The Telugu World  column# 6                         

Telugu Farmers Turn Vidarbha Into Rice-Bowl

Sir Cuttamanchi Ramalinga Reddy, founder Vice-Chancellor of Andhra University at Waltair (26-04-1926 an 31-07-1930, followed by Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan who, though a Telugu, called himself a Tamilian) had once said: “Andhras like rice thrive on transplanting.” (It was before the State that caused linguistic states was split into two). 

Rice saplings need to be transplanted in waterlogged fields in order to yield paddy. Rice also happens to be the staple food of Telugu people. Most Andhra farmers, therefore cultivate paddy, as unshelled rice is called. In Outliers, or Malcom Gladwell proves that cultivators rin rice-eating countries are smarter as rice cultivation involves more hard work. Gladwell says because of this Chinese (and Indians) do better in mathematics than people of non-rice eating countries. 

That could also explain why most Telugu boys (and many girls) do engineering courses and go to the USA where Telugu became the fastest growing foreign language, as per a UN report. And once settled there, their children only speak Telugu, unable to read it and grandchildren cannot do either.

Driving from Nagpur to Ramtkek (famous as Kalidasa’s place and constituency of P.V. Narasimha Rao) along with Kondadora (tribal chieftain) from Bhadrachalam, I was told by him: “Sar, that (he pointed out) is an Andhra village. Please stop and let us go back there”. I asked him how he could say it. He said he could tell that from the shape of the houses, especially the rooftops which could be seen from the car.

When I drove back I found he was correct. The ‘Andhra village’ was there because a farmer could sell an acre of land in irrigated Krishna district to buy many acres in the semi-arid Vidarbha region (where ICRISAT – the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, a UN-sponsored institute is situated).  The government which had dug irrigation canals from the Ramtek Dam built in 1913 on the local river Sur, did not bother to build field channels. 

So the Telugu farmers bought the cheap unirrigated land, dug the channels themselves and converted the land into fertile, rice lands. Telugu farmers are known to be very hard working and topped the country once in fertilizer usage. So, because of the ‘settlements’   (Telugu villages), Vidarbha region has become the ‘rice bowl of Maharashtra’, the main source of rice for the state.. (I do not believe in caste, I mention it only to give a historic perspective).

As is the practice in Telugu states, they told their surnames adding a ‘waru’ (వారు) to it indicating that they belong to that family.  They are changing now Annamwar became Aney, Kannamwar  ‘Kane’, Joshyula ‘Joshi’ and Bhagawatula ‘Bhagwat’. Once the best DD Hindi news reader, J.V.Raman, was జోష్యుల వెంకట రమణ. Keshavrao Hedgewar, the founder of RSS, and its third chief, Balasaheb (M.D.) Deoras (Devaraju) were of Andhra origin. Both are considered Maharashtriyans. 

Maharashtra’s first CM Y.B. Chavan, considered apara Shivaji, (Shivaji reborn) was called to the Centre.  His replacement was Marutrao Kannamwar, a migrant.

Several MPs and former Union Minister Vilas Muttemwar, who did not know any Telugu, were such ‘komti’s from (the then) AP. Mrs. Gopikatai Kannamwar, who was also Pradesh Congress Committee president knew just enough Telugu to say in Telugu that she did not know enough Telugu to speak in it and then proceed to speak in Marathi. Marutrao did not know even that. If he held a Telugu newspaper or book, he may not have known if it was upside down

<Telugu CM M.S. Kannamwar       

Chandrapur and Gadhchiroli in Maharashtra are not the only districts in other states inhabited (mostly) by Telugu people. There are areas in Odisha and Karnataka where the majority are people from Andhra. In Kharagpur (West Bengal) and Cuttack (Odisha) most rickshaw pullers are from Telugu states. Thanjavur where the brahma of Carnatic music lived was once a Telugu town and every Carnatic singer sings Telugu keertans. There is a theory that the Ajanta painters were from Andhra.

What is to be noted, however, is that most of the people in these areas do not speak Telugu or read and write it now.


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