About ten thousand students, mostly girls, congregated at Proddatur town's Sivalayam Square and took a pledge to intensify their movement if a road-map was not announced immediately by central and state governments to set up a steel plant in Kadapa district.
They hope the steel plant would transform the economy of the region with more jobs and business opportunities.
It was the union government who had given the assurance of the plant in 2014 as compensation for agreeing to the creation of Telangana.
The students of Kadapa district have been waging their battle for a steel plant for quite some time, which they said was the only hope for employment opportunities in the Rayalaseema region.
They fear that chief minister Naidu’s preoccupation with the Amaravati will eventually cause the plant to be cancelled on one pretext or the other. They are also unhappy that opposition parties seem to be ignoring the issue.
The students floated a non-party organisation - 'Steel Plant Sadhana Samiti (SPSS)' to mount pressure on the state and central government against the delay in implementing the provision related to the steel plant in the Andhra Pradesh bifurcation Act.
The students announced that politicians of any hue were not welcome into the movement.
“ It is the movement of students and the youth. We know how to get the steel plant built. Both TDP and YSRC have cheated the people of the region. Enough is enough. This is a fight for our livelihood rights,” Gandi Praveen Kumar Reddy, the president of the SPSS, declared.
Today’s massive rally by the students, the biggest one in recent memory, received widespread support in the city, which is considered a second 'Bombay'.
The SPSS was critical of both the ruling TDP and the opposition YSR Congress for their apathy towards the Rayalaseema region, and Kadapa especially.
“We are unfortunate that chief minister Chandrababu Naidu and opposition leader Jaganmohan Reddy, who hail from the region, are more interested in politics rather than the livelihood of the people of the region. They owe their positions to the region. But neither Rayalaseema and nor the steel plant figures in their political agenda,” Praveen alleged.
The students marched to the town’s square from all roads that led to the square, with banners inscribed "Kadapa Ukku, Seema Hakku”.
Police had a tough time in disciplining traffic as the students hit the roads simultaneously from all corners of the town. They occupied the square for three hours and police had to stop vehicles from entering the city, diverting them to a bypass road.
Rayalaseema has been simmering with discontentment ever since Chandrababu Naidu chose Guntur district for the location of the capital city instead of Kurnool. Kurnool was the capital of Andhra state in 1953 before it was shifted to Hyderabad in 1956 following the formation of Andhra Pradesh.
Naidu's decision was against the recommendation of the Sivaramakrishnan committee, appointed by the Centre to identify the region where the new capital of Andhra Pradesh should be.
This discontentment has taken many forms in the districts of the region. While in Kurnool, people have launched movements for water rights, Kadapa is fighting for their steel plant.
Talking to Asianet Newsable after the rally, Praveen alleged that in the race for political one-upmanship, both Naidu and Jagan had ignored the region's aspirations.
“Our apprehension is that a centralised capital city like Amaravati will not allow backwards regions to develop. So, we want the steel plant be set up before Amaravati takes off. It is a constitutional obligation,” he argued and added that they would intensify the movement in the coming months.
Last Updated 31, Mar 2018, 6:48 PM IST