AP to drive a hard bargain on Polavaram

AP to drive a hard bargain on Polavaram
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The Telugu Desam government is preparing to drive a hard bargain with Union Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari for liberal release of funds for Polavaram when he visits the project along with Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu on Wednesday

Amaravati: The Telugu Desam government is preparing to drive a hard bargain with Union Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari for liberal release of funds for Polavaram when he visits the project along with Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu on Wednesday.

The Chief Minister is expected to explain to Gadkari how important the project is for the state and is likely to make no secret of his displeasure over the release of funds in fits and starts which is hampering the progress of the project. To begin with, the state government is preparing to seek release of Rs 10,000 crore immediately.

Naidu will explain to Gadkari the progress of the project when both the leaders visit the Polavaram project site. Telugu Desam leaders are wondering how Gadkari will react to the state’s presentation to him on funds as it is the first time he is visiting the project after the TDP stepped out of the NDA in March and started a full throttle attack on the BJP for betraying state’s interests by denying special category status and going back on the commitments made in the AP State Reorganisation Act, 2014.

In its recent communication to the Centre, the state government explained that it had to reimburse at least Rs 1,935.41 crore for the expenditure incurred on it. In fact, the state government had argued that it had spent Rs 13,798.54 crore on the project till May 2018. Of this, the state government has incurred Rs 8,662 crore expenditure after declaring Polavaram as a National Project at the time of the division of the state.

The Central government released Rs 6,727.26 crore to the state government for the project till date. The Centre is yet to release the remainder.
The state government is also expected to bring to the notice of Gadkari that it is the responsibility of the Centre to pick up the entire bill for rehabilitation and resettlement cost of the oustees of the project, in accordance with the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013.

What has hurt the states government is that in its affidavit the Centre had filed with the Supreme Court, it had stated that it would meet only the irrigation component and the remaining expenditure should be borne by the state which includes the crucial resettlement and rehabilitation part which alone would cost about Rs 33,000 crore.

In fact, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a promise in the Rajya Sabha during the debate on the AP Reorganisation Act that the Central government would bear full expenditure, including the R and R package.

When contacted, AP Water Resources Minister D Umamaheswara Rao said the R and R package itself has come to about Rs 33,000 crore and that the state government would make an appeal to Gadkari to pick up the entire bill. As regards bills for reimbursement of the expenditure incurred on the project are concerned, he said they had been sent to the Polavaram Development Authority for clearance.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests has issued fresh orders keeping in abeyance the stay order of works of the Polavaram project following a request from the Ministry of Water Resources.

The order signed by the Director of the Ministry of Environment here on Tuesday said the stay order would be in force for another year to allow Polavaram project works to be completed.

The Ministry has been keeping the orders in abeyance continuously for the benefit of the project in the last three years. This is the fourth consecutive year of extension permission for the works.

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