Details of the rights of tribals living in the submergence area of the Polavaram Project, as enunciated by the Forest Rights Act, are not even documented, before which the tribals are being displaced, said a fact finding report by a city-based voluntary organisation.
The organisation, Human Rights Society, through a press meet on Monday, revealed that the individual and customary traditional rights of the tribals have not been codified and gazetted by the governments yet. Even before it is done, they are being displaced with a nominal compensation.
While releasing the report of a fact finding team which visited seven affected villages, N. Rajeswara Rao, the general secretary of the society, demanded that details of the rights of each individual, his family, his community, lands under cultivation, and grazing lands should be documented along with traditional customary rights and boundaries of the community enjoyment areas.
It should be done under the supervision of Grama Sabha, and the recommendations accepted by the government.
Former AP High Court justice A. Gopala Rao, who headed the team, noted that revenue records in the villages were fudged so that names of outsiders are replaced by the names of original tribal residents who will end up not receiving any rehabilitation package.
Nobody in the seven villages have received the relief and rehabilitation settlements, he said, and pointed out that even while increasing the project cost since 2005, it has not occurred to the government to increase the amount payable for those being displaced.
Though land for land and house for house are on offer, land and housing plot are separated by long distances, unlike in the present villages where they are adjacent to each other, Justice Rao said.
The team visited the villages named Mamidigondi, Devaragondi, Ramayyapeta, Thota Gondhi, Singanapalli, Pydipaka and Chegondipally, which are the first to be submerged by the project.
Team members demanded that the government conduct meetings, interact with the gram sabha and local politicians, and preparing a road map based on mutual agreement and consent, before laying the next brick for the project.
The issue of rehabilitation should be discussed by the State and Central governments within these parameters.
The package should be as per the directions by the monitoring committee, and if the package is found to be lagging in reference to the fixed benchmarks, construction should be deferred or stopped.
In the interests of the rights of the project-affected families, the area of relocation should be declared as Scheduled Area, so that the protection and benefits of being Scheduled Tribes are not lost, Mr. Gopala Rao demanded.
Revenue records in villages are fudged so that names of outsiders are replaced with the names of original tribal residents who will end up not receiving any rehabilitation package
A. Gopala Rao
Former AP High Court justice