Polavaram: Amenities first, displacement next, rules AP high court

98,818 families of Polavaram project-affected to be displaced, while the rehabilitation and resettlement centres have proper amenities

Vijayawada: The 98,818 families living in 371 habitations in the East and West Godavari districts will be displaced by the Polavaram project. Problem is also that some of the rehabilitation and resettlement centres being readied for them do not have proper amenities, the AP High Court has been told.

A PIL said some 55 per cent of the total 1,88,012 project-affected people belong to scheduled tribes, 15 per cent scheduled castes, 17.5 per cent backward classes and the rest are from the other categories. While they are forced to abandon their homes and hearths, there is no guarantee yet they will get due entitlements or even part payments. “This is causing them serious agony and trauma.”

Nearly 112 habitations would be displaced in the first phase covering a 41.15 meters plus contour while the remaining 259 habitations identified as submerging habitations over a 45.72 plus meters contour would be moved out in a phased manner.

Taking note, the high court principal bench headed by Chief Justice Arup Kumar Goswami has directed the state government not to go ahead with the displacement of these people unless proper amenities as per law were provided at the rehab colonies. When government pleader C Sumon tried to convince the court about this with an oral submission, the court asked him to submit it in writing.

The tribals, through the PIL, alleged that they were being forced to move to the rehabilitation colonies even as these do not have bare minimum facilities. They said that at Devipatnam mandal, there was no grave yard attached to the rehabilitation colony. The tribals had to beg the local tehsildar to provide them a place to bury the dead, the PIL said.

The tribals also alleged that the authorities were demolishing their houses in several villages and were even warned against taking up any cultivation.

The project-affected people from Gubhalampalem complained that there were no facilities like drinking water, toilets, roads, drains, streetlights at the rehabilitation colonies given to them at Kumbhalampalem of Devipatnam mandal. So was the case with the affected people from Yenugulagudem who were sent to the rehabilitation colonies in Indukuru of Devipatnam mandal.

The affected people from Thustivarigudem said water pipes were not laid for supply of water, and there were no drains, no graveyard, no school, no temple and no community hall. The houses remained in a half-built state.

It was a Rampachodavaram-based NGO Sakti (Search for action and knowledge of tribal initiative) that moved the AP high court, seeking its intervention, saying the authorities have not settled the forest rights of the project-affected people in Godavari districts now living in habitations located up to the 41.15 meter plus contour and also below the 45.72 meters plus contour, and left the rehabilitation process incomplete.

The NGO’s director Dr P. Sivaramakrishna said this was illegal and unconstitutional as the authorities started fixing dam gates and taking up other works which might result in an impounding of water. This would seriously affect the people. The petitioner wanted the court to issue an order against taking up any construction activity for the Polavaram project that could lead to impounding of water, as this would resulting in displacement of people in 371 villages/habitations.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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