Families paid to claim YSR shock deaths

via http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/Story/61917/Top%20Stories/Families+paid+to+claim+YSR+shock+deaths.html published on September 16, 2009

Author: A Srinivasa Rao
Andhra Pradesh Congressmen are going to extreme lengths to show how scores of people in the state had died of shock following former chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy’s tragic helicopter crash.

Ever since Reddy’s body was found in the Nallamala forests on September 3, there have been reports sourced to the Congress party of deaths from heart attacks and suicides from all parts of the state.

However, cross-checking some of these cases revealed an uncomfortable truth that many had suspected all along – that these people had died of natural causes and their deaths could not be linked to Reddy’s accident. The investigation also exposed how cynical local Congress leaders, and in one case allegedly a state minister, had paid the families of those who had died from natural causes since September 3 to say the deaths were due to shock following the former chief minister’s accident.

The money was evidently used to buy their silence on the actual cause of death of their kin.

These facts expose the local Congress unit’s elaborate effort to spread lies about the deaths so that a myth could be created around Reddy and, many believe, also boost the chief ministerial prospects of his ambitious son, Jaganmohan.

The Congress Legislature Party (CLP) has periodically released ‘bulletins’ on the number of deaths due to heart attacks and suicides to the media, attributing them to Reddy’s sad end.

The latest such ‘bulletin’ from the CLP says 462 people have died since Reddy’s death was confirmed on September 3, 402 of heart attack while 60 committed suicide. According to these details, East Godavari district accounted for the highest number of 58 deaths, followed by 48 in Warangal district and 46 in Karimnagar district.

Hyderabad City recorded one YSR shock death.

Telugu Desam Party Warangal district unit president and Narsampet MLA Revuri Prakash Reddy said, “It is surprising that not a single person died of grief or shock in YSR’s hometown of Pulivendula. But in my Narsampet constituency, four people died. I can confidently say that these were all natural deaths. It is a media hype perpetrated by Congress leaders. It is sad that Congress politics has stooped to such an extent.”

Gandra Venkataramana Reddy, former Warangal district Congress committee president and Congress MLA said, “There might be some instances of false claims, but there are certainly some genuine cases of deaths and suicides of people due to shock and grief over the death of YSR in the initial days.” However, even the Congress leader admits that there have been some false claims recently.

“There is no truth in the reports regarding the latest incidents of deaths. They might have been fabricated by the media for sensationalism,” he said.

Inquiries made by Mail Today in a quick survey in parts of Warangal district revealed the charade perpetrated by local Congress leaders to build the former chief minister’s image.

Families of the “victims” admitted that they were paid Rs 5,000 each by Congress leaders for funeral and other expenses. In return, they were told not to disclose how these people actually died. The Congress leaders also reportedly promised to secure the release of ex-gratia to the families once Jaganmohan became CM. Take, for instance, the death of 70-year-old Uppalaiah, a potter from the remote Lakshmipuram village of Parakala mandal. His poverty-stricken family stays in a small hut. On September 3 afternoon, a few hours after Reddy’s death was confirmed, Uppalaiah died.

His son Mallaiah claimed the old man had “suddenly died” of a heart attack on the day Reddy’s body was found. But, his wife Lakshamma said that Uppalaiah had been ailing for over a month and was suffering from breathlessness.

Inquiries revealed how local Congress leaders had got into the act to show the old man had died of shock following the news of Reddy’s accident. A local Congressman had called up a reporter of Sakshi television channel, owned by Jaganmohan, to say that Uppalaiah had died of a heart attack after watching the news of Reddy’s death on television.

Within minutes, this appeared on the scrolling on Sakshi TV. Then, other media organisations too picked up the news. The YSR shock deaths myth was slowly being built. But, it was founded on a cruel lie because Uppalaiah’s desperately poor family does not own a television set.

Similar stories emerged from other areas as well. Congress leaders reportedly had little trouble in learning of these deaths because they had mostly occurred in party strongholds.

On September 4, 40-year-old B. Srihari, a registered medical practitioner, died of a heart attack in neighbouring Nagaram village. His brother Ramesh said that Srihari had participated in a rally organised by the local Congress workers in Reddy’s memory. He had returned to his clinic and treated a few patients, before collapsing. “Srihari died before we could take him to hospital. We informed the local Sakshi reporter, who carried the news on the channel,” Ramesh said.

He also said, “Minister for Women and Child Welfare Konda Surekha called on us and paid us Rs 5,000. She also promised all help to us once Jaganmohan took over as chief minister,” Ramesh said.

At Kowkonda village, Chukka Sayamma, an 80-year-old woman died in her sleep on September 4. But her death was linked to Reddy’s helicopter crash.

In another instance, 45-year-old Rajamouli of Kamareddypalle village died after allegedly consuming poison in his fields on September 5. His daughter Padma did not say how the death had occurred.

However, his neighbours said that Rajamouli had been drinking heavily the night before after participating in a Congress rally. He had quarrelled with his wife at night and was found dead the next morning. His name was reportedly put on the list of those who “gave up their lives” for Reddy because he had taken part in the Congress rally.

The death of 25-year-old Teegala Chiranjeevi at Peddammagadda in Hanamkonda is interesting. Local residents said he was a vagabond and mentally deranged. On September 5, he committed suicide by setting himself on fire.

Since there was no one to take care of him, local NSUI workers informed the media that the man had immolated himself demanding that Jaganmohan be made chief minister. The police, however, registered the case of suicide.

“We know that 90 per cent of these deaths are natural. But nobody would speak the truth either out of respect towards YSR or fear of reprisal from Congress leaders. The family members of these victims too do not reveal the facts because they have been promised ex gratia by the leaders,” a mandal parishad member said.

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