Anti-Polavaram movement picking up in Odisha


While political parties in Andhra Pradesh accuse chief minister Chandrabu Naidu of attempting to delay or scrap the Polavaram project by taking up Pattisesem Lift, Odisha state CPM sees a tacit support from BJD government, BJP and Congress to the project. Odisha state CPM is building a statewide movement against the Polavaram in the wake Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Polavaram to lay foundation stone for the project on October 22, 2015. A week ago tribals of Malkangiri district rallied against the project in a massive demonstration led by state CPM secretary Ali Kishore Patnaik. He told T-360 that the party would intensify the fight against the Polavarm. An eloquent leader, comrade Patnaik spoke to Jinka Nagaraju about polavaram politics of Odisha. He says the opposition to Polavaram is dying down in the state for two reasons: one-scam ridden BJD wants to make peace with Modi by extending support to Polavaram. Two, state BJP is toeing the line of Modi.

Q. Why are you opposing Polavaram project when there is no open protest from any party say ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD ), BJP and Congress?
Patnaik : Ruling BJD and opposition parties- Congress and the BJP- are providing tacit support to the Polavaram project ignoring the devastation the project would cause in Odisha, especially to the interests of poor of Malkangiri district.Now Prime Minister Modi is laying foundation stone. What does it mean? Congress announced the project, BJP made it a national project. BJD seems to have entered into some understanding with BJP to save itself from scams it got embroiled in. So, none of these parties is coming out in a big way to protest against Polavaram although thousands of poor tribals of Malkangiri district are going to be uprooted.

Q. Even your counterparts in AP and Telangana are silent!
Patnaik: I am in touch with Tammineni Veerabhadram of Telangana and Madhu of Andhra Pradesh as well as our senior comrade BV Raghavulu. Andhra CPM has been demanding the change of design so that there would be less submergence. I don’t know the response from the AP government in cutting the height of the project.

Q. How is the people’s response in Malkangiri to your call ?
Patnaik : Last week over 3,000 tribals and Dalits, including women, organized a 24-hour protest in front of the Malkangiri District Collector’s office against Polavaram multi-purpose project of Andhra Pradesh. They are ready to go to any extent to save their areas from being submerged. Our party is planning to hold demonstrations against the Polavaram project all over Odisha. We will intensify our agitation till the design is changed so that there would no impact on tribal lands and no uprooting of population.

Q. Why do you think the BJP changed its stance on Polavaram?
Patnaik: Look at the politics on polavaram. During 2014 elections, Andhra BJP supported Polavaram to move closer to TDP and Chandrababu Naidu. Then Odisha BJP leaders opposed it. After Narendra Modi declared Polavaram a national project, the Odisha BJP leaders, all of a sudden, fell silent on submergence in Malkangiri district. BJD government in Odisha is also playing politics ignoring the poor and voiceless tribals. The Ruling party is neck deep in scams like chit fund, mining making it susceptible to the Centre’s blackmailing.

Q.What exactly is the problem the Polavaram poses to Malkangiri?
Patnaik : The adivasis and other dalit populations of Motu and Pushiguda areas in Malkangiri district told us their area had got submerged in the flood of 2006, even when there was no Polavaram project.The project, if completed, will obstruct the natural flow of water in Saveri and Sileru rivers that flow on both sides of Malkangiri district before joining Godavari river posing the threat of submergence in the region. They fear that Polavaram would force them to vacate the area in which they have been living for ages.

Q. What do you want to convey to Andhra Pradesh government?
Patnaik: Experts suggest many alternatives to the present design of Polavaram. In the present form the dam is destructive. AP government should think of avoiding human tragedies. We will continue to raise our voice in support of tribal and dalit populations of Malkangiri.

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