The tribal community of Ananthagiri Mandal in Andhra Pradesh kneeled on the ground on Thursday in protest. The villagers protesting in Dayarthi village alleged that the contractor demanded ₹2000 for each connection after refusing to pay for their labour of trekking heavy poles for a stretch of 10 kilometres.
Months after the poles were erected and the transmission lines were laid out, the village continues to sustain sans electricity.
These protesters belonged to eight different villages that never had electricity post-independence. After the authorities appointed a contractor to execute the task, the paid assistance of the tribals was sought to take the heavy poles up on the hill to be erected. The deprived villagers toiled for two months in hopes of getting electricity.
The villagers were promised to be paid for labouring the poles, getting wires, and digging the earth. When the villagers demanded to be provided with the agreed wage, the contractor denied their request. Instead, the villagers alleged that he told them to pay ₹2,000 for each connection at the Mee Seva centre for the provision of meter by the electricity department staff.
"There are around 300 families living in the eight villages under Jeenapadu, Pinakota and Pedakota panchayats of the Mandal. The material was unloaded at Ballagoruvu village and it was carried up the hills by the tribals," Sidiri Satya Rao of the Dayarthi village told The Hindu.
K. Govinda Rao, the leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said that the previous government had sanctioned power supply to 236 non-electrified villages in the Agency.
Some of these villages are reported to have had solar power plants in the past but none of these systems is currently functional. In regard to the demand of ₹2000 for metres, Rao said that these had to be provided to the tribals free of cost as they are first time users.
Rao further added that the rate for carrying a pole, digging a pit and erecting it is around ₹2,500 and the tribal people carried 200 poles for the work. He shared that the electricity department and the Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) officials have not initiated any action against the contractor.
He further informed that this issue will be taken into the notice of the new Project Officer of the ITDA on June 14.