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“Mr Kejriwal, Respect Democracy, Avoid Amaravati”

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Having set the ball in motion, now former union power secretary EAS Sarma writes to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal asking him to refrain from attending the Amaravati foundation laying ceremony on October 22, 2015, for the simple reason that capital project is anti-people. We reproduce the letter here. A couple of days ago Sarma wrote to PM  urging him to think twice before attending Amaravati ceremony. The letter triggered a campaign by public spirited people writing letters to PM with a request not to join the ill-conceived capital project inauguration.

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To

Shri Arvind Kejriwal
Chief Minister
Delhi Govt

Dear Arvind,

Subject:- Shri Chandrababu Naidu’s invitation to you to attend the inauguaration of the new capital city on October 22nd at Amaravati near Guntur- Objections

I underatand that Shri Chandrababu Naidu, CM (AP) has invited you to attend the inauguration of the new capital city on October 21st at Amaravati near Guntur. I would strongly recommend that you should refrain from attending the inauguration for the following reasons.

The State government is forcibly acquiring several thousands of fertile agricultural land adjacent to River Krishna for this project, disrupting the lives of lakhs of farmers, agricultural workers, artisans and so on.

The area where the capital city is being set up comprises vast stretches of land on which more than a hundred different types of crops are grown. There are hundreds of water bodies over that land which will get adversely affected. The project will affect the food security of the State.

In this age of modern communications, there is no need for such a grandiose capital city comprising of concrete structures, a delight for real estate developers, who are in nexus with the State’s political leaders. The small and marginal farmers do not derive any benefit from the acquisition of land.

The project violates Section 6 of the AP Reorganisation Act in pursuance of which the Union Home Ministry has set down the criteria for locating the capital city. Till date, the State authorities have not cared to evaluate the environment impact of the project and failed to go through the statutory environment impact assessment process that provides for public consultation. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued an interim order staying further work on the capital city but the State is proceeding obstinately, streamrolling the statutory procedure.

The Ministry of Environment & Forests (MOEF) is trying to bypass all statutory procedures since BJP is an ally of TDP. On the other hand, the same BJP-dominated government has defied every norm of cooperative federalism vis a vis the Delhi government that you head today!

Bowing down to pressure from real estate developers, the State has also violated the statutory procedure laid down in AP Agricultural Land (Conversion for Non-Agricultural Purposes) Act, 2006.

In the name of the State’s pride, the State authorities are splurging money on the inaugural function at the cost of payments for genuine development work. This project has turned out to be a bottomless pit for public expenditire, resulting in syphoning off of funds from the backward north AP and Rayalaseema districts, leading to regional discrimination. There has been no public consultation on this project at any time.

Against this background, I leave it to you to consider what I have indicated above and decide on whether you will participate in the inaugural function or not.

In my view, if you respect the law of the land and care for democratic processes, you should refrain from attending the function.

I enclose a copy of my letter to the Prime Minister’s Office suggesting that the PM should also do likewise.

Regards,
E.A.S.Sarma
14-40-4/1 Gokhale Road
Maharanipeta
Visakhapatnam 530002
Mobile: 919866021646
Email: eassarma@gmail.com
15.10.2015

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EAS Sarma advises PM not to visit Amaravati

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India’s one of the most respected IAS officers Dr EAS Sarma (rtd) wants Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to visit Andhra Pradesh to lay foundation stone for the proposed capital city, Amaravati, on October 22,2015, which in his view will benefit realtors more rather than people of the state. Dr Sarma wrote a letter to Prime Minister’s office on Sunday putting forth the reasons why the PM should not visit Andhra Pradesh. Participation in the foundation stone laying ceremony amounts to endorsement of the politically and economically unwise decision to construct the capital  on the banks or River Krishna, unmindful of the recommendations of experts.

To

Shri Nripendra Misra
Principal Secretary to PM
PMO
N.Delhi

Dear Shri Misra,

Subject:- AP CM’s invitation to the PM to inaugurarate the new capital city near Amaravathi in Guntur area- Objections

I understand that, on an invitation extended by the AP CM, the Prime Minister (PM) has agreed to lay the foundation stone for the State’s new capital city near Amaravati on October 22nd. I feel that the PMO should think twice before going ahead with the inauguration.

I have listed my concerns below.

