Displacing Godavari and Its People – Polavaram Dam శుక్రవారం, నవం 6 2015 

Book review
When Godavari Comes: People’s History of a River–Journeys in the Zone of the Dispossessed by R Uma Maheshwari, New Delhi: Aakar Books, 2014; pp 486 + xviii, Rs 595.

N Venugopal (venugopalraon@yahoo.com) is the editor of Veekshanam, a Telugu monthly journal of political economy and society.

Polavaram multipurpose irrigation project across the Godavari River is likely to displace more than 3,00,000 people, mostly Adivasis, by submerging over 300 habitations. It will also submerge forests with rich biodiversity, a hill range, a river and several streams, agricultural lands, and cultural sites. The highly controversial project, first envisaged in the 1940s under the colonial government, was actually taken up by the Government of Andhra Pradesh in 2006, without proper sanctions and clearances from many statutory bodies. The project violates safeguards provided to Adivasis in the Constitution as well as several legislations, including the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA), 1996, the Forest Rights Act, 2006 and the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.

The works on the project began and continued without approvals like clearance for revised costs by the Expenditure (Finance) Committee; Central Electrical Authority’s clearance for power component; approvals from gram sabhas in the submergence areas in Odisha and Chhattisgarh states; approval of Forest (Conservation) Act for submergence areas in Odisha and Chhattisgarh; techno-economic clearance from the Central Water Commission (CWC); and CWC approval for dam design and operation schedule. In fact, the project is under litigation with several cases pending in the Supreme Court (SC) filed by governments of Chhattisgarh and Odisha as well as environmental and Adivasi groups. The project is also in violation of the National Tribal Policy as it violates the direction, “any project which displaces more than 50,000 tribal people should not be taken up.” In 2006, the SC appointed a Central Empowered Committee (CEC) to study the concerns and the CEC report said,
there is, therefore, a strong case for a second thought and explore alternative location and design of the dam to avoid the colossal loss in terms of apprehended sufferings and disruption of life style of the local inhabitants.

Tussle between States

Despite these counterpoints, the Government of Andhra Pradesh continued the works without any respect for the legal process, technical objections and social debate. The people’s movement for bifurcation of the state and formation of Telangana somewhat slowed down the pace of the works and during the movement, many Telangana votaries including Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) opposed the construction of the dam, primarily on the displacement plank. However, when the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill was moved in Parliament, recognition to Polavaram as a national project was mooted. The leaders of would-be Andhra Pradesh expressed suspicion that Telangana may oppose the project and raise litigation if the to-be submerged villages are left in Telangana and sought the villages to be given to Andhra Pradesh. All the villages passed resolutions in their gram sabhas to retain them in Telangana.

The bill became an Act in February and in May, the new government that came to power in Delhi promulgated an ordinance favouring the demand of Andhra Pradesh, transferring six mandals and some villages. Telangana immediately responded with a bandh called by the ruling party TRS against the ordinance, but, later the ordinance (amendment to the act) was almost accepted, without even challenging it in a court of law. The funniest part is that the “people’s representative” elected by the transferred villages now sits in Telangana Assembly while the people he is supposed to represent live in another state!

Movement and Resistance

Thus, Polavaram is a classic case of Adivasi displacement, deception, violation of laws, political gimmicks, constitutional and legal improprieties, corruption, etc. Notwithstanding this unique position, the comprehensive story of Polavaram is yet to be told. Over the last decade, it occupied a large space in local language media but not the deserving attention of the country. Though the people in the submergence zone as well as outside have been fighting against this gross injustice, the people’s movements against displacement have not attracted national attention. In this context, When Godavari Comes: People’s History of a River by R Umamaheshwari is a much-needed and remarkable attempt based on a number of journeys the author made in the zone of the dispossessed during five years between 2006 and 2010 and updating her story till mid-2014. (మరింత…)

ప్రకటనలు

Polavaram Dam: Corrupt interests at the expense of noble alternatives గురువారం, అక్టో 25 2012 

Observational Report on the Polavaram Dam Project and Surrounding Areas
– Drew Bahr
, HELP International Intern

During the summer of 2011 I had the opportunity to personally witness the proposed construction site of the Polavaram Dam as well as interview three engineers and environment experts with alternative proposals and view the conditions of the people in the proposed area of displacement that would be created by the Dam. During this three-day journey from Hyderabad to northern Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, I was surprised to find that many things are not as they were officially described by the government.

