Congress puts BRS in spot over Kaleshwaram project, BJP calls it narrative building

Congress wants the BRS to suffer the ignominy around the Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project as the parties take on each other in the Lok Sabha polls, which are round the corner.
Medigadda barrage, Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Scheme (KLIS)
Medigadda barrage, Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Scheme (KLIS)
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One of the reasons for the defeat of Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) in the Telangana Assembly polls, after having been in power for nearly a decade, was the botched up Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project (KLIP). The BRS which battled allegations of corruption over the project suffered loss of face after piers of the Medigadda barrage, an important part of the KLIP, sunk due to heavy inflow in October 2023.

Telangana Chief Minister A Revanth Reddy’s visit to the Medigadda Barrage at Ambaitipally village in Jayashankar Bhupally on Tuesday, February 13, accompanied by his council of ministers and MLAs, shows that Congress wants the BRS to suffer the ignominy around the KLIP as the parties take on each other in the Lok Sabha polls, which are round the corner. 

At Medigadda, Revanth Reddy had invited around 250 media personnel to witness the damage caused to the barrage. Over 50 government officials from the departments of irrigation and revenue apart from the district administration were ready to brief the cause of the damage. 

Revanth also put former Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao in a spot by challenging him to discuss the issues related to the project, which was touted by the BRS government as the world's largest Lift Irrigation Scheme. 

Revanth Reddy said all parties were invited, but BRS and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) decided to skip the event. Four MLA’s from the AIMIM and one from CPI(M) were present at the meeting. The BJP, which fears a narrative that helped Congress in the Assembly polls continuing to aid it in the Lok Sabha polls, has alleged that the Congress is using the KLIP controversy as a diversion tactic.  BJP MLA Payal Shankar said both the parties were indulging in drama to create a narrative for the Lok Sabha elections. BJP has demanded a CBI probe into the incident. 

The Telangana High Court has rejected a request by the Congress government for a sitting judge to probe the alleged irregularities in the KLIP. The options before it now is to order a probe by a retired judge or entrust it to CBI, a central agency.

KCR who missed the budget session of the Assembly, made his first public appearance two days ago at the Chalo Nalgonda meeting organised by the BRS where he made scathing attack at CM Revanth Reddy and said that people of Telangana are already regretting their decision to vote Congress to power. 

“When the Medigadda incident was reported, there were barricades everywhere and they tried to hide the truth. We had to take several permissions for the visit. Now the truth is out. KCR is aware that the Assembly will discuss it based on reports by the National Dam Safety Authority (NSDA) and Vigilance on Kaleshwaram. KCR has to come to the Assembly as a responsible leader of the Opposition,” Revanth said. He also alleged that KCR is trying to gain sympathy by attending public meetings and not the Assembly. 

Medigadda, also known as Laxmi barrage, is one of the three barrages of the Kaleshwaram project. On October 21, the bridge on the barrage started caving in between pillars 18 and 22. A case was registered by officials who called it sabotage by unknown persons. This became a major election issue as Congress party accused BRS of huge corruption in the construction of the Kaleshwaram project. 

Apart from Medigadda there are two other barrages - Annarram and Sundilla. CM Revanth Reddy claims that all the three barrages are built using the same technology and that there is potential threat to the other two barrages. “The damage occurred when there was no storage in the barrages. The extent of damage would be more if it was during monsoon. We cannot undermine that the damage has occurred only in three piers.” Revanth Reddy said. 

Highlighting the cost escalation Irrigation Minister Uttam Reddy said that Medigadda barrage was initially estimated to cost around Rs 1800 crs in 2016 but the cost escalated to Rs 4500 crs. “The barrage was built at double the cost estimated and it failed?,” he said, calling it the “most shameful incident”. 

Kaleshwaram: Key facts

According to the presentation made by the Chief Engineer Sudhakar Reddy and Rajiv Ratan from Vigilance and enforcement department, the Kaleshwaram project was designed to irrigate nearly 20 lakh acres but as on ayacut created is about only for one lakh acres (98,570). The cost for the construction of the project stood at 1,27,872 crores and the expenditure till date is 93,872 crores. According to the officials, 3192 crores pending bills are to be cleared. 

The NDSA which inspected the barrage on October 24 said that the damage was due to two main reasons - inferior construction quality and issues in planning and design. 

Medigadda barrage was inaugurated before the construction was completed and there are several deviations from the contract agreement.

What next

The Irrigation minister stated that no action has been initiated against the L&T company yet. According to officials of the irrigation department, all piers and rafts of the barrage must be surveyed, especially in block seven and the adjoining blocks six and eight immediately.  After obtaining the results from the various investigations and on the opinion of the Expert Committee, the restoration of the Block 7 of Medigadda Barrage will be taken up.

The L&T was asked to undertake geo-technical and other investigations such as Electrical Resistivity Test (ERT) for raft and Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) pertaining to Medigadda barrage. The ERT provides information about distribution of underground materials while GPR helps to glean info on objects beneath the ground surface.

CM Revanth said the government has asked L&T to take up the repair cost and the pending bills of Rs 400 crores has been halted. “This is not political vendetta and hence we are following the procedure. We will cooperate with NDSA experts for further investigation. We will find the money trail and also take action accordingly.” Revanth Reddy said. 

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