1. In pursuance of Section 6 of the AP Reorganisation Act, 2014, the Union Home Ministry had constituted a committee under late Shri Sivaramakrishnan to study the altrnatives for locating the AP capital city and specifically asked that Committee to keep in view the need to cause “the least possible dislocation to existing agriculture systems as well as ensure minimum resettlement of people and their habitations”, to ensure “preservation of local ecology and natural features including water bodies”, make a “vulnerability assessment for natural disasters like floods, cyclones and earthquakes” and “assess the scope for minimising the cost of construction and acquisition of land”. The Sivaramakrishnan Committee had submitted a comprehensive report accordingly but the State government ignored that report in defiance of the Act and unilaterally decided on locating the capital in Vijayawada-Guntur region, without any consultation wihe the people.

2. The capital city project, as being thought of by Shri Chandrababu Naidu, will disrupt agriculture over large stretches of fertile land, adversely affect the lives of lakhs of farmers, agricultural workers, artisans and agri-based economy, like never before. The project is yet to be subject to a statutory environment impact appraisal.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT), in an interim order dated 10-10-2015, appears have expressed concern at the fact that the State authorities are yet to survey the area and assess its agricultural resources and directed them not to proceed with any activity that is likely to disturb agriculture and the local environment. It is ironic that the Chief Minister is more eager to invite foreign dignataries to the inaugural function than trying to find out the value of the agricultural resources and human capital that will be foregone as a result of the project.
Against this background, it will be highly imprudent on the part of the PM to agree to affix his stamp of approval for the project by laying the foundation stone, as such an act is likely to make a mockery of the law of the land and its statutory institutions, especially at a time when India is pronouncing to the world its resolve to join hands in poptecting the environment.

3. There is a simmering discontent among the people of north AP and Rayalaseema at the huge, extravagent public expenditure being incurred by the State on its grandiose capital city project. Large stretches of land in that area, subject to inundation, may have be raised in level and a new barrage may have to be constructed accross River Krishna to provide water for the capital, involving a huge expense that will syphon off scarce budgetary resources from north AP and Rayalseema districts to benefit the region of the capital city.
Such a large expenditure on a single project to benefit a single region would also starve important development sectors in the State such as public health, education, social welfare and so on. Should the PM endorse this?

4. The State is already groaning under a huge overdraft and is finding it difficult to pay the salaries of its employees and meet the development commitments. The mind-boggling financial commitments being made on the capital city will not only affect the present government but also the future governments to come.

5. I was associated at the Centre with the formation of Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttaranchal States and the commitments made for their new capital cities. In these days of advanced digitial, satellite comunication systems, to concentrate construction activity for a large capital city in one place is uneconomical. The only beneficiaries of the project would be the real estate developers! Many of us fell that, had the AP CM consulted the people of the State, he would have been wiser in taking a decision on the formation of the capital.

As a person resident at Visakhapatnam and familiar with the finances of the Centre and the States, I thought that I should bring these aspects to the notice of Shri Narendra Modi so that he may take a prudent decision on whether to go ahead with the inauguration or defer it.

I request you to show this letter to Shri Narendra Modi in view of the implications I have pointed out.

Regards,

Yours sincerely,

E A S Sarma
Former Secretary to GOI
Visakhapatnam
11-10-2015

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Beggars at Pushkar Ghats: What is wrong and right

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With regard to the reports that CM Chandrababu Naidu asked official to keep the beggars away from Pushkaralu and reward them with Rs 5000 to compensate the loss due to restrictions on begging, former union secretary Dr EAS Sarma says this is wrong.

Dr Sarma has the following to say with regard to the beggars and Andhra Pradesh government.

  1. The State has the Constitutional obligation to identify and rehabilitate homeless beggars in cities and towns as per the landmark directive dated 5-5-2010 of Hon’ble Supreme Court in WP(C) 196/2001. The State government, in its affidavit filed in that case, had assured the Hon’ble Court that it would fully comply with that directive. Till date, the State is still dragging its feet in falling in line with that directive fully. As such, it is a matter of shame and a serious illegality on the part of the State government to have offered incentives to beggars to stay away from the Pushkarams. In a way, this amounts to an outright contempt of the court order cited above.
  2. Beggars are citizens like any one of us. Many of them have no alternative other than begging, as they are diseased, aged, handicapped, abandoned by their own children and so on. Though there are laws in existence, it is the State’s dismal failure to enforce those laws meant to safeguard such persons that has created space for beggary. To feel that beggars are not welcome at the Pushkaram ghats, where pilgrims often offer them alms and eatables, is to violate their human rights and hurt their pride and dignity.
  3. Beggars in the State are to be usually seen at religious places, hotels, railway and bus stations etc. The presence of beggars in towns and cities is a sad reflection on the policies of the government. Instead of addressing the root cause of beggary, the State apparently wants to hide it in its unfortunate ostrich approach to the societal problems.

