Rajya Sabha on Monday passed the contentious Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill that entails transfer of 205 villages spread across seven mandals in the newly formed State of Telangana to the residual state of Andhra Pradesh for the multi-purpose Polavaram irrigation project.
The Bill also contains provisions for increasing the height of the project. The proposed height of the Polavaram dam is 150 feet. According to experts, if it was reduced to 100 feet, only four villages will be submerged. Telangana had been protesting the Bill, saying the project will lead to displacement of tribals across the seven mandals. With the passage of the bill by Parliament, the geographical maps of Telangana and AP states will now undergo a slight change.
Speaking in the Rajya Sabha, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said interests of displaced villagers would be taken care of. “Socio-economic impact of the project has been taken into consideration. Andhra Pradesh government has assured Chhattisgarh and Odisha that there will be a protective embankment for as many villages as possible,” he said. However, despite the assurance of the minister, Biju Janata Dal MPs from Odisha walked out and refrained from voting. The Andhra Pradesh government was not ready to relent to the reduction in the dam’s height.
Instead, it was trying to raise the height to 154 feet to reduce the burden on projects on the Krishna river to extend water to Rayalaseema region through the Srisailam project. The bill, approved by Lok Sabha last week, was opposed by members of the House from Telangana and the States of Odisha and Chattisgarh on the plea that it would cause unwarranted displacement of 52 thousand scheduled caste families from the three States. Within days after taking reigns of office the Narendra Modi had recommend promulgation of an ordinance to ensure transfer of villages before the creation of the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh on June 2.
The measure was necessitated as the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, as approved by Parliament during the Manmohan Singh regime, did not include the provision on transfer of the villages as consensus on the subject emerged after the bill was crafted. Though the ordinance and the consequent bill was on the basis of a policy decision by the UPA government, in both houses of Parliament Congress members from Telangana voiced their opposition. In the course of the debate Congress member and former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh, who was one of the key ministers who oversaw creation of Telangana, got into heated exchanges from the members of his own party from the state of Telangana.