19 yrs on, Lower Indra project still incomplete

| | NUAPADA
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19 yrs on, Lower Indra project still incomplete

Monday, 25 February 2019 | AJIT PANDA | NUAPADA

The Lower Indra Irrigation Project (LIIP) in Nuapada district, whose construction started in the year 2000 and the schedule date of completion was March 2004, is yet to be completed even after nineteen years.

The delay has led to a lot of problems, apart from the escalation in cost to about ten times of the initially planned expenditure.

The number of displaced persons (DP) has increased to over 10,000. The Lower Indra Bisthapit Sahayata Samiti (LIBSS), which was established by the project to support the rehabilitation and resettlement programmes put the blame on the project authorities and the Government.

"The problems of the DPs are yet to be solved even after a decade and a half of their eviction from their respective villages. About 2,500 households out of the 2,937 initially enumerated have not been given their rightful dues as per 2006 policy. The enhanced rate of compensation as fixed by the court for land acquired by the project is yet to be paid and we have been harping on these issues for last six years, but the Government has given nothing except assurance," said secretary of LIBSS Nitya Pradhan.

Pradhan further alleges that the evaluation of trees and houses of DPs have not been taken on realistic basis and the DPs settled in different villages of Nuapada and Balangir districts have been deprived of their rightful dues under PDS and various other benefit schemes of the Government.

The LIBSS had held a two-month long strike in 2012, demanding fulfilment of their rights under the 2006 R and R Policy as well as a change in the cutoff date as a consequence to delay in providing R and R assistance to DPs in time. The cutoff date was refixed as 1.1.2014 to allow thousands of people to figure as DPs but no further development took place to provide them assistance under R and R Policy, which created resentments amongst the affected people.

Considering people's sentiment, the LIBSS renewed the agitation last week and hundreds of DPs sat on demonstration in front of the project office at Khariar. Renowned environmental activist Prafulla Samantara and farmer leader Lingaraj joined the agitation and provided support to the cause of the DPs. Considering the forthcoming election in mind, the Government is learnt to have directed the project authority to have a discussion with the agitators.

The project authority in a meeting with the agitators has again assured that the issues raised by the DPs would be taken into consideration be the Government.

General public of Khariar area is disturbed that the project is unnecessarily delayed due to the negligence. The performance report of the Auditor and Comptroller General, ending March 2017, has similar remarks in this regard.

“The initial estimate for displacement of families rose from 1,460 to 9,441 up to March 2017. The project authorities paid compensation of Rs 58.74 crore only to 2,937 DPs as per the Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R&R) Policy of 1994 without ensuring their eviction from the submergence area. As a result of non-eviction of the DPs, ineffective implementation of R and R measures and delay in land acquisition, the project has suffered a time overrun of 13 years and cost overrun of Rs 1,541 crore," states the report.

The State Government in its response to the report in March 2018 very cleverly stated that eviction and R and R issues were a difficult task and the Government had to move very carefully and tactfully. "The careful and tactful move of the Government has cost crores of rupees to the public exchequer and no one is made accountable for this," remarked scribe Tapan Dash.

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