Parliament passes controversial Polavaram Bill

The legislation provides for transferring villages in the submergence area in Telangana to Andhra Pradesh

 
By M Suchitra
Last Updated: Monday 17 August 2015

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The Rajya Sabha passed the controversial Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill of 2014 on Monday through voice vote amid heated exchanges among members of the House opposing and supporting the Bill.

The Bill provides for the transfer of seven mandals (talukas) in the newly formed Telangana state to the residual state of Andhra Pradesh for the sake of the Indira Sagar Polavaram Irrigation Project. The Lok

Sabha has already cleared the Bill on July 11 through voice vote. The seven mandals—five fully and two partially—fall in the submergence area of the project.

The Amendment Bill was opposed by members of Parliament from Telangana, Odisha and Chhattisgarh while those from Andhra Pradesh extended full support to the Bill. Members from Telangana described the Bill as unconstitutional. The Narendra Modi led-Bharatiya Janata

Party government, which came into power in May, promulgated the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation (amendment ) Ordinance on May 28. Telangana

chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao and many other political leaders from Telangana point out that the ordinance as well as the amendment Bill now passed by Parliament are unconstitutional. According to Article 3 of the Constitution, while changing the boundaries of a state, the state Assembly should be consulted. Article 3 makes it mandatory for the President of India to send the Bill to the state Assembly for consultation; the state assembly should have discussed the issues and informed the Centre its decision on the Bill. However, this has not happened in the case of this Bill, they point out.

When the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre decided to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh it ensured that Polavaram was given national status. The proposal to transfer the villages that would be submerged in Telangana to Andhra Pradesh was

also made by the Congress government. But this was not clearly stated in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill 2014 passed by both the houses through voice vote in February this year amid noisy scenes and even black outs of the proceedings. This led to the promulgation of ordinance and then the amendment Bill by the Modi government.

Large-scale submergence and displacement
Those who opposed the Bill pointed out that the project would cause large-scale submergence. The mega multi-purpose dam across the river Godavari, which has been now given national status, is under construction in West Godavari district of  Andhra Pradesh. The Polavaram

project report was initially prepared in 1978 and later in 2005 it was again taken up by the then Congress chief minister of the state, Y S Rajasekhara Reddy. The dam is supposed to irrigate 288,000 hectares of new areas in West Godavari, East Godavari, Krishna and Visakhapatnam districts—all in coastal Andhra. The project is

envisaged to generate 960 MW hydel project, give 23.44. TMC water to industries in Visakhapatnam and provide drinking water to 2.86 million people in 540 villages. The estimated cost of the project in 2007 was Rs 10,151 crore. In 2010, the cost was revised to Rs 16,010 crore. The

Andhra Pradesh government has already spent Rs 4,144 crore till August 2011. The cost of the project has gone up to around Rs 20,000 crore now.

Adivasi organisations and political parties in Telangana, including Telangana Rashtra Samithi, have been opposing the project, highlighting the fact that most of the villages that would be submerged fall within two revenue divisions in Khammam district in Telangana while the project benefits only the coastal Andhra districts. The dam is

expected to submerge 193 revenue villages in Khammam district , 14 villages in East Godavari and nine villages in West Godavari in Andhra Pradesh. It will also submerge eight villages in Chhattisgarh and four villages in Odisha. The dam is expected to displace more than 200,000 people, the highest ever by any dam in the country. A majority

of the villages that would be submerged fall in Schedule Five areas where adivasis enjoy special rights. At least 63,691 hectares of forestland in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha would be submerged by the project. To ensure that Telangana will not raise objections against the project that will benefit only coastal

Andhra districts, the villages that would be submerged in the state have been transferred to Andhra Pradesh through the amendment Bill.

Adivasi organisations had intnsified their agitations for the past many months against the Centre's plan to transfer the villages. They have been highlighting the issue of

submergence and the government not having proper plans for resettlement and rehabilitation of those would be displaced. Even as the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, provides for giving equal

area of land to those who lost their land by the irrigation project in the command area of the project itself, the Act has not been applied in the case of those getting displaced by the Polavaram project. Many gram sabhas in Khammam district have passed resolutions against the project. Political Parties, including TRS, which had opposed the project, did not come out strongly against the Centre's plan to

give national status to the project and transfer the villages in submergence area in Telangana to Andhra Pradesh.

