Friday, December 22, 2017

The colony of cooks-2 : sanction of the land, beginnings of housing and legal problems

We met in our house, formulated the aims and by-laws of the society and registered it under the name  ‘Prakasam jilla vantapanivarala samshema sangham’. This was in 1991. For the beginning ceremony, we invited the district collector Sri Abbanna, Zilla Parishat Chairman Sri Gutta Venkatasubbiah and other local luminaries. It was not really the season for cooks and during the speeches, one of the cooks collapsed out of hunger. The district collector was moved by this incident and recommended the grant of land. An assignment committee was formed with help of then current MLA Bacchala Balaiah, MP Magunti Subburamireddi, Mandal Revenue Officer Venkateswalu and it was decided to assign land to a hundred cooks. Originally, I hoped to get land in the suburbs where the cooks could build roomy houses with greenery around. But the MRO felt that a swamp near the bus top would be more convenient for nearby villagers who will be able to hire the cooks soon after getting to the town. Finally a smaller piece of swamp land near the bus top was granted to the society. This was on August 23, 1991 on the occasion of Tanguturi Prakasam’ birthday, a day that I still remember. Unfortunately, this was also a piece of valuable real estate and the cause of some future problems.

Three weeks before, I had a major operation but immediately got in to the swing of things. The swamp was full of thorny shrubs and one could not even enter it. We collected some money and drained the swamp and cut down the shrubs. Soon, a few pieces of high ground showed up and we built a few huts on the high ground and started cooking facilities for all on a larger piece of high ground. I stayed with the cooks and ate with them. The huts were full of mosquitoes and we had to keep covering the children with bedsheets during the night. It was also the cause of some friction at home. Though my husband Kumpalli Balakrishna generally encouraged me in social work, he did not appreciate my long absences and also felt that living in these unhygenenic conditions was not good in my state. But I could not stop once we started since there were problems every moment that had to be solved. We worked day and night , used to sing songs part of the time and brought to some shape the land with dirty water around.

Then, trouble came in the shape of a person from the municipality. This representative said that the Revenue Department granted the land without the permission from the Municipality and that if we wanted to avoid trouble we should grease some palms. We were already hard up with financial problems building the colony and much more work had to be done to fill the swamp and construct at least temporary residences. In any case, the land was sanctioned to us and we did not have the resources to pay bribes. The Municipality went to court against the Revenue Department and we went to the court as third party in the litigation and Karavadi Raghavarao argued on our behalf. The court ordered to maintain the status quo since we were already in possession of the land. Once the order came to maintain the status quo, we started efforts to fill up the swamp. But there were more problems ahead...

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