A national level convention against Polavaram was held on 24th Nov 2016 at the Conference Hall of the Tribal Museum in Odisha’s Koraput town. Over 170 delegates from different states affected by this mega project along with leaders of different anti-displacement movements of Odisha attended the convention. The convention unanimously demanded to stop pro-corporate Polavaram project and urged the people to intensify the people’s struggle against it.
Inaugurating the convention, eminent academician of Odisha Prof. Bijaya Bahidar said that it is a historical event which has brought all the democratic, progressive and struggling activists of different states in one platform to protest against this so called national project. He said both the AP and Central Govt. are trying to complete this project at the earliest possible time only to serve the interest of different industrial houses based on the coastal corridor by pushing lakhs of people mainly tribals into displacement. In their desperation to carry out this anti-people project at any cost they even violated the PESA Act and Forest Right Act, 2006. Though hundreds of villages of Odisha and Chhattisgarh are going to be submerged by this project but no Gramsabhas were conducted prior to its construction and in AP also Gramsabha was done only in pen and paper.
In the post-1947 India, large scale displacement has taken place due to the construction of large dams, industries and mines. These people mainly tribals and dalits were forced to sacrifice in the name of national interest and development. This process has accelerated since last decades after the globalization policies adapted by ruling classes. To help the corporate houses and to ensure minimum input and maximum benefits for their products respective Govts. both in centre and states have handed over large tracts of agricultural land, water, electricity and raw materials like different minerals at the cheapest possible rate. Though the Govts have been doing this in the name of development but in reality these projects are meant to serve the corporate loot and plunder of our resources. In Polavaram also though the Govt has been propagating that the project is meant to provide water for irrigation and drinking water but actually it is designed to cater the rising need of water for the industries set up in the Vizag –Chennai costal corridor.
The history of displacement in India is a very pathetic one. Development became a curse for crores of common people in India majority of whom are tribals. Till today thousands and thousands of villages were submerged for this development. Crores of people have lost their resources like land, forest, water, minerals and their entire existing livelihood. Their socio-economic and cultural habitat is vanished due to displacement. They were deprived of their old life without getting a better one. Even these displaced people were never welcomed at the new places they are allotted. They are treated as refugees over there. The middle persons taken away a big share of whatever compensation they are paid. At the end nothing remains for the poor and displaced people and their future generations. Use of force has been a normal practice for this so called democratic state to safe guard the interest of the capitalists. This type of offensive of the capitalist imperialist class to snatch away the resources from the people has led to a kind of resource conflict in many countries including India. It enables the capitalists to enjoy the fruits of development and compels the common people to sacrifice in the name of development. Explaining the mindset of a person to be displaced he quoted an example. During the Kashipur movement against bauxite mining, a tribal lady told me, ‘here my ancestors lived and my future generation will also live. We get our livelihood from the land, forest and hills. Would the Govt ensure a bright future for me and my future generations before uprooting us for the sake of company? So in all places people on their own never agreed for displacement and will never agree to leave their land.
He said that the conflict over displacement is a part of class struggle. Capitalist armed with state apparatus snatch away the means of production i.e. land and forest forcefully from the poor people. The capitalist has the control over all the resources while the common people have nothing in their possession. Hence this democracy is the rule of the wealth not rule of people. He hoped this historic convention will play a very important role in uniting all the forces who are opposing this disaster in the name of Polavaram. This movement should be strengthened and we should make it a model for all such movements spread across the country. He called upon the participants of the convention to build an active and united movement to pressurize the Govt. to abandon this project immediately. If the Govt is really interested to the development of these people than instead of displacing them from their habitat they should be developed staying in their own land. For a real and holistic development of tribals Govt should provide all the basic necessities like education, health services, electricity, transport, employment etc. Of course the real pro people development we aspire for can be achieved only when workers and peasants come to the power.
The chief speaker of the programme and AIKMS national president Comrade V. Venkataramaiah said that Polavaram project was started actually by the former CM of AP, YSR in the year 2004. If this project on Godavari will be constructed lakhs of people of whom 60% tribals will be displaced. It is not the common people but mainly ruling party politicians, contractors and corporate houses will be the biggest beneficiaries of this project. The Govt is carrying out false propaganda in the name of Polavaram. As claimed by the Govt this project is not necessary as 72% of land proposed to irrigate by Polavaram is already irrigated by different projects in the last three decades. Even all most all retired engineers of the irrigation department have adverse opinion about this project. Due to our struggle only the Govt has increased the compensation amount from 1.5 lakh per acre to 10.5 lakh today. Even the compensation amount for agricultural labours has increased from 50 thousands to 5 lakh. Though the Govt of Odisha and Chhatishgarh have filed cases in the Supreme Court, the judiciary too is delaying the process. Neither they gave a stay order or nor finalizing the case. The role of media in this struggle also biased. Hence this convention is a good beginning to carry forward the struggle of displaced people to restore their right over land, forest and livelihood. We have seen how people through struggle only get back their land in Singur and Nandigram. Here also peoples struggle can stop Polavaram.