Our trip began with an effort to document the present existence of canals to provide irrigation for the surrounding countryside from the Godavari River to refute the claim that the Dam is necessary to provide irrigation for rice and other crops. Although government engineers seem to ignore their presence, we visited perfectly working canals and pumping stations from the river alongside new canals which were supposedly built to take water from the Godavari River to the Krishna River Basin. These larger canals, however, seem to have displaced an inordinate amount of farmers and did not provide means for their local use through pumps or other forms of access.
(మరింత…)

Anti dam stir in Northeast – Nitin Sethi మంగళవారం, జూన్ 5 2012 

Small numbers drown northeast anti-dam stirs
Nitin Sethi, TNN June 5, 2012

NEW DELHI: It’s a tough one to sell to the rest of India. A dam in northeast India displaces a much smaller number of people than, say, a Polavaram project in Andhra Pradesh that would displace more than a lakh. Or a project on the Narmada in Madhya Pradesh that threatens the lives of hundreds of thousands.

So when the gigantic 1,750-MW Demwe Hydroelectric Project comes up on Lohit, a tributary of the Brahmaputra in Arunachal Pradesh, just a couple of hundred households of the small Miju Mishmis and Digaru Mishmis tribes are displaced. India hasn’t heard of them.

This number of people could fit into a single block of a Delhi housing colony. Moreover, they are not ‘us’. For the rest of India, Arunachal Pradesh has been India’s border land, not someone’s home.

The government assesses that the dam is needed for ‘strategic’ reasons as much as for the power it would generate. So the impact on the flora, fauna and environment comes second.

The few hundred families in the way can be taken care of with contracts, jobs dole – a minor cost of development. No one questions if the dam would wipe out an entire community’s way of life. Such as in the case of the Tipaimukh hydroelectric dam in Manipur, where the Zeliangrong Nagas stand to lose their sacred spots and half their fertile hills or the sacred mountains of Sikkim’s Lepchas in the case of dams on the Teesta. (మరింత…)

పోలవరం సంక్షోభం – టీ ఆర్ ఎస్ నీళ్ళు నిజాలు బుధవారం, అక్టో 26 2011 

పోలవరం సంక్షోభం ఎస్ ఈ డబ్ల్యూ కి పరిమతమైతే బానే ఉండేది. ఇది మరో గోదారి స్పెక్ట్రం కుంభకోణం లెక్క అవినీతి, ఆరోపణలు, విచారణలు. వాస్తవాలు తేలినతర్వాత దొరలెవరో దొంగలెవరో నల్గురు వార్తలు చదివి పుర్సత్తుగా మాట్లాడుకొంటరు.

కథ అక్కడ ఆగలేదు. కనుకనే చర్చ. విమర్శ. ఖండనలు. పోలవరం వివాదంలో ఎన్నెన్ని రాజకీయాలో. ప్రస్థుతానికి కొన్నింటిని తప్పనిసరిగా ఆలోచించాలి.

ప్రశ్న ఏంది? జలయగ్నం పేరుతో సాగిన బలియగ్నంలో వాటదారులైన కాంట్రాక్టరు (ఎస్ ఈ డబ్ల్యు) టీ ఆర్ ఎస్ కు బంధువెట్లాయె? నాలుగు పైసలకోసం ఓ క్రిమినల్ ప్రాజెక్టును కట్టి తూర్పు కనుమలను, కోయ జాతిని ఖూని చేసేందుకు ఉవ్వీల్లూరే కాంట్రక్టర్లు పోలవరం మీద యుద్దమే చేసే వాళ్ళకు మిత్రులెట్లాయె. నమస్కారం చేయడానికి ముఖ్యుడెట్లాయే (మరింత…)

To hell with world cup, celebrations, yagams, vacations సోమవారం, ఏప్రి 25 2011 

Opinion/Open Page, The Hindu April 24,2011

Our farmers are dying, to hell with the World Cup
Narendra Shekhawat

Yes, you read it right; to hell with the World Cup; to hell with the celebrations; to hell with all the free land and money being showered by different governments on the players. How can I jump, scream, have gallons of beer and cheer for the nation when a few kilometres away the farmers and feeders of my country are taking their own lives in hordes?

