Wednesday, March 19, 2014

New committee formed by tribals’ organisations to thwart project

Anindita Chowdhury
Hyderabad, 17 March
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi may be trying to reach out to the tribal population across the country but his government’s commitment to build Polavaram dam has antagonised the Konda Reddi tribe settled in the submergence zone of the proposed project in Khammam district.
 A new committee has been formed recently by the various tribal organisations and the people’s group to launch fresh agitation against the Polavaram project, aimed at providing irrigation to areas in Seemandhra but the submergence zone lies in Telangana that has prompted the Centre to propose an Ordinance to transfer seven mandals in Khammam to the residue state for smooth rehabilitation. 
The Centre in order to pacify the people of coastal Andhra and Rayalseema post bifurcation promised the Rs 20,000 crore Polavaram multipurpose project at the cost of this vulnerable tribe.
 Mr Murla Ramesh Reddy of the Adivasi Konda Reddi Sangham pointed out that since neither the Konda Reddis nor any other tribal population have any pattas or title deeds they will not benefit from the rehabilitation package under the new land acquisition policy. 
The Konda Reddi tribe is spread sparsely in Chinturu, VR Pura, Kunavaram, Veleru Padu hills and Ashvraopeta and Dammapeta plains of Khammam district.
The new committee has threatened to launch serious agitation against the move to displace the Kondareddi tribe which is “now rated as second in terms of facing risk of extinction”. 
According to Mr Reddy there would be certain and total disappearance of the tribe in case of large-scale inundation that would occur due to the construction of Polavaram Dam.  He warned that the tribal population settled in the uphill area in the thick of forests, practising Podu cultivation would henceforth be the subject of museums and archaeological studies once Polavaram gets built. The dam which is expected to submerge 276 villages in Andhra Pradesh alone will also impact the tribal population in Chhattisgarh and Odisha.
They are not even ready to accept a change in the design which has been proposed by engineers who fear that present design would lead to an environmental disaster. Three barrages would replace the huge dam in the alternative design, described as unsuitable by the Centre. 
“Whatever happens, the Konda Reddis will be the first ones to be affected by the Polavaram Dam, even if there is a change in design,” said Mr Murla Ramesh Reddy. 
He says the proposed dam will only be beneficial to the contractors and the multinationals who will gain entry in tribal areas. The claim that the dam irrigating 6 lakh acres is a myth because the areas are already under irrigation, it was added.
 Some rights group argue that transferring of the mandals without the nod of Gram Sabhas is un-Constitutional. 
“The tribal rights came into being in the Pre-Constitution era during Nizam’s rule following tribal uprisings which were later safeguarded through certain Constitutional clauses. The transfer of the mandals to the residue state is not within the welfare of tribals because submergence cannot benefit a tribal. 
Hence we can say Polavaram goes against the spirit of the Constitution,” says M Sridhar, a Constitutional expert.

The Statesamn

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