Polavaram files missing from Tribal Affairs ministry!

Bhubaneswar: While the Odisha government has made all out efforts to stop the ongoing construction of Polavaram multi-purpose irrigation project in Andhra Pradesh, missing of files pertaining to the projects from the office of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) has triggered a fresh controversy.

The shocking incident came to light after a RTI activist of Balangir, Hemanta Panda received a reply from the concerned ministry on January 19 this year.

In his application to the ministry on January 1 this year, Panda had sought detailed information on the rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) policy on Polavaram project, copies of the clearance of the ministry with update, copies of the records on objection of any points of the ministry on Polavaram, and the number of affected tribals in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Chhattisgarh.

In its reply, the ministry said the matter of ‘R&R’ including R&R Plan of Indira Sagar Polavaram Project was being handled earlier by the Cooperation, Planning & Regulation (CP&R) of MoTA till June 6, 2014 as it was allocated this work by the competent authority.

“It was only on June 17, 2014 that the matter of ‘R&R’ including Indira Sagar Polavaram Project was transferred to the FRA (Forest Rights Act) Division of MoTA which the undersigned is a part of, by the competent authority and subsequently the files were transferred in July, 2014 from CP&R Division to FRA Division along with a list. From the list, it was seen that F.No.20015/15/2005- CP&R (NGO) and F No 4/16/2010-CP&R, in which the matter of the instant project was handled, were not transferred from CP&R Division to FRA Division. It was made amply clear by CP&R Division at that time and also in June, 2015 itself, that the file which contains the approval of the Union Tribal Affairs minister is not traceable. The misplacement of the file was also indicated by CP&R Division in April, 2013”, the ministry said in its reply.

Despite all these, all the officers/division of this ministry was again requested on July 20, 2015 to make another attempt to trace the file. The relevant file was once again searched thoroughly in the record room and other places in the August Kranti Bhawan on September 2 last year but the files remained untraced.

“Subsequently, a request was made to the Tribal Welfare department of the Andhra Pradesh on October 2 followed by a reminder on December 1 to assist in providing copies of the requisite documents to the ministry to reconstruct the concerned files,” the ministry said.

Expressing grave concern over the matter, Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare Minister and member of the House Committee of the State Assembly on Polavaram, Sanjay Dasburma said while Union Water Resources minister Uma Bharti has admitted that the tribals of Odisha would lose their land and forest if the proposed project comes up, the Union Tribal Affairs ministry now says that the concerned files relating to the project are missing.

“If the statement of the ministry is true, the state government would take up the matter very seriously and vehemently protest against the utter callousness of the ministry,” he pointed out.

Asked about the matter, Union Tribal Affairs minister Jual Oram said the Polavaram issue has not been discussed during my present tenure. Whatever decision regarding the project was taken by the previous government and ministry, he said.

Oram also said no one has sought any information regarding the project from his ministry till date.

Reacting to the statement of Dasburma, the Union minister said how come the state government has no data on Polavaram?