Until a few years back even the name of Kappatralla village in the badlands of Rayalaseema evoked such fear that government officials would run away from their designated visits and, consequently, development was brought to a standstill. Nestled amidst rocky hillocks in an arid stretch of land in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh, the village is the prime illustration of the bloody factional feuds the region, once ruled by Sri Krishnadevaraya of the Great Vijayanagara empire, is notorious for. The then system of Palegars (local land and war lords) extended into the democracy of today where these chieftains polarised villages on caste, political lines and fought for supremacy.
Kappatralla, in the Devanakonda tehsil, is classified as a volatile zone with frequent cases of riots with firearms, hunting sickles and crude bombs. Dozens of people have died in clashes in the past four decades.
The village has lagged behind on all growth parameters like literacy, health and employment all these years but shows a positive male to female adult sex ratio of 951:1,000, although this is largely due to the factional violence. According to a socio-economic survey carried out in 2014, there are 64 widows and 14 women who have been deserted by their husbands in the village. At least 30 people from Kappatralla are serving life imprisonment in the central prison in the adjacent Kadapa district.
On account of its infamy, trainee IPS officers were sent to Kappatralla to study the faction culture and crime there. The central forces are always deployed on election days there. However, since 2014, things have been changing for the better. The village, which used to be hostile to visitors as well as any form of positive development, has become more accommodating. A new two-storey school building, concrete roads, a water purification plant and a cooperative bank branch in the village now vouch for its new-found hope.
This turnaround in Kappatralla is because of one man—Ake Ravi Krishna, an Indian Police Service officer who is serving as the Superintendent of Police, Kurnool district. After he assumed charge in 2014, the first village Krishna visited was Kappatralla to implement his agenda of ‘factionalism to Peace’ with a Gandhian approach.
“My connection with Kappatralla began in 2007, when as a trainee police officer I got to study the factionalism there,” says Krishna. “Due to the fear of warring faction leaders, the village witnessed no development and no officer of any department would visit this village. I realised that the worst affected people were the women, children and the aged.”
Though he had already begun his work in the village earlier, Krishna officially adopted the village in February, 2015, under the state government’s scheme of ‘Smart Village—Smart Andhra Pradesh’ under which public representatives were expected to adopt a village each to help develop it.
Over a decade back, a high school building was sanctioned for Kappatralla but it could not be constructed in full because of severe factional violence and warnings by rival groups to officials and contractors against the school’s construction. The existing school structure was inadequate to accommodate all students and most children had to attend their classes out in the open.
After taking charge, Krishna approached the education minister and the collector and got Rs 60 lakh sanctioned for the school. The school building was built in six months with the IPS officer himself taking part in the construction activity whenever he visited the village. Around the same time, Krishna convinced local industrialists and NGOs in the district to extend support to the school for furniture and other requirements. It was opened in October 2015.
“Thereafter, the children, especially the girls could study with dignity,” says Krishna. “The children are given personality development classes as well. We also trained the educated youth from the village, who either moved aimlessly or followed faction leaders earlier, to take up competitive exams in banking, police services etc.”
Krishna convinced the cement factories operating in the district to contribute towards laying concrete streets and lanes in the village. An asphalt approach road to the village was built with government funds and a water purifier plant for safe drinking water was set up by a fertiliser company.
Another addition to Kappatralla last year is a branch of a rural bank. Since March 2016, the Andhra Pragathi Grameena Bank has disbursed about Rs 7 crore of agriculture and self-help group loans in the village, while it received about Rs 3 crore in deposits. Here, Krishna’s prior experience in the banking sector came in handy. He had worked with Canara Bank as a data entry operator and the RBI as a coin and note examiner and later as a manager prior to his selection in the central police services. An agriculture co-operative society has also been formed in the village and now farmers are being provided with agri implements at subsidised rates.
“Kappatralla was isolated from growth and development for over four decades due to the factional wars. But the dedicated efforts by our SP have made up for the loss within a span of 2-3 years,” says Ramaraju Ratnakaram, who retired as the headmaster of the village high school and now lives in a nearby town. “Earlier, bankers were scared to give loans to people from Kappatralla, now we have a bank in the village itself,”
“The physical changes in the villages have brought about an attitudinal transformation in the people. A few people who are resisting the change would also hopefully learn to adapt to a good way of life soon,” he adds.
The brutal killing of Venkatappa Naidu, a famous faction face of Rayalaseema, and 10 others in May 2008 marked the culmination of the factional feud in Kappatralla, but the feuds still rear their ugly head once in a while in the district. On May 21, a YSRCP leader, Cherukulapadu Narayana Reddy, was attacked with crude bombs and hacked to death with hunting sickles after the car he was travelling in rammed at a high speed into a tractor in Krishnagiri tehsil near to Kappatralla.
“There are 78 villages in Kurnool district where there is a simmering anger among the factions. Our aim is to lead every such village into the path Kappatralla is on now,” says a resolute Krishna.
The IPS officer has made Kappatralla his family and celebrates the villagers’ successes, such as achievement of good scores in school exams, at his residence in Kurnool city. Krishna, who is from Rajahmundry, has also bought a piece of land in Kappatralla to build his own house there for his retirement.
Apart from being a good samaritan, Krishna is a singer too. The songs he wrote and crooned on the necessity of eye-donation and saving the girl child have become popular on the social media. The eye-donation campaign he initiated last year in the district received about 1.7 lakh pledges from the people.
The 2015 blockbuster Srimanthudu (a prosperous man), starring Mahesh Babu, is a story of a business empire’s scion going in search of his roots and adopting a remote village for its all-round development. For the people of Kappatralla, Ake Ravi Krishna is a real-life Srimanthudu
Like Krishna, several IPS officers in the twin states of Andhra and Telangana have adopted villages on their own or under government initiatives and have become their guardians in all aspects.
Former DGP of Andhra Pradesh J.V. Ramudu has adopted his native village Narasimmapalli in Tadimarri tehsil of the neighbouring Anantapuram district under the Smart Village initiative. A trust named after his father, and headed by his wife, has been imparting quality education to the poor children of the remote Rayalaseema, for 12 years now.
“Under the Smart Village programme, I am channelising the government support to our village for better roads, housing for the poor, toilets etc,” says Ramudu. He inaugurated the rural bank branch in Kappatralla in his capacity as DGP in April 2016. He got one opened in his village too.
By Prasad Nichenametla in Hyderabad