Op-Ed: Odisha Must Scale Up The Fight Against Polavaram

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: In a clear indication that Odisha is determined to step up its fight against the controversial Polavaram project coming up in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh the state assembly has set up a committee comprising members from various parties to take up the issue with Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

With the union environment ministry recently granting a two year extension for work on the multi-purpose project that the government of the neighbouring state has been executing despite protests from Odisha it has become imperative for Naveen Patnaik regime to scale up resistance. The move of the union ministry that came soon after chief minister, Naveen Patnaik’s meeting with the Prime Minister in Delhi was shocking to say the least.

The ministry was fully aware of Odisha’s stand on the issue but made the move in complete disregard of state’s objections to the project. Soon after this chief minister wrote a letter to the Prime Minister reiterating Odisha’s objections and urging him to halt the project till the state’s concerns were addressed.

Odisha government has consistently maintained that the project in its present form is going to adversely impact several tribal villages in the state’s Malkangiri district that borders Andhra Pradesh. It is likely to cause inundation in these villages. Equally significant is the fact that mandatory public hearing before the execution of such projects has not been held in the Odisha villages likely to be affected by the Polavaram dam.

It is an emotive issue for not only the people of Malkangiri but also those residing in the neighbouring districts. For the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) it has also been a major campaign issue during elections. A few years ago the party had held a massive rally in Malkangiri to protest the construction of the multi-purpose dam. The rally had drawn party leaders from different parts of southern Odisha and also some coastal districts. It was a major show of strength by the regional party which wanted to convey the message that it would not compromise the interests of the state under any circumstances.

Polavaram issue had also figured in the recent elections with the party reiterating its commitment to safeguard state’s interests. However, things started taking a different turn after the election results were announced and there was speculation about chief minister, Naveen Patnaik cozying up to Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. The meeting between the two leaders in New Delhi further fuelled these speculations and political observers hoped that the chief minister would be able to extract some major concessions for the state from the Centre.

While that has not happened the Centre has dealt Odisha a blow by deciding to grant two year extension for work on Polavaram. It is baffling to note that despite this BJD has been extending support to the Modi government on crucial issues. It is time for the Prime Minister to reciprocate and address Odisha’s concerns on issues like Polavaram. This is the only way he can convince the people of Odisha that he is a well wisher.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)