Do you know that, on average, 47 farmers have been committing suicide every single day in the past 16 years in our shining India — the next economic power, progressive with nine per cent growth? (మరింత…)

3rd party EIA for Polavaram Dam or same old joke ఆదివారం, మార్చి 20 2011 

Environment assessment is a joke, says Jairam; wants 3rd party EIA

Business Line, 19 March 2011

“The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) in the current form is a bit of a joke as it is self-assessment by the company. Instead, we will have a third party EIA,” Mr Jairam Ramesh, Minister for Environment and Forests, said.

Speaking to reporters at the CII-Green Business Centre, Mr Ramesh said, “I have been concerned about this. Supreme Court also expressed its concerns. We want a cumulative EIA.” (మరింత…)

Political career of cine stars- beginning of the end? శుక్రవారం, మార్చి 4 2011 

Whither Stardom In Politics?
Assessing Chiranjeevi’s Future

K Naresh Kumar, Power Politics, March 2011

Telugu megastar Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party with the Congress in Andhra Pradesh has raised questions about the shifting political patterns and trends in southern India. From Hyderabad to Chennai, the two cities where film stars could get into a political career whenever they wanted, at least till two decades ago, the doors are slowly being shut on the overarching political ambitions of superannuated superstars, argues K Naresh Kumar from Hyderabad.

In many ways, the rude reality check was just waiting to happen. Only that it was sooner than expected.

The early February 2011 merger of megastar Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party with the Congress in Andhra Pradesh, unconditionally at that, has once again raised important questions about the shifting political patterns and trends in southern India.

From Hyderabad to Chennai, the two cities where film stars could get into a political career whenever they wanted, at least till two decades ago, the doors are slowly being shut on the overarching political ambitions of superannuated superstars.

Earlier, in at least as far as a host of illustrious stars like M G Ramachandran, N T Rama Rao and the temperamental Jayalalitha were concerned, it only looked’ natural’ for them to move on to the political stage and keep serving the fans who had kept them at the numero uno slot for a long, long time. Not anymore.

It does mean, at least for the present, that a successful hero is not an automatic choice for the chief minister’s post. Chiranjeevi’s example is a stark reminder of this fact. In a region where reel merged seamlessly with the real, it no more seems to be an open and shut case. (మరింత…)

Free Vineel Krishna & Pabitra Majhi శనివారం, ఫిబ్ర 19 2011 

Collector’s kidnap: Orissa govt. contacts mediators

The Hindu, Malkangiri/Bhubaneswar, February 18, 2011

Asking Maoists to extend their two-day deadline, Orissa government on Friday said it has established contact with two mediators handpicked by the Naxals to negotiate the release of abducted Malkangiri District Collector R V Krishna and a junior engineer.

“They (Maoists) had given three names for negotiation.

We have established contact with Prof Someswar Rao and Prof Hargopal (both from Andhra Pradesh). They are willing to mediate in the matter,” Chief Secretary B K Patnaik told reporters in Bhubaneswar after a marathon meeting at the Chief Minister’s office here.

The two mediators have accepted the State government’s request to issue an appeal for extension of two-day deadline given by Naxals who kidnapped Mr. Krishna, a 30-year-old IAS officer, and the junior engineer Mr. Pabitra Majhi on Wednesday, the Chief Secretary said.

