We have systems in place to predict natural disasters
We Have Systems In Place To Predict Natural Disasters, Interview of The Week With Marri Shashidhar Reddy.Marri Shashidhar Reddy is the vice-chairman...
Need to sort out issues on water-sharing before bifurcation
Marri Shashidhar Reddy is the vice-chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority with the rank of a Union Cabinet Minister. He is an astute politician and parliamentarian and an eloquent speaker. As vice-chairman of the NDMA, he has been responsible for formulating guidelines that would ensure prompt and effective response to cyclones in any part of India.
He has been very active on issues like regional development, focusing mainly on backward and remote areas of the country and has also launched a massive awareness campaign for utilization of the Godavari waters and development of Telangana.
He has mooted the idea of increasing the number of Assembly seats in the new Telangana state from 119 to 153. Before bifurcation there are issues to be sorted out as far as water sharing is concerned. Marri Shashidhar Reddy, in an exclusive interview to The Hans India, tells LATA JAIN.
Four times you won the elections. What is the success mantra? Being Channa Reddy’s son or your personal charisma?
Being the son of Channa Reddy would have probably helped me for the first time. However, when father was the Governor of Rajasthan in 1992 and I was fighting my by-elections, Illustrated Weekly wrote that I would win the elections because of my knowledge, simplicity and interest in people’s welfare.
I was elected four times to Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly and when I won elections in 1993 Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao praised me and said, na paruvu kapadinavu (you saved my prestige). People don’t care who the father is; after the first elections it is your performance, welfare measures undertaken for the people that help you. There are several children of prime ministers who could not win elections for a second time as they did not perform.
As vice-president of the NDMA do you feel we can handle a disaster like tsunami?
Tsunami is the continuous water wave series which is caused by a shift in a large volume of water, mostly in an ocean or a big lake. As far as tsunami to hit Indian coasts is concerned, it is essential that earthquake of a magnitude of more than seven should occur. The vulnerable zones where the tsunami can occur are Andamans and Sumatra in the Indian Ocean and Makran in the Arabian Sea. We have commissioned one of the best Tsunami Early Warning Systems in the Country.
As far as other measures are concerned, we are putting in place communication systems for last mile connectivity to disseminate the tsunami warning, States are also activating the emergency operation centres in the coastal districts day and night. The December 26, 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami was caused by an earthquake that is thought to have had the energy of 23,000 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs. Tsunami Watch (T+30 Minutes) contains information about the earthquake and a tsunami evaluation message indicating that a tsunami is expected.
Do we have a system to predict earthquakes in India?
Early warning networks are already operating in other countries where earthquakes are common. Some Russian scientists are working on a N8 algorithm. Based on the seismic zones, there are very few places in India where earthquakes may hit hard. Most of the southern states in India fall under Seismic Zone 3, where earthquakes would not create much damage. Compared to other Asian countries, India is safe as it is less prone to earthquakes.
The most vulnerable areas are along the Himalayan range from J&K to the North-east and Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Earthquake cannot be predicted and its impact comes within seconds. We are working on long-term measures and mitigation measures to respond to sudden shocks. To mitigate its impact, we have to make sure that all built environments are disaster resilient.
As convener to the national level task force on Naxal violence in 2004, what was your observation for the burgeoning of Naxalism?
India has a very large middle class based on the service sector. This middle class is slowly affected by the global recession as the demand for Indian software engineers and call centres are being squeezed. Naxalism in any area is the result of oppression and acute poverty. Though a large number has surrendered, a marginalised section continues to operate. The socio-economic structure has to change radically if we want to eliminate the Naxal menace.
Why do you want an increase in the number of Assembly seats in Telangana from 119 to 153?
If the Assembly has larger number of seats, the political instability can be avoided to a great extent, By increasing 34 Assembly seats, the 17 Lok Sabha seats will each have 9 Assembly segments. The total number of seats will go up to 153, plus one Nominated. Carving out the new state with the existing number of constituencies could be a threat to political stability.
After bifurcation Telangana will be a small state comprising 10 districts and 119 Assembly seats. In the emerging scenario, there will be a great onus on public representatives. Increasing the number of seats in the Telangana Assembly will go a long way in fulfilling the aspirations of the people. Setting up Legislative Council in the state of Telangana is also another recommendation to the GoM. We would like to reiterate that if these steps are not ensured, disillusionment and disappointment can set in fast, which could de-rail the process of undoing past injustices in Telangana, further complicating things, leading to instability.
You have been a water activist and have taken up water issues like the optimal utilization of water from the Godavari and Krishna rivers. How will the rivers be divided in case of bifurcation of the state?
The impact of water on the economy is considered to be only 14% on the growth but it is a contentious issue. In 1956, there was a Section in the Act that an ongoing or a contemplated project on water dispute would be referred to a Tribunal. The Krishna river basin is distributed in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh states.
AP is the last state in this basin in which the river joins the sea. The Batchawat Tribunal did not allocate surplus waters to any state and left the issue to be settled by future tribunals. However, it had allowed Andhra Pradesh to utilise the entire surplus flows in the Krishna basin but without any legal right over the waters. The Krishna and Godavari originate in Maharashtra and flow through Telangana before entering the Seemandhra region and emptying in the Bay of Bengal. The 400 tmc Sri Ram Sagar Project which was constructed on the river Godavari serves the irrigation needs of the people of Maharashtra and they never thought of our state.
Every year, about 2,500 tmc ft of water from the Godavari is being wasted into the sea. We can save this by completing the numerous ongoing irrigation projects and ensure proportional distribution of water in different regions. Similarly, 500 tmc ft of water from the Krishna is also being wasted which can be saved once projects including Pulichintala are completed.
At present, based on the storage level, water from Srisailam is released on different occasions to KC Canal, Pothireddypadu and Nagarjunsagar.The release dates are based on the crop season and the requirement of the different areas and they are standardised in the irrigation manual.
Post-bifurcation, water release dates would become controversial during deficit years as every district agitates for water release overriding the later requirement of the other districts. Till now, we have boards to look after the distribution of the stored waters. But post-bifurcation, we would need a joint board at Srisailam and Nagarjunsagar to supervise the distribution of surplus and flood waters as well, so there are issues to be sorted as far as water sharing is concerned and I have shared my views.
Your Son Aditya has entered politics. Will he continue to be active like you?
One need not be a son of a politician to succeed in politics. When I joined politics Ananthramulu was the PCC president. As I was the son of a CM he wanted me to take a plum position, I was reluctant. I joined as a joint secretary of the PCC. My elder son Gururava is now a PCC secretary and younger son Aditya is the general secretary of the Youth Congress.
They have to work hard to succeed in politics and should work for people’s welfare at all times. A few days back I was at LEH airport; somebody in my constituency had a drainage problem. My number is available for most of them in the constituency. I contacted the civic authorities from there. I believe in my late father Channa Reddy’s policy. What matters is your credibility; your position and power are secondary.