Finally, Dr Sarma said it was the CM’s entourage that blocked the flow of pilgrim rush at the Ghats that resulted in an unprecedented stampede and loss of a large number of innocent lives. The Chief Minister’scontinued to stay at Rajahmundry, receiving foreign delegations, placing intense pressure on the local security personnel, the traffic and the utility services at the expense of the ordinary pilgrim and the ordinary resident of the town. He conveyed his views to the government of Andhra Pradesh by writing a letter.

Telugu360 is always open for the best and bright journalists. If you are interested in full-time or freelance, email us at Krishna@telugu360.com.

‘Sumitomo Set to Kill Mother Nature in Srikakulam’

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Former union power secretary and noted environmental activist EAS Sarma is objecting to proposed 4000 mw ultra super critical power plant by Sumitomo Corp in Srikakulam district as the land allocated for the plant falls in the India’s only wetland ecosystem and fertile farm lands.  According to Sarma, the plant violates the very guidelines formulated by none other than Chandrababu Naidu when he was chief minister in 2001.

AP Genco and Sumitomo signed an MoU to set up the plant  during chief minister Naidu’s first Japan visit in November,2014. Sarma, known for his fight against the arbitrary setting up of thermal plants in the coastal region, lamented that the officials were not even ready to provide a copy of the MoU signed to establish the power plant. Expresssing displeasure over the plant’s location, Sarma, dashed off a letter to state chief secretary IYR Krishan Rao, Thursady.

Here we give full text of the letter.

Dear Shri Krishna Rao,

I understand that the State Government has signed an MOU with the Japanese MNC, Sumitomo for setting up a 4,000MW coal-based power project in Polaki mandal in Srikakulam District. Apparently, the MOU is signed by APGENCO with Sumitomo. Also, I understand that more than 2,500 acres of land, some of it perhaps including stretches of wetlands and irrigated agricultural lands, has been earmarked for the project.

When some of us have tried to obtain a copy of the relevant MOU under the RTI Act, the concerned authorities have blocked the same in violation of the provisions of the Act. Under Section 4 of the RTI Act, since the MOU is of public interest, the concerned authorities ought to have placed the MOUs in the public domain but they have openly violated that provision also. Hiding the MOU gives me the impression that the State government has something to hold back from the people for reasons best known to it.

The AP Infrastructure Development Enabling Act, 2001 requires the government to adopt a fair, transparent procedure such as competitive bidding in selecting project developers / consultants for any mega-infrastructure project. In the instant case of Sumitomo, this requirement has been shelved and the company selected in a highly non-transparent manner, giving rise to serious doubts about the propriety and integrity of the selection process.

The Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010 notified by the MoEF prohibit industrial projects being set up in wetlands. Since a substantial portion of the land being allotted for the project comes within the definition of a wetland, the project violates those Rules.

More than a decade ago, as a part of the Neeru Meeru programme, the government instructed the District Collectors throughout the State [Memo 24140/Assn I(1)/2003-3 of 22 August 2003] to notify all lands with water bodies and include them in the village Prohibitory Order Books (POBs) so that such lands could be excluded from diversion and damage. Apparently, large portions of the land allotted for the Sumitomo project attract this prohibition. The District Revenue authorities ought to have included all such lands in the Prohibitory Order Book of the concerned villages and brought the same to the attention of the State authorities. Failure to do so raises concerns of propriety and malfeasance on the part of the government.

The manner in which the State government had earlier allotted lands at a less-than-market price for the thermal power projects in Sompeta and Kakarapalli and for other projects elsewhere has been adversely commented upon by the C&AG. The Polaki case too suffers from the same impropriety and it calls not only for an audit by the C&AG but also an independent investigation of the irregularities and improprieties involved.

I therefore demand that the State government desists from going ahead with the Sumitomo project in view of such multiple statutory and other violations, failing which I will be constrained to seek judicial intervention.

Regards,

yours sincerely,

E A S Sarma

Visakhapatnam

9-7-2015

Telugu360 is always open for the best and bright journalists. If you are interested in full-time or freelance, email us at Krishna@telugu360.com.

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