched the 'Neeru Chettu' programme in 2015, with the intention of making the state ‘drought proof' within five years. It was aimed at eradicating poverty and reducing economic inequality by implementing better water conservation techniques.

However, it seems that the programme is making some farmers ‘landless’ instead.

The protesting families say that they have been cultivating the land for more than four decades, and are completely dependent on it.

They have cultivated seasonal crops such as rice and nuts.

Speaking to TNM, one farmer, Peddapudi Purnachandar Rao (50), said, "We were dependent on those lands for generations. How can we survive if they construct an irrigation tank here? "

In 1994, Dalits from the village said that they had bought 20 acres of land in the village from farmers of a neighbouring village.

The government too, allowed them to cultivate it, as it was ‘assigned’ land.

Though government officials had erected bounds to the land earlier, locals say that revenue officials along with a few local contractors affiliated to the TDP visited the spot in June this year, and managed to dig an irrigation tank, despite multiple appeals from protesting Dalits.

The protestors claimed that they were not allowed to enter the fields, and their representations fell on deaf ears. 

Purnachandar Rao, a local, said that, "There are many other sites in the same area to dig the tank, but they wanted to evict us from here. This was done to favour local MLA Eluru Samabasiva Rao's allies.”

When the farmers were asked what the accused had to gain with this move, 70-year-old Jayratnam Pulipati said, "The soil here is fertile and of superior quality. By sending us out, they can sell this soil and their lands, which are downstream, can be irrigated as well." 

Another farmer, P Ashirvadam, said "They haven't even issued prior notices to us. We used to get at least Rs 50,000 per crop and distributed the money. Now, how can we survive?”

Authorities however, say that they are not aware of the incident.

When TNM contacted Ongole RDO K Srinivasa Rao, he flatly denied saying, "We (government) haven't taken any lands from anyone. We haven't received any complaint as well."