Open Letter to The Honorable Chief Minister Sri K .Cchandrashekar Rao Telangana State - Hyderabad Regarding the Massive Displacement threatening the People of the new State of Telangana
No one can deny the need for irrigation projects to bring water for purposes of agriculture, particularly in a rain fed region like the Telangana. Yet, urgent need as it is, such projects cannot deny the people their participation, voluntary consent and rightful compensation as per the law of the land. It is most unfortunate that in the case of Mallannasagar project, the government has resorted to several deviations, effectively denying people their democratic rights
Respected Chief Minister,
We the undersigned as concerned citizens and women intellectuals particularly as people involved in the Movement for Separate State of Telangana wish to bring the following concerns to your kind attention and action.
The Telangana movement is undoubtedly the most democratic movement and truly a people’s movement. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi Party as the political expression of the movement came to power with a massive majority and with a manifesto that reflected the aspirations of the people of Telangana. The State of Telangana has addressed issues of water with lot of investment and commitment through the flagship programmes of Mission Kakatiya and Mission Bhagiratha and the major irrigation projects such as Mallannasagar. The major irrigation projects require huge areas of land which your government has been trying to acquire in the past one year. This procurement of land by your government has now run into major controversy. It has created anxiety, confusion and tremendous anger among the affected people.
No one can deny the need for irrigation projects to bring water for purposes of agriculture, particularly in a rain fed region like the Telangana. Yet, urgent need as it is, such projects cannot deny the people their participation, voluntary consent and rightful compensation as per the law of the land. It is most unfortunate that in the case of Mallannasagar project, the government has resorted to several deviations, effectively denying people their democratic rights. Repeatedly people are asking only one question. Why is the Telangana government resorting to procurement under GO Ms 123 when there is a comprehensive Land Acquisition law passed by the Federal Government as late as 2013?
There are several reasons for this anger. Clearly GO MS 123 does not provide for representation for the land owners or for those who are likely to lose their livelihoods and even to the local public representatives. It waives any upper limit, facilitating alienation of hundreds of acres of land through the policy of land procurement. The land owner cannot seek any further enhancement of compensation nor seek any judicial redressal. To make matters worse, in a subsequent development, GO Ms 214 does away with providing for equivalent costs for rehabilitation and resettlement of willing land owners. The Mallanna sagar reservoir in Medak district when built will submerge 17 villages in Thoguta and Kondapaka mandals (Revenue Divisions) . About 52,000 acres will be acquired for the reservoir and National Investment and Manufacturing Zone (NIMZ]. Consequent to writ petitions filed by landless labourers and owners of land the High Court has struck down the GO 123. The Advocate General on behalf of the Government submitted to the High Court that land would be acquired not under GO 123 but only under LA Act 2013.
For the last four months, there has been a sustained struggle and resistance to the attempts of the government to procure land for this project. Consent from the villagers is hardly voluntary. Newspaper reports and our own fact findings have revealed misinformation, undue persuasion and coercion in these transactions. We must bring to your attention that it is women, particularly old women and school and college going children who are most anxious about losing land and livelihood and getting displaced from their village. Another question that we would like to raise is the complete side lining of Panchayats (village administrative unit). Under the 73rd constitutional amendment Panchayats are fundamental for decentralized governance and to make democracy meaningful. It is indispensable that Gram Sabhas (village committes) and Panchayats are part of any decision making with regard to land and livelihoods.
Aggrieved villagers have moved the High Court complaining not only about coercion and intimidation but also challenged the necessity for the government to procure land when there is a full fledged land acquisition law. Landless labourers have approached the Court with complaints about how their rehabilitation does not find place in GO Ms 123. Your government has been taking contradictory stands leading to confusion and anxiety among the people.
Further there are other questions too. There is no clarity as to who is the procurement agency for the project. So far there is no Detailed Project Report put out by the government. There are several doubts being expressed by senior irrigation experts about the very viability of the reservoir. There is a charge that by resorting to GO Ms 123, your government is trying to avoid the scrutiny of the project by way of Social Impact Assessments and other procedures provided by the LA Act, 2013. It is tragic that instead of opening a democratic debate and assuring adherence to the law of the land, your government has resorted to spreading confusion and coercion leading in some situations to the extreme acts of lathicharge and imposition of S 144 (gatherings of more than four people are not permitted) in villages like Vemulghat.
We are deeply concerned with these developments. We agree with you that the irrigation project should be expedited and that water is essential for the development of Telangana. But is this the only way the government can provide water for the people of Telangana? We are well aware that the State has the right to acquire land as ‘eminent domaine’. But this right is circumscribed by several procedures laid down in the LA Act, 2013. How can you set-aside resettlement and rehabilitation of affected people? A government that came with such democratic aspirations cannot afford to resort to procurement of land that does not provide for resettlement and rehabilitation. In the name of giving water, the government cannot antagonize so many people and deprive them of what little they possess.
We as concerned citizens appeal to you as the chief Minister of the State to take the following measures to restore peace and assure the democratic Rights of the people of the villages that are likely to be submerged by the Mallannasagar project.
- The Government must withdraw police force and Section 144 with immediate effect from Vemulaghat village to ensure free and fair flow of information, ensure free passage of people to and fro.
- Registration of lands in the Mallannasagr affected villages and elsewhere be stopped forthwith until final orders from the High Court on GO 123.
- The Detailed Project Report in local language on the Mallannasagar project must be put out in the public domain for a democratic debate and discussion.
- The Government must clarify in no uncertain terms as to who the procurement agency for the project will be before seeking to acquire lands and declare in whose names lands acquired so far have been registered and ought to have been registered.
- The Government should make it clear its stand on providing Second and Third Schedule benefits of LARR Act  to all the land owners and landless project affected people in Mallannasagr project affected villages, as per the Hon’ble High Court Orders.
We sincerely hope and request you to take immediate action in the matter and above all, restore the confidence of the people in the Government of Telangana.
- Prof.Rama S. Melkote- Retd. Professor of Osmania University (9912021778)
- Dr.K.Lalitha – Feminist Scholar
- Prof. Kathyayani Vidmahe – Retd. Professor Kakatheeya University (9440550379)
- Prof. Susie Tharu –Retd. Professor IFLU
- Dr.Veena Shatrugna, Retd. Deputy Director NIN
- Prof.Shanta Sinha – Independent Child Rights Activist
- Dr.V.Rukmini Rao – Women’s Rights Activist, Gramya Resource Centre for Women
- Dr.Usha Seethalakshmi – Independent Researcher on Land Issues
- S.Ashalatha – Forum For Women Farmers Rights(MAKAAM)
- Vasudha Nagaraj - High Court Advocate
- K.Sajaya - Freelance Journalist, Film Maker (9948352008)