Polavaram Dam- devastation in the making నవంబర్ 18, 2008Posted by M Bharath Bhushan in Koya, livelihoods, Polavaram, Telangana.
The last crop
Compensation fails to rehabilitate Polavaram’s displaced
The day Boragam Rama Rao saw the fresh stocks of his corn crop crushed by large excavators and crane tractors, he knew he had made that transition—from tribal farmer to tribal ‘beneficiary’. At least until he starts reconstructing his life all over again: with Rs 1.2 lakh and a piece of land as yet uncultivable. Rama Rao is the sarpanch of the Mamidigundi panchayat in Andhra Pradesh’s West Godavari district. He has lost nearly a hectare (ha) of land to Indira Sagar Polavaram dam project across the river Godavari.
According to Andhra Pradesh government’s figures, the project will displace 276 villages in Khammam and East and West Godavari districts of the state.
And if the 2001 census is any indicator, 2,37,000 people face displacement—more than 50 per cent of them adivasis.
“Officials told us last year that it would take us eight to 10 years for the barrage dam to come up and we would not be evacuated until waters came in. They assured us that we could continue to farm our lands in Mamidigundi and also enjoy the relief and rehabilitation package,” Rama Rao said. This year, his village was among the first villages to accept the relief and rehabilitation package.
People regret the deal now. “The government acquired more than 80 ha from our village. We were given barely 65 ha as compensation at the relief and rehabilitation colony in Gunjavaram,” Rama Rao lamented. “Back at Mamidigundi, all my crops were rain-fed. I got 40 bags of paddy per acre as the first and 30 to 40 bags of corn for the second crop. The authorities have not compensated me for the damage to my standing crops because they say I have taken the relief and rehabilitation package. They placed orders of arrest (on charges of criminal trespass on government land) when we went to harvest the last crop. At least they could have allowed us to enjoy that last yield from our land,” he continued.
At the relief and rehabilitation colony at Gunjavaram, Boragam Buchiraju was supervising the construction of a new home. He was in a rush to complete the job; he had to start preparing the fields (part of the compensation package) a few kilometers away.
Buchiraju’s father, Kamaraju, is bit of an exception. No other Mamidigundi resident has begun constructing a home at Gunjavaram. Many have already used up the compensation money in bribing officials, paying back earlier loans and in purchasing immediate necessities. Even Kamaraju has spent Rs 80,000 of the Rs 1.2 lakh given for house construction in just putting up a basement.
With the price of bricks, sand, iron and cement hitting the roof in the last few months, many wonder if they will reach that point of laying the foundation.
Kamaraju said to begin agricultural activities afresh on the new lands they would need to invest a minimum of Rs 15,000; then there is the cost of seeds, fertilizers and labour. Even the daily bus or shared autorickshaw trips between the relief and rehabilitation land in Gunjavaram and Mamidigundi cost at least Rs 40 a day. “We would have to spend double of what we spent on our fields in Mamidigundi,” Rama Rao said. “Fields in Gunjavaram do not have Mamidigundi’s water retention capacity, he explained and added that the farmers will have to pay three times the labour cost to make the land cultivable.
But Kamaraju and Rama Rao are still somewhat fortunate. Consider the plight of Boragam Pandamma, a landless labourer. “They gave my family Rs 1.7 lakh. Would it last till we start building the house there? The labour costs of just a verandah and a room is around Rs 2 lakh. Cement and bricks are as dear as gold. When we question the officials, they ask us to manage within that amount.”
Source: Down to Earth, 18 November 2008