Eighty three Yanadi families in a village of Kadapa District, south central Andra Pradesh, are unhappy that they are getting some free land. According to a report in the Indian paper The Statesman, the families in Channarayana Samundram, about 75 km from the city of Kadapa, are going to be receiving about three acres each.
The reason for the land distribution is that the Chief Minister of the state of Andra Pradesh, Dr. Y.S. Rajashekar Reddy, claims he discovered last fall that his family owned more land than the state law permits. The issue caused a furor in the state legislature in Hyderabad on December 13 when the opposition denounced the Chief Minister for violating the state’s Land Reforms Act of 1973. Dr. Reddy owned, in the names of family members, 618 acres more than the law permitted. Noisy protesters in the House that morning demanded the resignation and prosecution of Dr. Reddy. The speaker of the House adjourned the session for the day.
Dr. Reddy and his family decided to give away 997 acres, and, on January 27th, Dr. Reddy’s daughter, Mrs Sharmila Reddy, gave the title to the acreage to the government so it could be distributed to the poor.
Out of the 997 acres, according to The Statesman article, 318 are in the plains and 529 acres are sloping. Dr. Reddy and his family have enriched the soil, provided pipeline irrigation systems, and developed tamarind, teak, and neem plantations on the property. The land that is not being given away to individual families will apparently be developed into plantation agriculture for the benefit of the community.
The unusual aspect of the news story are the statements that the Yanadi families are not terribly happy with the situation. They greeted the news “with a strange mixture of reluctance and regret,” in the words of the paper. One of the villagers who will benefit from the land donation, Mrs. Mallika Jayamma, told the paper, “it is in our welfare that the land is being given to us. However, we are not happy since we feel we have gained from the chief minister’s loss.”
Another villager named Venkatasubbiah said, “how can I be glad? [Mr. Reddy] developed the land for years and is now giving away what really belong[s] to him.” The newspaper reporter writes that the mood in the village is somber, and “there is a grimace in place of a smile on residents’ faces.” The Yanadi on the estate have worked for generations as farm laborers and, after the harvest season, as traders of forest products. The deeds to the tracts of land were to be distributed to the villagers on Wednesday this week.
A Wikipedia article on Dr. Reddy indicates that he was born in the Kadapa District into a Christian family in 1949. Apparently, before the recent furor erupted, he had donated land on his estate for the construction of a Seventh Day Adventist church so his workers would have a place to worship. It was dedicated in December 2004. It is not clear from the story in The Statesman if the Yanadi workers with the charitable feelings toward the owner of the estate are members of that faith.