Tension has gripped an Andhra Pradesh town where a hunger strike by two Congress party politicians demanding potable water for about 600 villages entered the fifth day Tuesday.
Doctors said the condition of legislator K. Venkat Reddy and municipal chairman P. Venkatanarayana Goud was deteriorating in the town of Nalgonda, around 100 km from here.
The town has also become the focus of mass protests involving thousands of angry villagers.
Reddy and Goud have vowed to continue their fast until the authorities start supplying potable water to 604 villages where high fluoride content in water has caused numerous problems, including bone deterioration, loss of eyesight, diabetes and retardation.
Workers of the Congress, the state’s main opposition party, have been organising protests all over Nalgonda district to express solidarity with the fasting leaders and to press for the supply of safe drinking water. Relay hunger strikes, road blockades and sit-ins have been a regular feature.
Police are having a tough time, especially in Nalgonda town where huge crowds are thronging the fasting camp. A couple of other Congress leaders have also joined the legislator and municipal chairman in their fast.
The district authorities are keeping a watch on the health of the fasting leaders and plan to shift them to hospital in case their condition deteriorates further.
Fearing violence, police have made elaborate security arrangements around the fasting area.
Nalgonda district has been facing the fluorosis threat for decades, affecting thousands of people. The problem has worsened since last year because of severe drought.
The fasting Congress leaders have accused the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government of not acting on an Andhra Pradesh High Court order of August 2001 directing supply of safe drinking water on war footing to all villages where fluoride content exceeds permissible limits.
Earlier this month, Congress legislature party leader Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy and legislator Venkat Reddy had introduced some of the worst affected adults and children to Governor Surjit Singh Barnala and had appealed to him to intervene.
The problem also rocked the assembly when Venkat Reddy took the affected people to the lobby of the house to draw attention to their pathetic condition.
As most people in Nalgonda district use groundwater for drinking, the legislator demanded supply of water from the river Krishna to the fluoride-hit villages.