Vijayawada: No connectivity attracts tribals to ganja

Vijayawada: No ration cards, no schools, no pattadar passbooks, no MGNREGS work, no livelihood and still, ITDA-Paderu is not ready to recognise them as tribals. The 80 families of Sariyapalli of Visakhapatnam agency have 150 job cards but from 2005-06, they have not been given any work against wages. No housing has been sanctioned for them after 1996. The village’s population is only 364, with 80 families, and it has 309 acres of revenue land. The adverse conditions and abject poverty have driven the Sariyapalli villagers to cultivate Ganja in their abutting hill tops and revenue lands. They have made Ganja cultivation as their livelihood and recently blocked the Excise Department personnel from entering their village to check on the cultivation. 

The Excise Department has been trying hard to disengage the Ganja cultivation in Visakhapatnam agency but have got no co-operation from the Sariyapalli villagers. The intervention of the senior officers of the Excise Department has thrown some light on the lives of the Sariyapalli villagers and their compulsions that have driven them to cultivate Ganja.

Dr M. Lakshmi Naras-imham and a team of officers from revenue and police have examined the reasons behind the Ganja cultivation being done by the villagers. The lives of the Sariyapalli villagers is tough, to say the least. For rations, the Sariyapalli villagers have to go to Borrtadi or Bokkedla villages, which is 6 kilometres away from their own village, and there is no road connectivity. 

The short term, 4-months crop of Ganja provides them livelihood and if the Government and district administration take steps to ensure that their basic needs are taken care of, it would not just dissuade them from Ganja cultivation , but also cut their connectivity with the Maoists of the Andhra Odisha Border (AOB), according to an officer from Grey Hounds.

If ITDA chooses to do so, the children of Sariyapalli village would get admission into the tribal welfare hostels and schools run by ITDA and a better future would be assured. The same feeling was expressed by the villagers to the Commissioner Dr. M. Lakshmi Narasimham when he interacted with them to find out the reasons as to why they were resisting the entry of the excise, police and revenue personnel. 

In fact, the Sariyapalli villagers belong to the community of potters-Konda Kumarlu, that is categorized as BC-A in Andhra Pradesh and as Scheduled Tribe (ST) in abutting Odisha. 

If they are provided with the means to a proper livelihood, they would stop taking financial support from Maoists, say the village leaders. 

The AOB Maoists have been funding majority of the villagers in and around Sariyapalli, the officer from Grey Hounds shared. This case study should be taken as a model study by the government, to address the Ganja menace in Visakhpatnam agency, he observed.

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