He said the State government has also contacted social activist Swami Agnivesh, who indicated that the Naxals were considering extending the time-frame of two days to meet their seven-point demands including halt to anti-Naxal joint operations, which has already been conceded, withdrawal of BSF, release of 700 tribal Naxals and scrapping of Polavaram water-sharing project with Andhra Pradesh. (మరింత…)

Navigators of Change: NGOs శనివారం, జన 29 2011 

OUTLOOK

POLICYMAKING: NGOS
Navigators Of Change

As government, corporates seek to engage with NGOs, they gain new significance
Lola Nayar

Brave NGO World?

• The Planning Commission is courting NGOs for policy inputs, views on how to make plans work
• NGOs and local activism forced govt to stall Vedanta, Posco plans
• NGO opposition to snacks being served in schools changed plans to scrap hot meals
• NGO have made the government rethink the Polavaram dam project
• Their criticism of the leakage of NREGA funds led to the creation of monitoring mechanisms
• NGOs have worked to enshrine education as a fundamental right
• Matters related to environment clearance—like GM foods, mining —now go through public debate, thanks to NGOs.
• NGOs played a crucial role in strengthening the nuclear liability bill, securing rights for gays

The jholawala is the latest lobbyist in town. He or she has top policymakers on speed-dial, is now feted by the media and sought out by companies eager to promote ‘India Inclusive’. It’s a remarkable, even heady, transformation. For long derided as irrelevant trouble-making activists largely focused on rural India, NGOs (registered arms of what is loosely called civil society) are basking in the warm embrace of recognition and relevance.

As recent events have shown, NGOs have played important roles in the big debates of the day. With a little help from fellow travellers—and occasionally backed by political support—they have been able to swing policy decisions in the citizen’s interest, be it stalling plans for Bt brinjal cultivation, or questioning the Polavaram dam project or bauxite mining in the Niyamgiri hills. The outcome has often hit the grand plans of corporate giants like Posco, Vedanta and Tatas. More lasting perhaps will be the civil society’s contribution in ushering in a range of rights regimes—information, education or livelihood, and soon, the right to food.

Given the apparently in-built adversarial relationship between NGOs, governments and companies, it’s a controversial thesis to put out. For every voice that celebrates the new power behind NGOs, an equal number urges caution and stresses that the ground realities haven’t changed. Is it right then to see NGOs as a necessary, important power centre? Are they really becoming indispensable in matters of governance, delivery of services or voicing the needs of the marginalised? Or is it just a politically correct trend that covers a few, high-profile outfits, leaving the vast majority just where it always was?

Experts differ in their assessment of the role and relevance of ngos. “Over the last decade things have changed. We are being sought for policy inputs. The demand is also coming from below—the community, the beneficiaries, the vulnerable sections—who know their needs,” says Farida Lambay of Pratham, an important NGO in the education space. With a growing grip on best practices, Lambay feels civil society is filling the space a pole that can represent the people’s concerns and aspirations. (మరింత…)

AP’s disastrous irrigation schemes slow down మంగళవారం, నవం 3 2009 

Jalayagnam comes to a virtual halt

NM Satheesh  Indian Express 3 Nov 2009

HYDERABAD: Jalayagnam, the favourite scheme of former chief minister the late YS Rajasekhara Reddy, seems to have slided down in the list of priorities of the present government.

Leave alone the progress of the programme at the field level, even a review of it by the government has become rare in the last two months.

According to sources in the irrigation department, funding of the programme has come to a halt and the pending bills are piling up with the government.

It seems that the government is not going to spend the allocated budget Rs 18,000 crore in this financial year. The government has not released even Rs 1,000 crore for the projects in the last two months. It was decided by the regime of Rajasekhara Reddy that the government should release about Rs 1,400 crore every month to keep the projects going.

According to officials, the government has already halted payment of Rs 4,000 crore which was spent by the contractors and the construction of projects like Pulichintala which has been completed to an extent of 70 per cent is not progressing as per the schedule.

Irrigation officials say that the time table fixed by the government for the completion of 82 major and medium irrigation projects under Jalayagnam will go awry.

The YSR government had contemplated Jalayagnam to bring about one crore acres of land under irrigation facility. Under the scheme 82 projects are to be constructed at a cost of Rs 1.50 lakh crore. (మరింత…)

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