Aluri Vijaya Lakshmi, Kakinada, East Godavari – Interview

Dr. Aluri Vijayalakshmi is a member of the State Working Committee and in-charge of Kakinada City Unit of Lok Satta Party, and has recently also taken up responsibility as District President for East Godavari. She was interviewed by Sravanthi Yalamanchili in July 2011. Dr Aluri can be contacted via email, Facebook, or phone (91 – 9849022441).

Sravanthi: You are a doctor, which is one of the highly regarded professions in the world. Also you are a successful writer, whose work has even been considered as a subject of thesis. What made you to choose politics?

VijayaLakshmi: As an obstetrician, I am fortunate to serve thousands of mothers for the past 4 decades. I am also able extend free services to several thousand poor people through free health camps and free surgeries camps in several specialties and obstetric care through NGO’s that includes my professional organizations, women organizations, and international service organizations like Rotary and Red Cross.

I believe that we can achieve only limited results through NGOs. If you want to transform the rusted systems, you need to be a part of the political system. However, I had always been hesitant to join politics given my busy work schedules. In 2006, when Loksatta Party was formed, Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan assured me that Loksatta, unlike other traditional political parties, has a new culture that gives space and respect to every member, especially women. That’s when I got convinced to take the party membership. For the past four and a half years, my association with Loksatta Party has been satisfactory. Though the situation and response is not very encouraging, we are trying to uphold the great ideologies of Loksatta Party without any deviation from the chosen path of action.

Sravanthi: Can you give us a insight of the activities done by Kakinada team?

VijayaLakshmi: We concentrate mostly on the local issues. There were several instances where our team acted as a bridge between locals and administration, like taking the issues raised by public to Corporation Mayor and respective authorities including the District Collector.

It was Loksatta, who first raised voice against the ship-breaking unit on the shores of Kakinada that causes marine pollution, health hazards and social problems. We teamed up with environmentalists and Green Peace Corps to successfully demand for scrapping the project.

Another major campaign we took was related to Reliance Oil and Gas excavations near Kakinada. Reliance India Limited (RIL) Company, on the shores of Godavari, makes huge profits with limited investments. However, RIL is not passing the benefits to people of the state, more so to the local people who have the first right on natural resources. Members of the Loksatta Party took this issue and along with activists, stake holders, environmentalists, citizens forums, rate payers, consumer associations and common citizens, organized a massive public meeting, and demanded for adequate supply of gas to the local power plants and other gas based industries at a reasonable price. We also asked for free domestic supply of gas through pipelines to all the households in the local area along with other reasonable demands. We organized a follow up round table meeting with leaders from all political parties and demanded to play a proactive role in the issue. This campaign created a visible impact.

We also arranged vocational trainings for women in slum areas so that they can earn extra money to support their families. The money earned by their male family members is mostly spent on liquor and other vices. These trainings were arranged with the courtesy of the Principal and Women’s Cell of P.R.Govt. College, Kakinada.

Currently, our team is involved in voter registration, membership development, anti-corruption awareness programs and 10 lakh Signature Drive for a strong Lokpal bill.

Sravanthi: Kakinada also has a wing of Mahila Satta. Can you please brief us on the activities?

VijayaLakshmi: Currently, Mahila Satta of Kakinada is led by Ms. N.Leela Savitri. It has a panel of 6 members.

Some of the major achievements of Mahila Satta includes – Providing vocational trainings to 30 women by teaming up with NGO’s and educational institutions, initiating and conducting all party meetings with women representatives from political parties and NGOs to help women get out of the micro financing scams that are exploiting and socially abusing the poor and lower middle class. We have also conducted several health and gender awareness programs for women through NGOs.

This week, we are going to submit a memorandum to the District Collector (who is also the special officer for Kakinada City) requesting to provide toilet facilities for adolescent girls in government schools.

Sravanthi: You contested as a MP for Kakinada City in the 2009 elections. How did people receive Lok Satta?

VijayaLakshmi: We had an opportunity to meet a huge number of people during the election campaign. There are around 400 villages and 4 towns in the Kakinada parliamentary constituency and I toured at least 200 villages and all the four towns just in the limited time span of 10 days. We received an excellent response by way of expression from the voters that Lok Satta party is a good party and such party is the need of the hour. But that did not get translated into votes. People from remote villages too recognized and appreciated Lok Satta party, even though with some reservations to vote for the party. They said that they could not vote for us because Lok Satta Party will not win. Hence, they would not want to waste their votes.

We met another set of people who are getting benefited from the current policies of the government and are comfortable supporting the ruling party. They do not want to think about getting better policies from the government. Their only fear is not to lose what they have currently. I guess these are the two main reasons affecting our vote count.

