On February 18th, a Fact-finding Committee of National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) and other people’s organizations visited the project-affected villages of Chintalapudi Lift Irrigation Project, West Godavari district, Andhra Pradesh. The committee visited villages in 3 Mandals – Jeelugumilli, T.Narsapuram and Chintalapudi of West Godavari district – where people were losing lands and livelihood due to the Chintalapudi project, in order to understand the problems being faced by the people and assess the implementation of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. The members of the committee were Meera Sanghamitra, one of the national convenors of NAPM, , Mortala Vimala, social activist, Babuji from A.P. Vyavasaya Vruttidarula Union (APVVU), Rahul Maganti, independent journalist and Ramu from WINS. Findings of the committee:
The Chintalapudi Lift Irrigation Project was initiated in 2008 with a capacity of 8 tmcft, and later expanded to 20 tmcft. The villages affected by this project including the canal system extend from several mandals like Jeelugumilli, Chintalapudi, T.Narsapuram and Buttayagudem in West Godavari district to several villages in the Mylavaram, Nuzvid and Tiruvoor constituencies of Krishna district.
In about 127 villages, 11,200 acres of revenue land and 6,600 acres of forest land are going to be submerged. 16 adivasi villages are being displaced. In all, 70,000 people are losing their livelihood entirely or partially – including land-owning farmers, landless labourers, tenant farmers and people engaged in other rural occupations. In addition to the problems being faced by the people due to the large-scale displacement, there are also severe environmental impacts generated by this project.
While the government is stating that it is acquiring land under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, it is violating the rights created by the Act for all the project-displaced and project-affected people.
Violations of law by the Government
- One of the most important provisions of the 2013 Act, the Social Impact Assessment (SIA) has not been done. The government is proceeding without an authenticated documentation of all the families being impacted by the project and the nature of impact.
- No public hearing has been conducted on the project, no gram sabhas have been conducted in the affected villages, and the local bodies such as panchayats have not been consulted.
- The objections and opinions expressed by the affected villagers have not been considered or responded to.
- No Environmnental Clearance has been received for the project, yet the government is proceeding.
- The R & R Plan (Rehabilitation and Resettlement Plan), as per the requirements of the Act, has not been published and made public for any village.
- The claims of adivasis to their cultivation rights over forest lands, under the Forest Rights Act 2006 have not been settled, but the government is proceeding with acquiring the forest lands.
- Even though many LTR cases related to land transfer are pending before courts, the government is issuing Awards for land acquisition in violation of the law.
- The real market value of land is not being determined as per the letter and spirit of Section 26(B) of the Act, when the compensation rates are being fixed.
- Assigned lands are not being treated on par with private patta land, as required by the 2013 Act. Though the Act clearly establishes their rights as land owners, the government is at best negotiating with assigned land holders offering ex gratia payment.
- The Land-for-Land provisions specified by the Act for irrigation projects are not being followed. Land for land has not been allocated to any family, including S.C. and S.T. families who have special provisions under the Act.
The Laws being violated by the Government:
- Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (2013)
- “1/70 Act” or Scheduled Areas Land Transfer Regulation Act (1970)
- Recognition of Forest Rights Act, 2006
- “PESA Act” or Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996
- Environmental Protection Act, 1986
Demands of the Affected People
(1) Social Impact Assessment should be conducted for the entire project in an independent and transparent manner.
(2) Gram Sabhas should be conducted in all project-affected villages and public opinion should be taken about the project. The full details of the project should be placed before the public.
(3) If the project receives approval through due process, then the entire provisions of Rehabilitation and Resettlement specified in the 2013 Act should be fully implemented. In particular,
- A comprehensive R&R Plan should be published and implemented.
- A Resettlement Authority should be constituted for the project and duly empowered to ensure implementation of rehabilitation and resettlement.
- The true market value of the lands should be determined as per Section 26(B) and these should form the basis for calculating the compensation amounts, and not the registration values of the land which are outdated and deliberately kept much lower than the true market value.
- Since this is an irrigation project, land in command area should be allocated to all families losing land as per the norms in the 2013 Act, especially for the SC & ST families.
(4) Since the Chintalapudi project is part of the larger Polavaram project which is being implemented through the Central government funds, the rules declared for Central Government Projects for rehabilitation and resettlement should be implemented. In particular, under First Schedule, “the factor by which market value of land is to be multiplied in the case of rural areas” should be made 2.0 so that the families losing land get 4 times the market value (including 100% solatium).
(5) In view of the massive irregularities and malpractices in the determination of compensation, the awards and the disbursements, an Independent Committee should be constituted to conduct a probe into this, and due action should be taken against all the responsible officials.
(6) Assigned lands should be treated absolutely on par with private patta land, and those cultivators should have the exact same rights as land owners.