Hundreds of young people had committed suicide during protests at the height of the agitation for Telangana statehood. In notes left behind, they had hoped their sacrifices would lead to formation of the state, in which there will be jobs for the youth and overall development.
As the first government of the new state seeks reelection on the back of its claims that all pre-poll promises have been kept, The Indian Express revisited families of some of these youths and found a mixed response about the government led by K Chandrashekar Rao and his Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).
While many are content that the Telangana government paid them compensation and gave a government job to a family member, some others are bitter because they lost a son and are yet to see the kind of development and opportunities that were expected.
In 2009, Busku Anil Kumar, 21, hanged himself in Aler town in Nalgonda district. In a suicide note, he asked his brother, Arun, to study well so that he gets a government job when Telangana is formed. Arun, who graduated in 2014, is still searching for a job. After TRS formed the first government, his elder sister was given a job as junior assistant in the MRO office in 2015 on compassionate grounds.
The family also received Rs 10 lakh ex-gratia.
“My daughter got married and went her way. My other son Arun graduated four years ago but remains jobless – he is unable to get a government job or any suitable private employment because there are no jobs. But wasn’t that what was promised when Telangana became a state – a job for everyone,” asked Busku Ramachandra, who retired as a technician from Indian Railways in 2015.
Many youths committed suicide, he said, assuming their sacrifice would lead to a golden state. “But what has happened? Four-and-a-half years after creation of Telangana, we are yet to see any of the dreams realised, or promises fulfilled. I am surviving on my Central government pension and also funding Arun’s higher studies…”
Busku family are Dalits belonging to Madiga caste.
Telangana Chief Minister Rao had promised 3 acres land and 2-bedroom houses for Dalits. “Where is it? I haven’t seen anything,’’ Ramachandra maintained. He said the compensation money was used for his daughter’s wedding, and the family built a two-room house on MRO Office Road in Aler.
Arun, who is attending coaching classes for police constable entrance examination, said there has been no new recruitment for the last two years. “Very few posts have been announced in the last four years – more than 5 lakh youths applied for 700 village revenue revenue officer (VROs) posts. We have not benefited in any way,’’ Arun said.
The family of Yellagondla Srinivas in Nalgonda, who committed suicide on February 20, 2010, said they are satisfied with the benefits received.
Srinivas’s father is a security guard and his mother, Laxmi, rolls beedis. His brother, Naresh, has got a junior assistant’s job in Nalgonda Municipality. Belonging to the Padmashali weavers’ community, a government loan helped the family purchase a piece of land and build two rooms. The loan has been waived, Laxmi said.
She said, “I roll 1,000 beedis for Rs 150. I don’t want to do that work any longer, and I am happy that KCR (CM Rao) announced Rs 2,016 pension for senior citizens like me. KCR stood by us like a son and gave us Rs 10 lakh compensation and a government job to my younger son. My elder son made a great sacrifice but did not die in vain.”
With Naresh “settled” with a government job, Laxmi said they are looking forward to a retired life.
Srinivas was jobless after completing BE (Electronics), Laxmi said.
In Telagana’s hinterland, people touched by Telangana government’s schemes swear by Rao, but not necessarily TRS. Many of them are disappointed with the local TRS MLA and MP.
Malleboina Sambaiah, of Thimmapur village in Jayashankar Bhupalpalle district, was preparing to take delivery of a new motorcycle – as part of the scheme to help the fishermen community in their transport – when Rao announced elections and the scheme was put on hold. Sambaiah’s son Raj Kumar, an Intermediate student, hanged himself on December 3, 2009.
The family comes from the fisherman community of Mudiraj, and Sambaiah works as a farm labourer or construction worker. He said he is happy. “My name was shortlisted and I was supposed to receive the 100-CC motorcycle…. (Now) I will collect it after the election. We received the Rs 10-lakh compensation. My other son was given a job in the Mandal Revenue Office. I purchased a 3-acre land and grow paddy on its. I have (also) built a house with a loan from the BC (Backward Classes) corporation,’’ he said.
About the local MLA, S Madhusudhana Chary of TRS, who was also the first Speaker of Telangana Assembly, Sambaiah said, “I doubt he has done much in the constituency.”
In Raghunathapally, Warangal, Vangala Pushpa, mother of Vangala Raju, who immolated himself on December 9, 2009, got the job of a peon in the Education Department. “I am illiterate, so I could not be given any other job. Raju had got married just three months before he immolated himself after attending a candlelight march for Telangana,” she said. “He used to drive an autorickshaw and was frustrated because he had no job even after graduation.”
The government, she said, “gave us Rs 10 lakh compensation – his wife took Rs 7 lakh and moved on, I got Rs 3 lakhs. I am a widow and Raju was my only hope. I am surviving because of the government job. I don’t know what will happen after I retire in a couple of years.”
Pushpa said she belongs to BC (B) Munneru Kapu community and applied for loan and land from the BC corporation, she is yet to hear from the government
Explained: TRS faces flak, Opposition makes ‘martyrs’ a poll issue
While many families of the youth who killed themselves in the middle of the Telangana statehood agitation claim that they have been forgotten after an ex-gratia and a government job, wherever possible, opposition parties and many civil society organisations are taking on the TRS-led government for purportedly sidelining the people who fought for Telangana.
The TRS is also accused of paring down the number of those who killed themselves during the statehood protests from around 2,000 to just 400. Both the Congress and the BJP have made it an election issue and are promising to recognise, honour and give ex-gratia and government jobs to all those who died during the Telangana struggle.