Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy on Wednesday, 28 December, made a passionate appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to immediately release ₹10,485.38 crore to be utilised at the Polavaram project.
Jagan asked the prime minister to release the funds for the dam, being built on river Godavari, on an ad-hoc basis.
He explained that the funds were for the relief and rehabilitation (R&R) and other works on the prestigious Polavaram multi-purpose project, with the dam height now at 41.15 metres.
According to the original plan, the dam height was to be 45.72 metres.
The state Government has plans to complete the R&R of the project to the height of 41.5 meters, where 120 TMC of water can be stored and full capacity of storage will be achieved at 45.72 meters in a phased manner within three years.
Jagan on Wednesday met Modi at 7 Lok Kalyan Marg in New Delhi. Among the many other issues related to Andhra Pradesh that came up for discussion in the 50-minute meeting, Polavaram took centre stage.
Polavaram Project: Why do Andhra, Telangana politicians clash over it?
Obstacles in Polavaram
The YS Jagan Mohan Reddy government has been racing against the time to build the multipurpose Polavaram project, which is expected to be the lifeline of Andhra Pradesh.
Delays in reimbursement from the Centre on the cost incurred by the Andhra Pradesh government and a paucity of funds due to several reasons, including a drop in revenues due to the pandemic-triggered economic slowdown, haven’t helped.
At this juncture, with the Assembly elections only 15 months away, Jagan has requested ₹10,485.38 crore from the Centre on an ad hoc basis to complete the project.
Once completed, the Polavaram project can irrigate 7.2 lakh acres across the coastal region, generate 1,000 MW of power, and supply drinking water to 28.5 lakh people, including residents of the proposed executive capital of Visakhapatnam.
Polavaram was one of the important promises and poll planks during the 2019 elections.
Jagan, on an earlier occasion, said that the Polavaram dam would be utilised initially till 41.15 metres and compensation would be paid before in the Alluri Sitarama Raju district.
By the time the dam is filled with water, the government would ensure that the compensation would be fully paid to every family, he said.
“Almost all the works are completed at the level of 41.15 metres of dam height. Apart from little pending works, a few thousand families downstream are to be rehabilitated and land also has to be acquired, for which the government needs funds,” a government source in the Polavaram project monitoring team told South First.
Once the land is acquired, compensation paid, project affected families are moved, water can be stored at 41.15 meters and released, ” added the source.
According to the protocols of the Central Water Commission for ensuring dam stability and security, only 33 percent of the water must be stored in the first year. This would go up to 50 percent in the second year, and 100 percent in the third year.
Related: Rahul Gandhi pledges support to Polavaram oustees
What Jagan asked for
The chief minister also brought to the notice Modi that apart from not reimbursing the ₹2,937.92 crore spent by the state government on the project from its own revenues so far, the Centre has also wrongly chosen to treat the drinking water supply system separately from the project.
He complained to the prime minister that such a decision had not been taken regarding any other irrigation project that had national status.
As part of the state bifurcation deal, the Centre accorded national-project status to Polavaram, with the assurance of 100-percent Central funding.
He also requested the prime minister to do away with the policy of treating the project cost component-wise, as it was escalating the total project cost and causing delays and difficulties in reimbursement.
Jagan said that the Centre had not taken a final decision on the estimated expenditure of Polavaram despite the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) finalising the total project cost as ₹55,548 crore.
Since the last approval of investment clearance for the project was done at the 2010-11 price level, the Polavaram Project Authority (PPA) had asked the Andhra Pradesh government to submit a realistic revised cost estimate for the completion of the project.
Accordingly, the state submitted the second Revised Cost Estimate (RCE) for ₹57,297.42 crores at the 2017-18 price level.
Andhra Pradesh cited changes in the time overrun, changes in design, price escalation, and R&R as per the new Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013 as the reasons for the increase in the cost.
Subsequently, the TAC of the Ministry of Jal Shakti accepted the RCE proposal with revised quantities.
The estimate was scrutinised by the Revised Cost Committee (RCC) of the Central Water Commission and recommended to the Ministry of Jal Shakti for approval.
However, the Centre is yet to approve the revised estimates.
Incidentally, of the total revised cost estimate of the Polavaram project — aside from the R&R part — is estimated to be around ₹33,000 crore to compensate around 1 lakh oustees, for which the Centre has been noncommittal.
Jagan listed out a few other demands of the state and also requested the prime minister to resolve several issues that are pending for the last eight years — since the bifurcation.
He explained that despite the special committee headed by the Union Finance Secretary holding several meetings, discussing the unsolved bifurcation issues, and giving related assurances, no progress was made on these key issues.
He told the prime minister that a huge amount of ₹32,625.25 crore — including resource funding of ₹18,330.45 crore for the fiscal 2014-15 and pension arrears payable to Andhra Pradesh — was pending, and appealed for it to be expedited.
Jagan explained that the Union Finance Ministry had been imposing a plethora of restrictions on the Andhra Pradesh government on its permitted borrowings while adjusting the loans taken by the previous TDP regime, which had borrowed beyond the limits.
He made it clear that the state would suffer a lot financially if the restrictions continue unabated, especially at a time when the country was set to fight a new subvariant virus causing the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Andhra Pradesh chief minister also requested Modi to take immediate steps to ensure that the Telangana Government paid its outstanding dues of ₹6,886 crore from the TS Discoms immediately to AP GENCO, which is in dire straits.
He also sought the allotment of 77, 000 tonnes of ration rice to the state, out of the 3 lakh tones granted by the Centre every month.
He further asked the prime minister to grant 14 more medical colleges to the state as there are only 12 medical colleges now to cater to the medical education sector in the state.
Andhra Pradesh now has 26 districts after reorganisation, with each district having a population of 18 lakhs.
Jagan also appealed to the prime minister to allot mines to meet the iron-ore requirement of the steel plant being built at Kadapa and extend all cooperation to the proposed 76.9-km Metro Rail Project in Visakhapatnam, besides fulfilling the promise of granting special status to the state, as per assurances given in Parliament.