One has to appreciate the fact that Mr. Modi has not forgotten his assurance to the people of Seemandhra on Pollavaram even in the euphoria of swearing in and giving shape to his council of ministers. But, the ordinance not only preempts the likely hurdle in the form of resistance by Telengana with respect to the 200 villages, it also sends out a message to the country that Mr. Modi is eager to get Pollavaram going. Is Mr. Modi in too much of a hurry?
While on one hand Mr. Modi has sent out the message that his government will strengthen federalism, on the other hand in the hurry to get Pollavaram going (in fact Pollavaram is on the go despite stay orders, non-existence of green clearance, resistance by other states etc since so many years) he has created a situation that contradicts its own position on federalism.
A person who has followed the issue of Pollavaram where the stakeholders are misinformed, laws have been violated, the court orders disrespected, the concerns of the neighboring riparian states and the project affected persons have been swept under the carpet by both the state government of Andhra Pradesh and the Congress led UPA government, it is obvious to deduce that the manner in which Pollavarm project has been pushed through is a threat to the Federal nature of the country.
By sending out the message that Mr. Modi is eager to put Pollavaram on full steam, he has hit at the very cause of federalism that he is championing.
In the first place Mr. Modi has not cared to consult Telengana that is strongly opposing the project. Well, the counter argument is that the deposed UPA government had already formulated this plan and TRS was in agreement to it. And in the present political situation in united Andhra Pradesh one knows for sure the outcome of the consultation - Telengana will oppose it.
As Chandrababu Naidu puts it, TRS is opposing this move of transferring 200 villages from Telengana region to Seemandhra on political ground only, though it had agreed to it under the UPA regime. But the question is, if the transfer of the villages from one state to the other is solution or not? In this case an opportunity was there as the boundary of the two young states was in the process of being drawn. What about the villages in other states like Odisha and Chattishgarh? Will Mr. Modi also take an ordinance route to sort out that problem? Let us put that question to rest for the time being.
But the ordinance is not only about the geographical space of 200 villages on the revenue map, it is also about the people who heaved a sigh of relief after knowing that they will be on that side of the boundary whose political leadership is opposed to their submergence. But, by virtue of an ordinance they have been made the sacrificial goat. They know it very well that Seemandra wants the dam at any cost and they will be sacrificed on the altar of irrigation development. Did anybody ask these hapless people as to on which side of the boundary they want to be?
Odisha and Chattishgarh are the other two riparian states those also should have been consulted by the resent NDA government. So far as transferring the 200 villages to Seemandhra is concerned they do not have any say. But, by pushing forward this ordinance Mr. Modi also has sent a message loud and clear that Pollavaram will be constructed. Otherwise why the proposed boundary of the two states is being altered?
In that case, (Pollavaram being a certainty) certainly Chhattishgarh and Odisha should have been consulted. Now the conflict between these states is not only the issue of submergence of a number of villages and forest and land, but it has snowballed into as questions on the neighborly relations between these riparian states and the federal state.
The kind of shabby treatment that Andhra Pradesh government has meted out to these two states by caring a hoot for their genuine concerns certainly has created fissures in the federal fabric. And before bringing out such an ordinance and sending out message loud and clear, certainly Mr. Modi is informed of the ground reality.
So one has to understand that Mr. Modi is doing this with the knowledge of the resistance to the project by the local people, opposition by the upper riparian states like Odisha and Chhattishgarh, that the matter is subjudice in the honorable Supreme Court of India, AP government has proceeded with the project despite an advisory of the Union government to not to proceed with any work on the project and despite the Supreme Court order for a moratorium on the dam related activities.
Despite all the above concerns the Andhra Pradesh government had gone ahead. It has resorted to all possible means. All through it has provided false information (for getting the environmental clearance by not mentioning about the parts of Odisha and Chhattishgarh getting affected) lying (that public hearings have been conducted in Odisha), hiding information (not sharing the project details with Odisha despite repeated requests), not adhering to the court orders (Odisha High Court order to ensure that no part of Odisha is affected by the dam), and then finalizing tender despite instructions by the Supreme Court. And the list goes on.
A close perusal of the unfolding of the events related to Pollavaram, provides a very clear trend- whatever may be the opposition to Pollavaram and whatever the law of the land might warrant, project will be grounded even if that violates the laws, rules norms and practices of the nation. With his move of transferring the villages from Telengana to Seemandhra no doubt Mr. Modi has been opportunistic to preempt a hurdle for construction of Pollavaram and create elbow space and eye for a feather on his cap, but at the same time he stands the risk of putting a stamp of approval on all the things that has been done in connection with Pollavaram.
The people of Seemandhra, Telangana, Odisha, and Chhattishgarh are looking up to Mr. Modi for justice. It was commonly believed that the Congress led UPA regime at Delhi for its own political compulsions and because there was Congress government in AP had not only turned a blind eye to the wrong doings of AP to get Pollavaram cleared, but many of the Central government ministries/ agencies had gone out of their way to see to it that Polavaram project is through, and in the process contradicting the very objectives for which they are created.
A couple of examples will suffice here. In a letter to Odisha Chief Minister by the then Environment Minister Mr. Jayaram Ramesh (18th August 2010) had mentioned that that the Forest Clearance has been given to the Polavaram Project on July 28, 2010 is subject to the condition, "... no submergence and displacement of people including STs take place in Orissa and Chhattisgarh...". This is in complete contradiction with the environment clearance given by the MoEF on Oct 25, 2005, which says in Para 2, "Total 1,93,35 persons are likely to be affected by this project, out of that 1,75,275 persons in Andhra Pradesh and 6,316 persons from Orissa and 11,766 are from Chhattisgarh.”
After the change of government it is naturally expected that ‘Achhe din Aayenge’ and the rule of the land will prevail. But Mr. Modi on one hand talking of withholding federalistic nature of India and on the other being in a hurry to push forward Pollavaram has contradicted himself. One can just hope that Mr. Modi understands the threat Pollavarm in the process of going on stream has posed to the federalism. If the Modi government continues with the same maladies that the earlier government of India and united Andra Pradesh then will ‘Achhe Din Aayenge’?