Saturday, January 06, 2018

The colony of cooks-3: The first court case 1991-94

Below I will describe the years of struggle in Aruna’s own words transcribed by me. This is what she remembered during a few days of December, 2017 when I spent some weeks in Ongole. The dates may not be entirely accurate but she has newspaper cuttings from that period and a more accurate account can be put together at some stage. The story so far is that a swamp land near the Ongole bus station was sanctioned for cooks colony by the Revenue Department.The cooks drained the land to some extent and built a few huts on the higher ground. The Municipality went to court against the Revenue Department for sanctioning the land without their consent. The society formed by the cooks entered the case as the third party respondent with Karavadi Raghavarao arguming for them. There was a stay order since the cooks were already in possession of the land. Though the cooks were not supposed to do any thing more until the final decision was given by the court, the conditions were unlivable with only bits of higher ground in the swamp and Swampy conditions with mosquitoes all around. Back to Aruna.
The grant of valuable land in the middle of the town was not appreciated by either the political parties including leftist ones or the various wings of the government. It was around this time I shifted from Communist Party to Telugu Desai Party.The shift did not help. But some particular politicians off and on and some individuals interested in the welfare of the poor helped us as I continued to lead the cooks in establishing the colony. I will mention some of these names as I go along and might have forgotten some names, I hope to include some of the other names in a fuller account later on. Some of the early supporters I remember are Dr. A.P.Vithal, A.V.S. ( movie artist)Dr. Chavali Santikumar and various other progressives.There was a police officer, the late Murali Krishna who was S.I. at that time and became a D.S.P. later on provided us with protection. Apart from the political parties who were opposing us, there were also other establishments like the Veterinary Department,R.T.C. , Ekalavya Colony nearby who were claiming parts of the land sanctioned to us and also started encroaching on the land sanctioned to us. Then there were rowdies harassing us and we did not know at whose behest.And we did not have the minimal infrastructure to establish the colony. We decided to proceed with establishing the colony despite the limitations imposed by the judgement of maintaingn the status quo.
The first problem was to fill up the land outside the higher ground on which we established the huts. At that time we had communal meals with lanterns and candles. Finally I decided to proceed with the development of the colony and sold my gold bangles to start the proceedings. Dr. A.P. Vithal also helped with the finances. The first step was to fill up the land away from the huts. The rubbish dump to the Municipality was close to us. We spoke to the drivers of the tractors dumping the rubbish and during the next few months diverted thousands of tractors of rubbish, at the cost of twenty rupees to each load, to fill up the rest of our allotted land. The smell was unbearable but we had to stay there to make sure that the rubbish was dumped on our lot. Some of the people who stood guard to achieve this were Sesharatnamma, Saraswati Lakshmi Kumari, Sivapraxad, Rajyalakshmi, Koteswararao,Shyam and others. Once Sivaprasad was badly hurt by glass pieces while rearranging the rubbish but did not flinch. I tried to help him and I too was hurt. Then the attention of all shifted to me and after that I stopped getting in to the rubbish and just guided the others. Those were difficult times with mosquitos all around. We used smoke tablets to drive them away to some extent, bought mosquito nets and blankets for protection during the nights. Finally, we filled the dump some time during 1992. The nest job is to fill up the land with proper soil to cover the rubbish. We felt that unless we built semi-proper houses on that land, it would be difficult to keep the land. It was also necessary to make proper house allotments instead of the huts we arbitrarily built earlier. ( to be continued)

No comments: