People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Vol. XXX

No. 18

April 30, 2006



CPI(M) Wants Comprehensive Water Policy 

With Balance And Social Justice


M Venugopala Rao


DURING the previous decade, major irrigation in Andhra Pradesh has been neglected, with lesser budgetary allocations and much lesser actual expenditure resulting in a failure to achieve the set targets in creating irrigation facilities.  And during most of this period, the state has been affected by drought conditions.  These factors, amongst others, have led to dwindling of growth in agricultural sector. The aspirations of the people for taking up new irrigation projects to provide water for their cultivable lands are increasing.


In this background, Dr Y S Rajasekhara Reddy government has embarked on jala yagnam programme with an ambitious target to bring about 60 lakh acres under irrigation by constructing 26 projects with an estimated cost of Rs 46,000 crore within a period of five years.  Naturally, all sections of people have welcomed the move of the government which is, at least in principle, in the overall interest of the state. However, the way in which the government has fixed its priorities in taking up new irrigation projects and implementing them and  proposed to mobilise required resources leaves much to be desired.   


After announcing the jala yagnam with high hopes to mobilise required resources,  the chief minister has realised to his dismay that it is not an easy task. His pronounced hopes to get loans for irrigation projects from the banks and insurance companies have been belied. With the conditionalities of the World Bank and the policies of the central government imposing restrictions on borrowing by the state government, the latter has created Andhra Pradesh Water Resources Development Corporation as a channel to secure loans outside the budget.  The government could mobilise loans to the tune of about only Rs 3000 crore through this corporation from banks and other organisations and its efforts to raise further resources by issuing irrigation bonds have not yielded adequate results. The government’s efforts to get loans from the World Bank and other countries have also come to naught. Having realised the limitations, the state government has approached the government of India for liberal assistance to its jala yagnam.  Apart from representing to the president and prime minister of India, power point presentations were made to the union minister for finance P Chidambaram,  vice chairman of the planning commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, and the chairman of the economic advisory council to the prime minsiter, Dr C Rangarajan, seeking additional assistance from Bharat Nirman programme and Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP) for jala yagnam but to no avail. 


Though the state government allocated Rs 6000 crore for irrigation in the annual budget of the last financial year, it could only spend about Rs 5000 crore. As announced earlier, the government has allocated Rs 10,000 crore for irrigation for the year 2006-07. Though this substantial increase in budgetary allocation for irrigation is welcome, it is regrettable that this is accompanied by severe cuts in welfare spending of the government. As a part and parcel of the process of liberalisation, it was the budgetary allocations made for the welfare of different sections of the people that have invariably been subjected to cuts during the one decade of the erstwhile regime of the Telugu Desam Party.  The practice of the Congress government during the last two financial years is no different from the past experience of its predecessor. In the 2006-07 budget, several sectors relating to welfare and development of human resources – social welfare, rural development, agriculture, education, health, animal husbandry, welfare of different sections of the people, etc. – have been neglected. The allocations have been reduced, both in real and absolute terms in some cases, and inadequate allocations in some other cases. Apart from these imbalances, there is no guarantee that even these allocations would be spent fully, given the past experience of more than one decade. The government has already announced that it will allocate and spend Rs 13,000 crore and Rs 17,000 crore for irrigation for the next two financial years respectively from its internal resources. Whether it would be able to do so without continuing such imbalances and affecting the welfare of the weaker sections is a big question mark.




The priorities of the government in taking up projects and allocating funds are found to be questionable for various reasons. If it is not possible for the government to mobilise required resources as targetted,  then it has to fix its priorities keeping in view the requirements of regional balance and social justice. It has to give first priority to the projects intended to benefit the backward and drought-prone areas. It has to take into account district as a unit and the irrigation potential already created under canal systems and give priority to such districts where this potential less, says B V Raghavulu, secretarty of the state committee of the CPI(M).  Going by this yardstick, Adilabad, Anantapur, Mahaboobnagar, Ranga Reddy, Warangal, Medak, Nalgonda, Khammam, Prakasam, Vijayanagaram,  Visakhapatnam, Cuddapah, Kurnool,  Nizamabad,  Chittoor, etc. deserve priority. Then there is acute scarcity for drinking water in some of the districts due to scanty rainfall.  However, in the scheme of priorities of the government, projects intended to benefit these districts do not find the kind of importance they deserve. For example, West Godavari district avails the highest irrigation potential in the state. To benefit the same ayacut in this district, the government has taken up Tadipudi lift irrigation scheme and the Polavaram project simultaneously, leading to avoidable duplicity and hefty expenditure.  It cites the ground that implementation of Polavaram project may be delayed and therefore the necessity for this lift irrigation scheme. Contrary to that, Devadula and Yellampalli projects intended to benefit  Warangal, Medak and Nalgonda districts are being given relatively lesser priority by dividing and taking them up in phases. The government has rightly embarked on increasing the capacity of  Pothireddypadu head regulator from 12,000 cusecs to 44,000 cusecs  with a view to utilising flood waters for the benefit of the backward Rayalaseema area.   However, when it comes to Velugonda project intended to benefit Prakasam district, the government has reduced the dia of its tunnel from the originally proposed 11 meters to 7 meters, leading to reduction in the extent of intended ayacut. Similarly, the government is not giving due consideration to the proposals for enhancing the dia of the tunnel of Srisailam Left Bank Canal (SLBC) intended to benefit drought-prone areas in Nalgonda district and increasing the capacity of the lifts of Kalwakurthy project intended to benefit Mahaboobnagar district, thereby exposing itself to the accusation of following double standards and discriminating against backward and drought-prone areas.




The government is trying to justify its discriminatory approach with tricky comparisons by reeling out allocations made by the earlier TDP government, costs of creating irrigation potential per acre under different projects in different regions, and requirement of the quantum of water for irrigating specific extent of land under different projects. For creating irrigation potential in backward and upland areas, it requires huge investment and that is the reason why the rulers have neglected projects of those areas over the decades. Compared to the costs of creating irrigation potential per acre under projects in Andhra area, the costs of creating the same under projects in Telangana and other upland areas is almost double or even triple. 


Similarly, the statistics being furnished by the government relating to the quantum of water required to irrigate extent of ayacut are also misleading.  For example, the government claims that one tmc ft of water is required to irrigate 6000 acres of ayacut under Polavaram project and that the same quantum of water can irrigate 28,000 acres of ayacut under Devadula project. The government claims that it is possible because it is surface irrigation under Polavaram and drip and sprinkler irrigation under Devadula! The government is trying to hoodwink the people without coming out with factual position as to the actual quantum of assured water being given to a region and a district and whether they are getting their due share in assured water. With this kind of approach of the government, there is every danger of regional disparities getting intensified, for, the difficulties in creating irrigation potential are one of the main reasons for regional differences.  Therefore, the irrigation potential being created in a district or region should be considered on the basis of  the quantum of water being provided rather than on the basis of  allocation of funds and extent of ayacut, explains Raghavulu.




The government has invited tenders for taking up projects on the basis of engineering, procurement and construction (EPC).  Barring one or two, there are detailed project reports, designs and reports of borehole studies to all the proposed projects.  As such, there is no need for calling for EPC tenders; it would be sufficient if tenders are called for procurement and construction only, says B Tulasidas, president of A P Rythu Sangham, and secretary of the state committee of the displaced people.  In no other state EPC tenders have been called for on such a large scale as in Andhra Pradesh.  Experience has confirmed that EPC contracts have all the potential for fraudulently changing designs, inflating estimates of capital costs and rampant corruption to unduly benefit the contractors and decision makers.   In the case of Thotapalli project,  norms of eligibility were manipulated to eliminate the contractor who quoted the lowest rate and award the contract to the contractor who quoted the second lowest rate with documents of experience of doubtful authenticity. In the case of Pulichintala, contrary to the terms of the contract,  the contractor constructed the bund with mud and fly ash – instead of  cement –  and the chief minister admitted these irregularities as true after reviewing the same.   In the case of Yellampally project, its capital cost has been inflated by Rs 400 crore and the legislative assembly discussed the issue for more than two weeks during the recently concluded budget session.  Refusing to place the files concerned before the speaker for perusal by the members of the House, the government ultimately agreed to show the same in the chambers of the minister for major irrigation. However, all the relevant files were not shown in the chambers of the minister. One after another, the cases of rampant corruption relating to irrigation projects are seeing the light of the day.




The government is acting inhumanly towards the people who are being displaced under different projects and demanding justice.  Firing took place on the people affected under Thotapalli project on April 16, 2005.  The agitating people affected by acquisition of land for Polavaram right canal were arrested in Krishna district. As a result of irregularities committed in deciding compensation and the delay in paying the same to the oustees under Gundlakamma and Handri-Neeva projects, there is a lot of resentment among the displaced people. Though the government has formulated a rehabilitation and resettlement policy, it has not given statutory status to it. Tulasidas criticises the government for lagging behind in implementing the same sincerely. The police repression and firing on the agitating people affected by construction of the Gangavaram port shocked the people. (People’s Democracy: April 2, 2006).  The government is refusing to consider alternative proposals suggested by expert engineers to the proposed Polavaram project to avoid or minimise submersion of villages. It is adamantly continuing to violate different laws. The people affected under this project, nearly two lakh – including 1.10 lakh tribals – in 274 scheduled villages have been agitating against the moves of the government (People’s Democracy: January 22, 2006).


It is in this background that the state committee of the CPI(M) has demanded the government to come out with a comprehensive policy on water, with proper priorities ensuring regional balance and  equity in terms of allocation of assured water and funds and implementation of  projects  and social justice to the oustees under different projects.