Polavaram project displaced families returning to their homes on Sunday from Gokavaram mandal as the government did not settle their R&R package. (By Arrangement)
Kakinada: The poor families displaced by the Polavaram Project in a few villages in the agency areas find themselves in dire straits as the rehabilitation programme has not been implemented for them so far. The villages are mainly Devipatnam, Thoyyeru and Pudipalli among others.
As officials fail to act and political leadership ignoring the homeless’ plight, the displaced inhabitants are returning to their villages from Sunday in view of the uncertainty about their future.
When Godavari was in spate, the residents of these villages swiftly left their villages in the hope they would be given alternative accommodation and other facilities. They took rented space for a temporary stay at Gokavaram and in the vicinity of the mandal.
Some of these residents wanted to go back to their villages after floodwaters receded but the police stood in the way. At the same time, the officials kept playing flute and did not take any matters forward in the past eight months vis-à-vis the setting up rehabilitation colonies for them.
The families are on an agitation and observing relay fast at Gokavaram for the past one month, seeking early completion of RR colonies and implementation of the RR packages. But, the officials couldn’t care less.
A week back, Devipatnam sarpanch Kunjam Rajamani gave an ultimatum to the government that they would return to their villages unless the officials kept the word on R&R package and constructed the R&R colonies.
From Sunday, both tribals and non-tribals started going back to their villages. "The people of these villages are not able to bear the rents of houses and they are obtaining loans at huge interest. They are not able to clear their debts and not able to buy even vegetables. They buy drinking water at Rs 10 per tin,’’ she said.
She said some of the victims were given a Rs 6 lakh compensation, but since the R&R colonies were not completed, the sanctioned money got lapsed. The NREGS works are also not being given to them.
The Polavaram project’s Devipatnam mandal rehabilitation committee member Gangadhar said the authorities left the victims in the lurch. The government has given pattas to 644 project-victims in Devipatnam mandal. More than 300 families should be given pattas, he said.
"The victims are borrowing money at interest rates of Rs 6 to Rs 7 per hundred for their livelihood. If they try to migrate to other places for work, officials would suddenly arrive and take note. Such migrant workers are threatened that their names may not be recorded for compensation. This is sheer injustice. Many families are not able to hold marriages for their girls in view of the present financial struggle they are caught in."
The tribal and non-tribal people are living in worse conditions due to the project-related displacement and the apathy of the government officials,’’ he said.
The political leadership is also not helping them. Officials gave pattas to some tribals in plain areas. If they want to mortgage land, nobody is willing to give them money. The officials agreed it was their mistake, but did not rectify it so far.
Adivasi Maha Sabha legal adviser Inapurapu Suryanarayana said the Polavaram project victims remained grossly neglected. "The attitude of the officials is highly objectionable and against law. The government should sort out their problems without further delay," he pleaded.