Sunnam Rajaiah, the newly elected CPI(M) MLA from Bhadrachalam (ST) constituency, undertook an indefinite hunger strike demanding the reversal of the decision to merge 7 mandals in his constituency with the residual Andhra Pradesh.  These mandals contain the 276 villages that will be submerged due to the Polavaram project. The present design of the project will submerge around 7,964 acres of tribal land and displace nearly 117,034 tribal people in 276 villages. According to some studies, among those who will be displaced by this project, 47 per cent belong to ST community and 14.96 per cent to SC community.
The CPI(M) has been fighting for a change in design of the project that will result in fewer submerged areas while facilitating the project requirements. During the course of bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, the UPA government gave the project a national project status and committed to fast tracking it. As the tribal villages that will be submerged in the existing design fall in Telangana state, there was a demand that these mandals be transferred to residual Andhra Pradesh to prevent any problems for the project in the future. Tha Manmohan Singh government gave an assurance in Parliament during the passage of the Bill that this will be done.
In this context, the new Modi government in its first cabinet meeting cleared an ordinance by which these seven mandals were transferred to residual Andhra Pradesh. The CPI(M), TRS and CPI immediately gave a call for Telangana bandh protesting this move. They contended that the matter should have been left to the two state governments to resolve. The bandh was a complete success.
CPI(M) MLA Sunnam Rajaiah gave notice of his strike much before the Ordinance was issued. He along with CPI(M) leaders from the submerged mandals sat on indefinte strike that was inaugurated by CPI(M) Khammam district secretary P Sudershan. The strike attracted the attention of the people and others to the plight of tribals who are set to suffer the most with this decision. Telangana Political JAC chairman Prof M Kodandaram, Khammam and Mahbubabad Lok Sabha members, MLAs, CPI(M) state secretary Thammineni Veerabhadram and many others visited the hunger strike camp and expressed solidarity to the struggle.
On the fourth day of the hunger strike, as the health of the fasting leaders began deteriorating, the police raided the camp and removed the fasting leaders forcibly, evoking condemnation from all. Newly elected MP from Tripura, Jitendra Choudhary is visiting Bhadrachalam to express the solidarity of Tripura CPI(M) to the just struggle of tribals of Bhadrachalam division.
Polavaram Project: Background and CP(M) Proposals
Polavaram Project is a multi-purpose irrigation project which has been accorded national project status by the central government. This dam across the Godavari River is under construction in West Godavari District and East Godavari District in Andhra Pradesh state and its reservoir spreads in parts of Chhattisgarh and Orissa States also.
The first conceptual proposal for the project was made in 1940 by the erstwhile Madras Presidency. After completing the survey, they marked the reservoir’s Full Reservoir Level at a height of 208 ft. The project was christened as Ramapada Sagar project since the backwaters of the reservoir would touch the Lord Rama temple at Bhadrachalam. Nothing much happened after that. In 1981, the then chief minister of Congress government T Anjaiah laid the foundation stone. A comprehensive report was prepared in 1982. A total of 2310 metre long dam has to be built.
After taking it up once again in 2005, the dam is being built in Ramayyapet village of Polavaram mandal in West Godavari district. It is around 34 km beyond Kovvur-Rajamundry bridge. The ayacut area (irrigation extent) of the project would be around 7,20,000 acres and the power generation expected is 960 MW. The right canal is around 174 km in Krishna district. The expected benefits include irrigation of 3.60 lakh acres with a flow of 17500 cusecs; provision of drinking water to 540 villages etc. The construction has been stopped due to court cases filed by neighbouring states Chattisgarh and Orissa and the agitation launched by people in the areas that would be submerged due to this project. Rs 4298 crore out of the estimated Rs 16010 crore has been spent till December 2011.
The government is exhibiting a rigid stand of completing the project no matter what costs. Despite there being clear alternatives to reduce the extent of land that would be submerged, the government is not prepared to explore those options.
CPI(M) Proposals:
1. Change the design of the project to reduce the areas of submergence.
2. Most of the areas that would be submerged fall in 5th Schedule.
3. From the 7.20 lakh acres of ayacut area under the project, around 4 lakh acres are already being irrigated by Thatipudi and Pushkara lift irrigation projects. Therefore water should be provided only for another 3 lakh acres. 80 tmc water should be given to  Krishna delta while 263 tmc must be given to Godavari delta. All this is possible with a change in design.
4. The shortfall in power generation due to change in design can be offset by other projects on Godavari like Icchampally, Kantalapally or Dummugudem.
5. The tribals who will have to be shifted from Scheduled areas to non-Scheduled areas will suffer loss of their rights.
6. There are large deposits of iron ore in the to be submerged areas. Already agreements have been made with Jindal company. There will be serious environmental damage if large scale extraction is done here.
7. The centre has by its ordinance transferred 230 villages in Bhadrachalam constituency of Telangana to the residual state of Andhra Pradesh. The tribals will suffer a lot due to this measure.
 June 2, 2014