ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
-A A +A

Polavaram Project

Violation of Constitutional Safeguards of Adivasis

M Bharath Bhushan and Palla Trinadh Rao (ptrinadharao@sify.com) are convenors of Adivasi Solidarity Forum and             E.Revathi teaches at the Centre for Economic and Social Studies, University of Hyderabad. 

This is an appeal to withdraw amendments to the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill to divide the tribal region by transferring scheduled villages from Khammam district to Andhra Pradesh. 

OPEN  LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA

To,

Honorable President of India,

Rashtrapati Bhavan,

New Delhi - 110004

Sub: Appeal To Withdraw Amendments to Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill to Divide the Tribal Region by Transferring Scheduled Villages from Khammam District to Andhra Pradesh

This is to bring to your attention our strong concern about the violation of Constitutional Safeguards of Adivasis due to the Polavaram Project and proposed amendments to the AP Reorganisation Bill.

One of the 32 amendments the Union Cabinet proposes to introduce to the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill in the Parliament next week is the transfer of the villages in Khammam district which would be submerged on account of the Polavaram project to Andhra Pradesh state. The amendment seeks to transfer all the villages of the mandals of Kukunoor, Veleirpadu, Burgampadu, Chintoor, Kunavaram, and Vararamachandrapuram to the new state of Andhra Pradesh. All villages of Bhadrachalam mandal except revenue village of Bhadrachalam comprising temple of Lord Rama also are proposed to be transferred to the state of AP.

We appeal to withdraw the hasty moves of according national status to the controversial Polavaram dam and transferring the villages from scheduled area of Khammam to AP which is in gross violation of several laws of the land making adivasi people victims of cultural genocide. More than three lakh people belonging to Koya, Konda Reddy (ST), scheduled caste and other communities dependent on land and forest are going to be affected by the project. A great human tragedy and environmental disaster in the Eastern Ghats should be avoided.

The cabinet decision on AP Reorganisation Bill with regard to Polavaram project and the proposed amendments to it are arbitrary and in violation of Article 244 that provides mandatory process for administration and control of the Scheduled Areas in accordance with the Fifth Schedule which require consultation and approval of the Tribal Advisory Council in the State.

The Polavaram project is in violation of The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, which provides for “land for land” in command area for the affected people under irrigation projects and protection to ensure that “all benefits, including the reservation benefits available to the Scheduled Tribes and the Scheduled Castes in the affected area shall continue in the resettlement area”. It is also mandatory for obtaining prior consent of concerned Gram Sabha or the Panchayats in the Scheduled Area under Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act (PESA) 1996.

We appeal to reject the proposed amendment due to the following reasons:

·  The Koya tribal community inhabiting inter-state borders of AP, Chhattisgarh and Odisha, which is already affected by violence and witness to large scale internally displaced populations from Dantewada (Chhattisgarh) to neighbouring Khammam district in AP, is faced with demographic and political pressures affecting peace and harmony of the region.

·  Large scale displacement in this very tribal region, submerging 276 villages in AP alone as per official figures, poses serious threat to the ethnic, linguistic and cultural identity of the Koya tribe. Displacement of the scheduled tribes under Polavaram dam is a violation of human rights and is without consent and consultation of the tribal population.

·  The proposed amendment to the AP Reorganisation Bill to transfer villages belonging to seven mandals in scheduled area of Khammam to the new state of AP lacks consent of the Tribal Advisory Council. Historically the scheduled area of Khammam district has been part of the state of Hyderabad and Koya identity is likely to be disturbed if they are divided into two states.

·  We also draw your attention to the fact that Polavaram dam is highly controversial with several cases pending in the Supreme Court of India owing to objections from neighbouring states like Chhattisgarh and Odisha and also environmental and adivasi groups.

·  The Polavaram project is also notorious for the allegations of corruption, phenomenal cost escalations and irregularities highlighted by sections of ruling and opposition parties as well. The tenders for dam head works have been cancelled time and again due to orders of the High Court. The proposed amendment for transferring tribal villages from Khammam district to Andhra Pradesh championed by the contractor-politicians of the very Polavaram dam indicates the pressures and vested interest of the move.

·  Polavaram project is also in violation of the National Tribal Policy which states that “any project which displaces more than 50,000 tribal people should not be taken up”. 

·  Polavaram Project lacks the mandatory approvals including - 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 required even in the case of construction of dykes and protection bunds; Approval of Forest Conservation Act for submergence areas in Odisha and Chhattisgarh states (dykes etc including); Techno-Economic clearance from the Central Water  Commission (CWC); CWC approval for dam design and operation schedule; Planning Commission’s approval for revised costs.

We submit that proposed amendment to divide the tribal region without consent of the affected people of the Scheduled Area by transfer of seven mandals of Scheduled Area in Khammam to the state of Andhra Pradesh as a precondition to Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation is unethical and is a gross violation of rights of the most vulnerable people, the Adivasis.

We appeal to the Government of India not to take any decision effecting transfer of villages of the Scheduled Area in Khammam district to the state of Andhra Pradesh as the tribal people are apprehensive that such transfer is being hastily pushed only to allow likely violation of their rights under the Polavaram project in the new state. 

Comments

(-) Hide

EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

Back to Top