Furore over lathicharge in Chandragiri

HYDERABAD July 26. The disconnection of power supply to Sanambatla village in Chandragiri mandal near Tirupati, the agitation by local farmers and police lathicharge on them touched off a furore in the Assembly on Friday.

When the Deputy Speaker, K. Harishwar Reddy, refused permission to the Chandragiri Congress MLA, G. Aruna, to seek clarifications on the issue, she and her angry party colleagues from Chittoor district, rushed into the well of the House and later to the Speaker's podium. They argued with the Chair demanding that Mrs. Aruna be given a chance to speak, while the TDP members kept up the chant of "We want discussion on drought.''

The Deputy Speaker's appeal that the Congress members should honour their promise of speaking about the Chandragiri incident during the discussion on drought, went in vain and the proceedings were stalled for about half an hour.

Mrs. Aruna said not only power supply but even water supply was disconnected for five days, merely for not paying the power charge arrears. When the irate villagers staged a demonstration against the coercive method adopted by the AP TRANSCO they were mercilessly beaten by police, not sparing even women. Seventeen persons were taken into custody. While the dues from the Sanambatla village, totalled Rs. 19 lakhs, nothing was done in the Kuppam constituency, where the dues were more than Rs. 11 crores.

The Revenue Minister, P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju, said 246 agriculture services were disconnected in the village for a few hours owing to non- payment of dues to the tune of Rs. 19.03 lakhs, pending for a long time. The water supply was affected as the pumping depended on power supply. Investigation was on why the disconnection confined to few farmers, affected the entire village.

The farmers who demanded restoration of power without payment of dues, led a protest first to the sub-station and assaulted an Assistant Engineer (AE) and then staged a demonstration on the road. Seventeen of them were taken into custody and cases were booked against those who assaulted the Assistant Engineer. He pointed out that the aggrieved farmers' plea on non- payment of dues was rejected by the High Court and the Supreme Court.

Soon after the Minister's response, which he read out, Mrs. Aruna wanted to seek clarifications, but was denied permission by the Chair, leading to protest by her and other Congress members. There was confusion over whether the Revenue Minister had made a statement or merely gave clarifications.

The Leader of the Opposition, Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy, said if the Minister avoided a statement after Mrs. Aruna spoke, the House would have run smoothly. The Minister said he merely gave clarifications as the member was "twisting'' facts. It was not a statement. Mrs. Aruna protested.

The Finance Minister, Y. Ramakrishnudu, charged the Congress with raising the issue of power supply to one mandal to dilute the debate on drought conditions all over the State.

During question hour, Congress and CPI(M) members stalled the proceedings for over 10 minutes. The Speaker, K. Pratibha Bharathi, while disallowing an adjournment motion tabled by the two parties, reminded that the House would discuss seasonal conditions later in the day. The issue could be raised then, she said. This did not satisfy Mrs. Aruna who walked up to the podium waving a newspaper that highlighted the incident today.

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