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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

World War II airstrip encroached - Tadepalligudem, Andhra Pradesh


Journey  by train is often fascinating – you can get lost seeing the lush green fields, greenery, tall trees, village scenario, people and more…. I have travelled in this route so many times enjoying the scenery outside.  From Vijayawada [Bezawada] it is almost an hour for Eluru, then Tadepalligudem, Nidadavolu, Kovur, Rajahmundry, Anaparti, Samalkot………  nondescript names for some who have not been in these parts, one tends to think…..

In the last century, the most notable event was the ‘World War’ ~ the Second World War took place between 1939 and 1945 involving many Nations, eventually polarizing into Allies and Axis.  The War affected economic, industrial, social living of millions of people, was marked by weapons of mass destruction culminating with the usage of nuclear weapons.  Japan felt the maximum impact is history. 

With our little knowledge in history, we know that India was under the occupation of Britain and thus was part of the Allied forces.  The provinces of British India were by default used in the fight though India had no role or position in the war.  The British Empire was belligerent against the Axis powers and India too was supplying men and material to Allies.   Several leaders of the Indian independence movement, including Mahatma Gandhi, expressed strong opposition against Nazism and Fascism but termed Britain's "war to save democracy" as hypocrisy since it was denying democratic rights and individual liberties to Indians.  Despite the popular resentment against the British Raj, Indian participation in the Allied campaign remained strong.  One can understand Indian finance being used and so also multitudes of Indian army men made to fight in unknown territory against their own volition in testing conditions. 

Along the way from Vijayawada comes Tadepalligudem, situated in the middle of West Godavari district, surrounded by beautiful fields and canals.  It is the hub of West Godavari district,  renowned as the 'Annapurna of Andhra Pradesh'.  TP Gudem is famous for its jaggery, onion, fruits market and rice cultivation. Sugar, turmeric, bananas, etc... are also grown. It is famous for its godowns (warehouses).

Many places in Andhra are known to have rich people. Incidentally, Tadepalligudem has an airport which is currently not in use (2.45 km long runway), which was built by the British to accommodate military aircraft during World War II.  Yes an airspace used during World War II.  Today’s Hindu reports of ‘World War II air strip under the grip of encroachers’  who fight for legitimacy under the banner of CPI.

The Hindu reports that ………… ##  “Encroachment poses a serious threat to an air strip built by the British during World War II at Tadepalligudem in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. It was reportedly built on a sprawling 650 acres. Despite the Government’s efforts for its revival, uncertainty prevails over its existence. In 2005, then local MLA Kottu Satyanarayana demanded that a civilian airport be built by removing the encroachments. The Department of Civil Aviation reportedly conducted a survey recently to establish a flying school.

Encroachments on the air strip grew in view of its proximity to the town and soaring land cost. A surveyor with the Revenue Department said a township came up on 130 acres with over 1,000 houses and five out of 35 municipal wards in the town were located on the encroached land.

The encroachers, living on the air strip for over six decades, are fighting for legitimacy under the banner of the CPI. Besides, the Administration has allotted 18 acres for relocation of the encroachers who were removed from canal bunds and road margins. A similar extent of land was allotted for establishing a junior college, a degree college and a polytechnic college. A proposal is under consideration for building a godown under the State Warehousing Corporation on 19 acres. A post-graduate centre of the Andhra University was established on 18 acres and 59 acres was allotted for the construction of houses for the urban poor under Rajiv Gruha Kalpa scheme in line with the promise made by the former Chief Minister, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy. Mr. Satyanarayana said the economic activity in the district, particularly aqua and food-processing businesses, would receive a boost if the airstrip was used for commercial operations.

Senior journalist and local AITUC leader D. Somasundar, who is fighting for the cause of the encroachers, said the proposal for restoration was unlikely to become a reality in view of serious issues involved in relocation of the people living there for several decades. “The matter cannot be resolved easily as the government itself is a party to conversion of the air strip for different purposes.”####

Globally, things would be protected as monuments; here that may not be the case ~ still people encroaching lands and subsequently staking legitimacy ~ not so strange in this land.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
20th Mar 2013.
Source : The Hindu  

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