Once a Naxalite stronghold, Kataram is breathing easy now and is abuzz with election activity

The days when youth would run for cover hearing gunshots in the woods in Naxal-affected villages of Manthani segment are over. The transition towards a better lifestyle is remarkably visible in the villages what with the youth getting trendy with each passing day.

Pogu Rajesh is a happy man. The 24-year-old earns a living by running an auto-rickshaw from his native Yedlapalli village to Kataram mandal headquarters transporting villagers. “I earn Rs. 300 a day. It’s more than enough to take care of my family,” Rajesh avers.

A Naxalite stronghold till 2006, Kataram today is throbbing with election activity. Rajesh says there are no Maoist activities now in the mandal, which shares border with Chhattisgarh. Driving past the black-top, double-lane road, he says even his village has good road connectivity now. “We have ration cards and health cards. Our students are pursuing higher education in reputed institutions,” he says proudly. The mandal falls under Manthani Assembly segment where former Minister D. Sridhar Babu is trying his luck to score a fourth successive win.

Former Maoist dalam member Pallerla Tirumalesh alias Odenna (45) of Krishnampet village in Kalwasrirampur mandal, 70 km from Kataram, keeps himself busy with election talk.

Odenna, who surrendered in 2001, also runs an auto-rickshaw. He has a 200 square yard land given by the government on which he has built a house, a part of which has been rented out. His two sons study in a private school in Karimnagar town.

He says the village youth securing employment is a good sign. “I am awaiting the sanction of a five-acre farm land as promised by the government under the rehabilitation package. Maoists have not achieved any development and it’s the government which has to be lauded for implementing welfare schemes,” he says.

“Till 2006-07, we had a tough time dealing with Naxalite menace. If there was any incident related to Naxalites, police used to rush to interior villages and harass youth in the name of interrogation. Now, we live happily without any tension from ‘annalu’ or the police. And of course, there is a lot of development in the villages,” farmer Tirupathi Gade (55) says. Tirupathi of Pedda Thundla village in Tadicherla mandal, 30 km from Kataram, says farming is hectic with irrigation sources still providing water for the activity. “It’s difficult to find labourers during the peak season as they opt for MGNREGS works where they get better wages,” he says.

Mr. Sridhar Babu, who is expecting for an encore of wins, says priority was given to roads, power, irrigation, educational institutions and hospitals in the region. “Now, my priority is to provide employment to the rural youth,” he says.

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