Ramaraju Vidyasagar Rao left indelible mark on Telangana waters

Ramaraju Vidyasagar Rao left indelible mark on Telangana waters
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Highlights

Since June 2014, when Telangan State was formed, I had been Private Secretary to the legendary engineer R Vidyasagar Rao till his last breath on 29th April, 2017. I am fortunate to be in close association with such a great person for about three years. He encouraged me to write articles on irrigation issues so that people will understand what is happening in the newly formed Telangana State. 

Since June 2014, when Telangan State was formed, I had been Private Secretary to the legendary engineer R Vidyasagar Rao till his last breath on 29th April, 2017. I am fortunate to be in close association with such a great person for about three years. He encouraged me to write articles on irrigation issues so that people will understand what is happening in the newly formed Telangana State.

He wanted people of Telangana should know about the Reorganisation Act 2014, Tribunals, River Boards, Apex Council, GOs of combined state etc so that they could perceive the actual picture of hindrances and possibilities for irrigation development in the State.

Till 2002, Prof Jayashankar, ideologue of Telangana Movement, had done a lot of work by consulting experts, and spread the knowledge on discrimination of the region on irrigation front. But when R Vidyasagar Rao, a retired Chief Engineer of Central Water Commission, evinced interest in Telangana Movement and started writing and speaking on irrigation issues, Prof Jayashankar breathe a sigh of relief and would be able to spend more time on other issues.

K Chandra Shekhar Rao (KCR) got a reliable think tank for Telangana on irrigation issues in Vidyasagar Rao. Being an irrigation engineer with high intellect and capabilities, based on the statistics and information from authentic documents, Vidyasagar Rao had laid strong basis for the Telangana Movement, by disseminating injustices done to Telangana region in the combined state of Andhra Pradesh in the field of irrigation.

He gave hundreds of lectures and wrote hundreds of essays in a simple language, so that common man can also understand the issues. With his in-depth knowledge in hydrology, he could convince the people at highest technical forums like Central Water Commission, and at the same time made illiterate persons, in the meetings in the remote villages of Telangana, to understand the intricate irrigation issues.

The triumvirate of K Chandra Shekhar Rao, Prof Jayashankar and R Vidyasagar Rao laid strong base for the Telangana Movement. They used to spend many day and nights together discussing issues, especially in Delhi.

After formation of Telangana, Vidyasagar Rao’s contribution as Advisor (Irrigation) to Govt of Telagnana State was immense. A few things I wish to illustrate here. Immediately after formation of Telangana in June 2014, Advisor Vidyasagar Rao observed that Krishna River Management Board (KRMB) had been allocating Krishna water to both the States from Srisailam Reservoir and NSP, without any regard to the Award of the Tribunal.

During the Monsoon of 2014, he sensed the usurping of undue powers by the KRMB which was unknowingly acting on the appeals of the Andhra Pradesh. As per the Reorgansiation Act 2014, Advisor was not a member of the Boards. Chief Minister KCR, after consulting with Advisor RVS Rao, called the then Chairman of KRMB and requested that Advisor will also attend the ensuing Board meetings.

Getting the nod from Chief Minister KCR, Advisor Vidyasagar Rao attended the KRMB Meeting in October, 2014. It was turning point in the functioning of KRMB. Explaining the relevant Clauses of the AP Reorganisation Act 2014, and supremacy of the Tribunal Award, Vidyasagar Rao could establish that KRMB did not have the powers to allocate the waters on its own.

The then Chairman of KRMB accepted the substance of the arguments. Either Bachawat Tribunal Award or agreed quantities by both the States shall only be the basis for distribution of available waters by the Board, whether it is for Krishna Delta, or from NSP and Srisailam Reservoirs.

In June 2015, to avoid any troubles in the coming year 2015-16, Rao played a major role in arriving at an ad-hoc arrangement, for sharing of Krishna waters, in a temporary ratio of 299 : 512, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh respectively. He was also able to clarify the concept of ‘en-bloc’ allocations of the Tribunal which paved the way for utilisation of Krishna river waters anywhere in the basin as per requirement.

Because of these arrangements, the water sharing for that year was done without any problems. And, in June 2016, the same arrangement had been extended for the year 2016-17 also. As per the Tribunal Award, as soon as the Polavaram Project sanctioned by CWC, the upper riparian states got the right to utilise their share of waters, out of 80 TMC intended to be diverted.

In addition to Polavaram Project, a new project to divert Godavari waters, Pattiseema Project, work started in January 2015, without sanctions from the authorities. On the basis of Tribunal Awards, Vidyasagar Rao strongly advocated for rightful share to Telangana State in the waters diverted from Godavari to Krishna River.

Because of his efforts and active State Government initiatives, the Central Government’s Ministry of Water Resources referred the matter to an Expert Committee in September, 2016. But, the Committee during their visit to Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, took a sudden u-turn after coming back from Amaravati, on 15th February, 2017.

The Committee expressed that it would not decide on the share of waters of Telangana State in the Godavari waters being transferred from Pattiseema and Polavaram in accordance with GWDT Award, 1980. Annoyed Rao, expressed his displeasure during the joint meeting itself and later wrote a letter to Central Government to direct the Committee to decide on the issue.

On this Expert Committee issue, Central Government’s letter dated 6th April, copy marked to the Advisor RVS Rao, was the last official letter he had received in third week of April. He asked me to leave a copy of it so that he would decide next course of action. By that time, cancer had spread over his lungs with secondary infections spreading faster, that work was left pending forever.

We, at Secretariat can proudly say that no file is pending at his office. Disciplined to the core, Rao always used to clear his files, sent by Hon'ble Chief Minister, Hon'ble Minister or Spl Chief Secretary or by the Chief Engineers of Inter State Water Resources and Major Projects’, on the same day or at the most, the next day. It is great tribute to him if we accomplish our rightful share in Godavari waters diverted from Polavaram and Pattiseema.

Advisor Rao along with S K Joshi, the Spl Chief Secretary was a formidable force for Telangana State at KRMB and GRMB Meetings. To break the strength of the duo, Andhra Pradesh objected Rao’s presence at GRMB meeting. Pained Mr Rao politely said, “I did not come here for ‘tamasha’, I came here in the interest of our State…..”. The Chairman of the GRMB allowed Rao to continue to participate in the meeting. However, Telangana Government could not induct Advisor Vidyasagar Rao officially into the KRMB and GRMB.

In the planning and redesigning of Kaleshwaram Project, Palamuru Rangareddy Project, Dindi Lift Irrigation Project, Devadula Prject, Kanthanapalli project, Sitarama Project etc, in coordinating interstate agreements with Mahasrashtra, in formulation of Mission Kakatiya Guidelines, O&M guidelines for Lift Irrigation schemes etc, his contribution is enormous.

His initiation in abandoning Dummugudem- Nagarjunasagar Tail Pond project and leaving Ichamapalli project for long term perspective etc had given right direction to the progress of irrigation in Telangana.

He defended big lift irrigation schemes, namely Kaleshwaram and Palamuru Rangareddy projects, for Telangana State as they are inevitable due to geographical and climatic conditions of the State. Hon'ble Chief Minister KCR and Hon'ble Minister Harish Rao have utilised his services earnestly.

Advisor got highest regards for Chief Minister and got lot of affection towards the Minister. Spl Chief Secretary and Advisor always respected each other’s thoughts. Mr Sridhar Deshpande, OSD to Irrigation Minister has always been s his trusted lieutenant.

By:S Vijaya Kumar

The writer is Secretary, Telangana Engineers JAC

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