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ST Commission for alternative livelihood for project oustees

ST Commission for alternative livelihood for project oustees
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National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) presented a special report on ``Indira Sagar Polavaram Project affected Tribal people to President Ram...

New Delhi: National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) presented a special report on ``Indira Sagar Polavaram Project affected Tribal people to President Ram Nath Kovind on Tuesday pointing out several glaring lapses and suggesting remedial measures in rehabilitating the displaced tribals.

Dr Nand Kumar Sai, Chairperson, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST), along with Vice-Chairperson Anusuiya Uikey and members of the Commission on Tuesday called on the President Ram Nath Kovind and presented the report. Raghav Chandra, Secretary in the Commission was also present on the occasion.

The report and recommendations are under Article 338A(5)(e) of the Constitution. The Commission, while interacting with affected Scheduled Tribe people, was informed that in many cases, the alternative land given to them in lieu of the acquired land is not cultivable.

Either it is rocky terrain or there is no water. The Commission, therefore, recommends that the state government should provide only land fit for agriculture to PDFs/PFs within the command area of Polavaram Irrigation Project with proper irrigation facilities.

The Commission noted that many ST people without land holdings were also shifted. They were hitherto depending on minor forest produces for their livelihood. Now that they are shifted, they are deprived of their livelihood. The State Government needs to take care of them by providing alternative means of livelihood.

When the Commission visited Iddikulakotta village, complaints were received stating that many newly constructed houses were destroyed due to flash floods and so far the destroyed houses have not been re-built. The Commission recommended that the destroyed houses should be re-built immediately to mitigate the sufferings of ST people.

The compensation packages in respect of Polavaram Irrigation project need to be revised on suo-moto basis by the Government of Andhra Pradesh keeping in view the observations and modalities suggested by the Supreme Court of India in Special Leave Petition (SLP) NO.6933 of 2007 in the case of Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd Versus Mathias Oram and others.

The Commission feels that a similar scheme as per the above Supreme Court order will help the Scheduled Tribe people affected by Polavaram Irrigation Project as their right to fair compensation. While awarding compensation in respect of tribal people, “land for land” policy should be followed to the maximum extent.

In this regard, the ceiling of 2.5. acres of land should be waived in case of ST people, and they should be provided equal or at least 2.5 acres of land within the Command Area of the Polavaram Irrigation Project.

In the resettlement colonies, focus/emphasis needs to be given for creation of social infrastructure like setting up of Colleges, University, Stadiums, Medical College on the pattern of AIIMs, Art and Music academies/centers, etc. in addition to their entitlement. The State Government should make adequate provision of land for creation of such infrastructure facilities through outright purchase, if necessary.

The State Government should consider that the entire rehabilitation and resettlement work is undertaken through R&R Commissioner as single point responsibility as well as accountability for R&R, while the actual implementation can be undertaken by other line departments/agencies.

The State Government must ensure that R&R work is completed and compensation paid to the project affected as well as project displaced families at least four months prior to submergence or commissioning of the project or their displacement, whichever is earlier.

The State Government should consider developing an industrial estate/hub adjoining the resettlement area to provide employment and economic opportunities to the displaced families. Both the State Government as well as the Central Government should consider declaring this industrial estate as tax free with a tax holiday for 10 years.

There should be a condition that only the displaced people from the Polavaram Irrigation Project will be given employment for non-managerial jobs in this industrial estate.

The Commission apprehended that once the dam project is physically completed and affected people are shifted to new places, the concerned R&R officials will be transferred to new responsibilities and it is likely that the people rehabilitated will be left to their destiny and will have to fend to themselves without any supporting institutional mechanism.

Commission, therefore, strongly recommends that there should be a dedicated team of R&R officials to be stationed in rehabilitation area to oversee the developmental activities and other welfare measures for a period of at least 5 years from completion of the project.

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