Rights panel seeks report on former legislator-turned-labourer

March 27th, 2009 - 11:49 am ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad, March 27 (IANS) The Andhra Pradesh State Human Rights Commission has issued a notice to the state government, seeking a report on the plight of a former legislator who now works as a daily wage labourer to make ends meet.
Taking note of a media report, the commission asked the government to clarify why it took no steps to alleviate the living conditions of Sukka Pagadalu and her husband.

Pagadalu, who belonged to the Congress party, was elected to the state legislative assembly in the 1972 elections from Patapatnam constituency in Srikakulam district in north coastal Andhra bordering Orissa. The constituency was then reserved for Scheduled Castes.

The commission has directed the government to ensure a minimum dignified life for the former public representative and her husband Sukka Dasu. It asked the Srikakulam district collector to submit a report by March 31.

“It is shocking to note that an ex-public representative is living in such deplorable conditions that she has to work as a daily wager to eke out a living,” the commission said and asked the authorities to explain why steps were not taken to ensure a dignified life for the couple.

It also wanted to know why the couple was not granted a dwelling under the rural housing scheme and if the couple was getting old-age pension and rice at Rs.2 a kg.

Ironically, these are some of the welfare schemes implemented by the Congress government in the last five years but the benefits seem to have not reached even its own former legislator.

The 64-year-old former legislator, a Dalit, earns Rs.60 per day as a daily wage labourer. She along with her husband were found lifting heaps of mud on her head at a construction site in her native Mukthapuram village.

Pagadalu was one of 33 women legislators elected to the 294-member assembly in 1972. In the 1978 elections, she contested as Congress candidate from Palakonda (SC) but lost the elections. Later, she also served as sarpanch or village head.

Though she receives a monthly pension as a former legislator, it is just not enough as the couple incurred heavy debts to get their daughters married. The couple owns a small plot in the village but in the off season they work as daily wage labourers.

At a time when most politicians are living lavishly in posh bungalows, this poor woman and her husband live in a thatched house that leaks when it rains. She ran from pillar to post to get a slab for her roof and even approached sitting Congress legislator and state minister for forests Satrucharla Vijayaramaraju but in vain.

In fact the tag of a former legislator has come as a hurdle in her availing the benefits under government schemes. The local officials told her that she is not eligible for a house under the Indiramma housing scheme as she is a former legislator. She got the same reply when she applied for old age pension.

She sees a world of difference in the politics of those days and now. “Then we used to have selfless leaders but today’s leaders are after power and money,” said Pagadalu.

All she has today are the memories of that golden era and these include a picture of her with then prime minister Indira Gandhi, which she has preserved all along.

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