A large group of adivasis protested against their displacement due to the Polavaram project outside the office of the Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) at KR Puram in Andhra Pradesh’s West Godavari district.
As a form of protest, the adivasis even cooked food at the premises of the ITDA office and dined together.
The call for the protest was given by Andhra Pradesh Girijana Sangam, supported by the CPI(M).
The two-day protest was also attended by Left leaders like former MP M Babu Rao and Mantena Sitaram among others.
The protestors demanded immediate redressal of their issues pertaining to the Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act as a consequence of the irrigation project, that has been accorded national status.
In 2006, the Centre passed the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, which protects the interests of adivasis and offers them better rates of compensation.
Speaking to TNM, 36-year-old Jeejiya Bai and Sree Ramulu, adivasi farmers from Sirivaka, a small village in Polavaram mandal, said, "The Forest and Revenue Departments did not recognise our rights. The government should convene a ‘gramsabha’ and ensure that we get what is rightfully ours.”
50-year-old Karam Durga from Jeelugumilli village, another farmer affected by the Polavaram project, demanded immediate disbursement of the funds that individuals were entitled to.
“The houses that were constructed or being constructed for rehabilitation are of poor quality and substandard. The buildings are like match boxes, leaking even when there is a small amount of rainfall,” she alleged.
According to the state government, each individual adivasi family in the affected region is entitled to get Rs 6.85 lakh as compensation.
After the protest, representatives of the AP Girijana Sangam and CPI(M), along with adivasis, gave a representation to the ITDA, seeking a time-bound solution to their demands.
The protestors said that Project Officer Harindriya Prasad assured them that he would initiate the procedure to address their concerns by the end of June.
When TNM contacted the ITDA Project Officer seeking an explanation on the protest and his assurance, he said, "They have represented their concerns. Individual family compensation to the tune of Rs 6.85 lakh per family will be given to the families as soon as they're displaced."
According to officials, there are as many as 21,000 families getting displaced under the jurisdiction of this specific ITDA office.
When TNM asked Harindriya Prasad if the matters pertaining to the Rehabilitation & Resettlement (R&R) Act, 2013, were being addressed, the officer said, "As of now, we have distributed individual family packages to 8 villages under the purview of the KR Puram ITDA. The R&R issues are bigger and will be solved over a period of time.”