Read more

Telangana betrays its tribals 

Polavaram ordinance: Protests by adivasis intensify 

Countering the allegations that the Ordinance and the Bill are unconstitutional, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the government had not violated any constitutional norm. He assured the House that the Centre would take all possible steps for rehabilitation and resettlement of the affected people.

Despite the passage of the Bill transferring the villages, construction of the controversial Polavaram project would be difficult to execute in the near future as the project might get entangled in the legal battles. Telanagana government is considering legal course of action against changing the boundaries of the state for the project. Chhattisgarh and Odisha are against the project and moved the Supreme Court, highlighting large-scale submergence by the project.

 

 


Debate: Debate in Rajya Sabha on Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill, 2014 & rehabilitation and resettlement package of the Polavaram Multi-purpose National Irrigation Project 

Bill: The Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, 2014 (As passed by Lok Sabha on 18-02-2014)

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  • As I repeatedly mentioned in

    As I repeatedly mentioned in the previous articles in Down To Earth and elsewhere that UPA government put the Polavaram project under wraps to use it as a bargaining part of bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. The speech by Jairam Ramesh in the Rajya Sabha clearly indicate these issues. The cost escalation was due to acts of UPA government and CWC order raising the flood water expected one in 1000 years from 38 lakh cusecs to 50 lakh cusecs.

    One of the MP from Chhatishgadh/Odissa mentioned that they are opposing because of raise in the dam height from 150 ft to to 172 (?) ft. This was verified by the Supreme Court appointed committee and informed the court that there are no changes over the Justice Bachawat Tribunal award. The dam height is limited to only 150 ft. Mis-information to parliament.

    When Dr. YSR initiated the project the only political party opposed was CPM as it is strong vote bank base to CPM and most of the funds comes from this belt. In fact, one television channel telecasted live butchering forest wealth in 6000 acres by CPM activists and also from Naxal infected areas of Odissa & Chhatisghad migrated to this zone and cleared hundreds of acres with the tacit support from vested groups -- all these have taken place to get R & R compensation --. In this connection, in the Rajya Sabha one of the Congress MP cleared informed the government, that the R & R package must be to those who on record in the year ????.

    The other major group opposed is the NGOs with vested interests.

    About transfer of Mandals -- when TRS spear headed the bifurcation campaign they clearly said that they wanted Telangana as in Hyderabad State prior 1956. That means the 7 mandals are not part of Telangana. So, as part of bifurcation they included these seven mandals in to AP. Is there any thing wrong in this action?

    NGOs are going on ranting that tribals are not interested to move away from the place. In fact when Dr. YSR initiated to shift Adivasi's in the first phase, they agreed and moved away to rehabilitation centre. When CPM & NGOs went to those villages to stop them to moving out, they simply brushed aside saying that you people are enjoying good education, health care, transport, et and you wanted us to live in this unhygenic condition. You wanted us suffer when ever there are floods [even without dam around 350 villages are affected]?

    The R & R package includes land to land component. To avoid problems later in the land acquisition for building canals the government initiated the building of canals first. Otherwise the cost would go up by 100 times by the time dam is built. This is we call "vision" but those opposing dam are criticizing this act of Dr. YSR. If Dr. ySR would have been alive, the project could have been completed and fruits of the projects would have been reached to people.

    There are NGO groups that form part of anti-dams talk reducing the height as if they are expert and or built three to eight barrages instead of dam to achieve the same goal. This was also cited in Rajya Sabha without knowing the basics. AP has two barrages one on Krishna and the other on Godavari. We know what is happening there -- when there are floods they discharge in to the sea when there is no water, farmers cry for water. A classical case s 2007. Good rains but no water in the middle of Rabi. To save the crops Dr. YSR initiated digging of bore wells in the river and then supplied water to save the crops. This is exactly what is going to happen with barrages under variable weather with time and space.

    Finally, I want ask the writer and others -- when they say controversial project --, why the chief ministers of MP & Orissa signed the MoU for 150 ft height? Karakattas were decided in 1978 and later CWC has given green signal to Karakattas. The project was cleared in 2005 under EIA Notification, 1994 then the orders cleared after 2005 will apply to this project -- tribal Act, Land Acquisition Act --. The delay was not caused by the project proponents but by the Central Government!!!

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy


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