Sravanthi: At the same time, there are people especially among educated who are looking forward to honest politics.

VijayaLakshmi: It is indeed true that people want honest politics. But if you see the statistics, only 60% of people exercised their Right to Vote in Kakinada in 2009 elections. Out of this, the percentage of educated/professionals who voted is very low. If we want to realize the dream of honest and clean politics into reality, middle class, and educated people who voice against corrupt politics in private and public talks must come to polling booths to exercise their vote and fulfill their basic responsibility of electing the right person  as their representative.

Secondly, people with right knowledge, more specifically youth, must come on to the streets to bring awareness among the common people about the long term losses they are going to incur for the temporary meager benefits they are getting from the traditional political parties. People should realize that it is for their own future and the future of their children, they should reject the present corrupt political parties and embrace the clean politics.

Sravanthi: What are the other challenges faced by your team?

VijayaLakshmi: The first issue we have is consistency, which can be achieved by employing 3-4 full time volunteers who can go door to door, distribute pamphlets, get to know the issues of people and work with them directly.

The second issue is we are unable to advertise our activities. Though we cannot afford media advertisements, at least having hoardings and other means will help us to penetrate into a wide range of audience.

We need funds to overcome both issues and there is not much scope for raising funds locally. Hence the entire financial burden to take up any event/project is falling on the local leaders and volunteers. Small scale expenses are not a problem, but this is definitely limiting us to take up any events at a large scale and to advertise them.

Sravanthi: How are we preparing for the upcoming Municipal elections? How do you think the above issues are going to limit us from performing well in the elections?

VijayaLakshmi: I don’t think we are enough prepared unless we overcome the discussed issues. We are trying our best through local activities, drives and development programs to gather momentum for the elections within the limited resources available to us. We are also trying to pump young blood into the party by seeking help from local youth, students and NRIs who came forward to take up certain responsibilities, yet there is a lot to be done. It would be helpful if Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan can visit Districts to have regular talks with the ground level volunteers. Dr JP has some good credibility in East Godavari District since his days as District Collector and his visit will give a boost start to expand our volunteer base as well as increase the spirits of existing volunteers.

Sravanthi: You were previously mentioning about government policies, what is your take on Arogyasree?

VijayaLakshmi: In our country, most of the people(more than 75%) die because of common communicable and preventable diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, diarrhea and respiratory diseases. It is unfortunate that the government wants to spend lion’s share of its health budget for the benefit of corporate hospitals than the common people.

Two things must be done:

Firstly, improve basic medical care though Primary Health Care Centers( PHCs ) and Urban Health Care Centers ( UHCs). Today the condition of PHCs is pathetic with deteriorated infrastructure and personnel with no motivation and zeal whatsoever. There is even a proposal to privatize PHCs and it seems that the process is going on. Primary health care facilities should be strengthened and the government should take the responsibility of tertiary care instead of molding the system to the benefit of powerful people in profession by diverting the tax payer’s money unjustifiably.

Secondly, there must be a clear understanding on the type of diseases to be covered under Arogyasree scheme. Cancers, heart attacks, neurological, orthopedic injuries etc. can be included. Government must make sure that there is a rational limit somewhere, which is missing in the current Arogyasree scheme. It should focus more on common and preventable diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, diarrhea, maternal and child health and should honor the people’s right to get free and quality health care.

Sravanthi: Yes, I totally agree that common diseases are not being prioritized. Recently an 8-year old girl died of dog bite in Rajahmundry, East Godavari due to unavailability of vaccine at a government hospital.

VijayaLakshmi: That is one of the several cases. Non availability of vaccine is just a partial problem. Not controlling the population of stray dogs is the first issue. The bigger issue is, most people are not aware that they must get a vaccine soon after a dog bite.

If awareness is spread, even though vaccines are not available in the public hospitals, people can at least go to private hospitals to get vaccinated in the right time, Though they might end up spending Rs. 250-300 for each shot, it will save them if done with in a proper interval. Once the rabies has spread, there is very little any one can do. Government must bring this awareness through media and other means. They must educate people what should be done upon a dig bite. Else, there will be no end to unfortunate incidents like these. Mind you, this is a totally avoidable human tragedy.

Sravanthi: Do you want to send any message for the NRI supporters?

VijayaLakshmi: Though you have gone out of India to explore the outside world, do not forget your roots and do help India to develop, by establishing good values and standards you have learnt there and discourage the bad culture people are trying to emulate now with so much of craze.

Sravanthi: Thank you Vijaya Lakshmi garu for the time and opportunity.

VijayaLakshmi: Thank you.

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