KURNOOL: Expectations of relief from pollution is rising as YSR Congress Party Chief YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s ‘Praja Sankalp Yatra’ enters Yerraguntla on Thursday. Yerraguntla is known as the ‘dust chamber’ of South India. Several leading cement plants, including Bharati Cements which is promoted by Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, operate and choke the life of the hapless people living in this belt. Malla Reddy, MP from Nallalingayapalli, the village where Jagan’s Bharati Cement operates asked, “Jagan says that he wants to become the CM by understanding the problems of the people through his Pada yatra. If that is true, why doesn’t he solve our problems and do something about the pollution from his company?”
He added, “Our women, children and aged suffer from several sever pulmonary diseases, eye sores and indigestion after swallowing dust.” The Nallalingyapalli-Kamalapuram belt in Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh has a number of cement units, including those of Ultra Tech Cement, India Cements and Dalmia Cement, because of the rich limestone quarries in the region. Limestone is one of the key raw materials used to manufacture cement. B.V. Ramana Reddy, General Secretary of Telugu Nadu trade union, an affiliate of Telugu Desam in Yerragunrtla said, “Bharati Cements snatched away our future and left us with a begging bowl. They took our lands and sold them for exorbitant prices to a French company named Vicat. They made profits out of our sweat by fraudulently snatching our lands”.
He further said that a man like Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy has no morale to become the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. Malla Reddy adds, “Bharati Cements’ management coercively silenced several villagers. They maintain a register of monthly payments made to the famers and villagers to silence them. If you are a sarpanch, you get Rs 50,000 per month. As far as I know, a minimum of 33 people are on their pay rolls.” B.V. Ramana Reddy said that during the night an unbearable smell comes from Bharati cements as they mix some chemical with coal to make it more energy efficient. The dust particles fly and settle all over the village with the slightest of winds. We demand that Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy addresses our problems right away.
Chilamkur sarpanch where India Cements Limited is located has a similar tale to tell of air and water pollution. He said that the management of the company is not responsive to the genuine concerns laid down by the people. However B.V. Ramana Reddy, who also works at Zuari Cements, told that the employees of that company are remunerated according to the wage board. But, in case of Bharati Cements, there is no wage board. Only people from the local village are given jobs. People who lost their lands are also not given jobs in proportion to their losses, he added. It is said that Bharati Cements has kept cash deposits from people who want to get a job. If you invest `15 lakhs, you will be paid a monthly salary of Rs 15,000. It does not even work out to be 12 per cent per annum, rues an employee.
When this correspondent visited the website of Bharati Cements, under the guise of environmental reporting, the website says that “reports are getting prepared”. The company claims that as a preventive measure it has installed 120 unit bag filters, five bag houses, two RABH (reverse air bag houses) and two ESP (Electro Static Precipitators).
It further claims, “We have installed pollution control equipment for each point of source of pollution emission in every process. With this maintenance, we have achieved zero discharge from emissions of the source point.” The aspirations of the people of Yerraguntla are focussed on the employment potential, dust pollution affecting the health, developmental works and provision of drinking water to nearby areas along with the purchase of farmers' lands, pollution control and safety measures during the blasting operations.