President of Lok Shakti Abhijan, Prafulla Samantara in his speech congratulated the move to organize this programme and stressed the need for a united struggle of all the forces involved in this issue.
Another guest of the programme and retired Chief Engineer (Irrigation) Mr. Nrusinhananda Panigrahi said that poor people particularly the tribals of undivided Koraput district have been the victims of many projects. From Balimela, Machhakund, Kolab even Dandakaranya in all the projects displaced tribals were not rehabilated. Many of them even displaced twice and thrice for different projects. Polavaram will cause huge displacement and even many exparts like K.L.Rao has warned about the danger in constructing the project in the past. He hoped that this convention will give rise to a powerfull mobilization of the people which can ultimately force the Govt to stop this anti people project. Leaders from the affected area Comrade Kachela Ranga Reddy, Tolem Ramesh (Chintoor), K. Shravan Kumar (Girijana Prajala Sangham, East Godavari) and Comrade S. K. Goush explained the situation in the affected area and called the participants to intensify the struggle against Polavaram. Leaders of Niyamagiri Surakshya Samiti (Rayagada – Kalahandi) , Mali Parvat Surakshya Samiti (Koraput), Kolab Basachyuta Mancha (Koraput), Deomali Surakshya Samiti (Patangi, Koraput), Nandin nala Surakshya Mancha (Gajapati) also participated and expressed solidarity for anti Polavaram movement. A three membered presidium compraising Comrade Bhalachandra, Comrade K. Ranga Reddy and tribal leader from Malkanagiri, Prabhakar Hantal, conducted the convention. Resolutions urging the Govt. to stop the anti people and pro corporate Polavaram project was passed unanimously in the convention.
We, the representatives of the people to be displaced by the Polavarum project and leaders of the various anti-displacement movements, have assembled today on November 24, 2016 at Koraput Tribal Museum Hall to express our strong opposition to Polavarum Project.
This project is in the service of foreign and domestic corporate. This project is a serious attack on the land, livelihood and habitat of the people, over half of them tribals, who would be submerged by the Project.
Polavarum project is primarily meant to supply water to industries in Vizag – Chennai Coastal Corridor which is to serve the interests of MNCs and their Indian corporate allies. Other objectives, irrigation, power generation and drinking water provision are secondary to this main objective i.e. water to Coastal Corridor which in turn is to exploit the mineral resources of the region and set up dangerous pollutant industries. It is not accidental that work on Polavarum project started in the year 2004 when Coastal Corridor was approved.
Polavarum project is an unmitigated disaster for the tribals and other inhabitants of the region to be submerged, for the environment and river ecology.
It brings only losses to the states of Telengana, Odisha and Chhattisgarh. By making it a national project in the AP State Reorganization Act, Central Govt. has dealt a blow not only to the rights of tribal people of the four states but also to the rights of the states of Telengana, Odisha and Chhattisgarh. Central Govt. later transferred the villages due for submergence in Telengana to Andhra Pradesh to crush the struggle of the tribals facing submergence.
Polavarum Project will displace nearly four lakh people from 276 villages in Andhra Pradesh Telengana, more than 130 villages from Padia, Korukunda, Kalimela and Matili blocks of Odisha and more than 40,000 thousand people from Chhattisgarh. Hundreds of acres of forest land to be lost due to Polavarum project. If the areas facing displacement due to the Coastal Corridor itself (in whose service Polavarum project is being built) are also taken into account, it is huge tracts of land. 44,000 hectares are being targeted for this Vizag-Chennai Corridor and also a staggering number of people are to be displaced.
In their eagerness to serve the corporate and attract FDI, Central Govt. has violated the law of the land. Provisions of the Forest Rights Act 2006 and PESA Act have been brazenly violated. Schedule V of the Constitution and National Tribal Policy are being trampled. Even without determining the rights under FRA, land from tribals is being snatched away and gram sabhas are given no say in determining use of their land. Moreover, AP State Govt. is spreading panic among the tribals that they should agree to be displaced otherwise they would get nothing as their rights under FRA are not yet determined and they have no legal titles over the land.
There is much propaganda about the irrigation benefits from this project. But that is neither its chief aim nor is the propaganda of benefit a fact. If we exclude the areas already irrigated (where declared aim is to stabilize the irrigation) and the areas that can be irrigated by Tedepalli and Pushkaram projects, only 80,937 acres land is left to be irrigated which is much less than the fertile land which will be lost in this project.
In fact we take the long term social and economic losses and benefits into account, Polavarum project is a disaster. Hence, this Convention demands that Polavarum project be scrapped and work on it be stopped forthwith.
This Convention calls upon the affected people to intensify their struggle to ensure that this anti-people project be scrapped and people’s lives, land & other means of livelihood and habitat not destroyed.
This Convention calls upon all sections of people to support this struggle and expresses confidence that people’s unity will defeat ruling classes’ designs and stop this Project.
There will be a co-ordination meeting comprising the leaders of all the states in December and mass campaign will be carried out in the affected area.