Parties spar over national project status to Polavaram
Bhubaneswar: Soon after Odisha Television’s report on how guidelines were flouted in granting national project status to Polavaram project, mudslinging has ensued between the political parties in Odisha. While BJP argued that it was the UPA-led central government which made Polavaram a national project as per the terms of Andhra bifurcation, Congress refuted the allegations claiming that the granted status was conditional during its government and it was the current BJP-led NDA central government which flouted the guidelines and approved assistance for the project.
According to BJP, its NDA government at the Centre has only ‘honoured’ what the outgoing UPA government had agreed during the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh State. In retaliation, Odisha Congress clarified that the national project status was granted on the condition that the project should not adversely affect the interest of Odisha and Chhattisgarh. However, the current BJP-led NDA government violated the norms by granting financial assistance to the said project.
“The NDA government which is at the Centre is only carrying out the sovereign agreement made by the UPA government. However, if there are any prescribed norms which have not been followed then they should be adhered to strictly,” said Odisha BJP’s legislature party leader KV Singhdeo.
“The UPA government had made a condition the project should not hurt the interests of the Odisha at any cost. The NDA government has blatantly violated all the rules and regulations and has granted financial assistance to the project,” said Taraprasad Bahinipati of Odisha Congress.
Meanwhile, the BJD has taken this opportunity to take a swipe at both BJP and Congress arguing that none of the parties are concerned about the interests of the people of Odisha.
“There are possibilities that the project will submerge villages, forest land and will adversely affect tribal people in the nearby areas. The NDA government like that of its predecessor UPA-led central government has totally turned a blind eye to the interests of Odisha,” said Transport Minister Ramesh Majhi.
Notably, information obtained through RTI Act revealed that the Polavaram project was awarded national project status by sidestepping the prescribed guidelines of the Union Water Resources department.
As per the prescribed guidelines, in order to grant a national project status, a project should fulfill the eligibility criteria required for funding under Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Program (AIBP) including the investment clearance of the Planning Commission. However, no such clearance has been obtained in case of Polavaram project.
Moreover, as per the guidelines “On receipt of a proposal from the State government for inclusion of a project as National Project, the ministry of water resources may send a team of officers to the project site with a view to make assessment of the present status of the project and to firm up the plans for its completion in a specified time frame.” Furthermore, the guidelines prescribe that a team should also review the losses that could be on account of the project.
However, in case of Polavaram no such visit and review were carried out by any team.