CM declares war on untouchability

PEDDAREDDYPET (Medak dt.), NOV. 1. The Chief Minister, Mr. N. Chandrababu Naidu, on Thursday led a group of Dalits into the Tulja Bhavani temple, had food with them and then declared a `war' against untouchability.

Launching a campaign against untouchability in this remote village having a past history of caste conflicts, ban on entry of Dalits into temples and two-glass system, Mr. Naidu administered a pledge and spoke of a relentless struggle against untouchability and stringent punishment on perpetrators of atrocities against Dalits.

Before having lunch with Dalits, he offered prayers at a nearby Seventh Day Adventist Church. It was supposed to be an all-party event but only the BJP and CPI leaders - Mr. Baddam Bal Reddy and Mr. C. Vittal Reddy - participated.

``It is only a beginning. We will make continuous efforts to make the Dalits enter temples and eradicate two-glass system in accordance with the recommendations made by the Justice Punnaiah Committee,'' he said.

Besides the three-day campaign now, there would be a weekly visit by a Police Inspector and Mandal Revenue Officer to each village where such social evils are prevalent to put an end to these practices. The 30th day of every month would be observed as ``human rights day.''

Mr. Naidu said the issue would be reviewed during the next round of the Janmabhoomi programme scheduled from January 1 to 10. The State Commission for SCs and STs would be formed soon. The land allotted to Dalits but taken away by others would be restored. `Velugu,' the poverty alleviation programme, now confined to six districts, would be extended to other districts with an additional allocation of Rs. 2,200 crores.

He said the Government had allocated Rs. 500 crores for the welfare of the SCs and another Rs. 133 crores for residential schools to raise the socio-economic and educational standards of Dalits.

``It is only through such efforts the social evils can be eradicated.''

Responding to a long list of demands put forward by the Peddareddypet sarpanch, Mr. V. Yadagiri Reddy, the local MLA, Mr. Babu Mohan, and the Higher Education Minister, Mr. Karanam Ramachandra Rao, the Chief Minister announced a minor irrigation scheme package for the district, a rehabilitation package for Singur dam oustees, shifting of people of Singur village affected by seepage of water, building of a causeway and a Rs. 20-lakh watershed scheme.

The village sarpanch said many of the social evils like ban on temple entry, two-glass system, dhobis not washing clothes of Dalits and barbers refusing hair cut to Dalits were prevalent years ago but not anymore. This was in tune with the changing times and increased awareness.

The Social Welfare Minister, Mrs. K. Pushpaleela, Mr. Rajaiah, TDP MP, Mr. Lal Jan Basha, general secretary of the Telugu Desam Party, Mr. Areti Kotaiah, chairman of the SC Welfare Corporation and Mrs. Neelamma, Pulkal mandal president, spoke. A number of MPs and MLAs attended.

A MOMENTOUS OCCASION: As the Chief Minister, Mr. N. Chandrababu Naidu looks on, the Social Welfare Minister, Mrs. Pushpaleela, helps a Dalit woman ring the bell in the Tulja Bhavani temple at Peddareddypet village in Medak district on Thursday. - Photo: Satish. H.

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