This vil­lage vows against vot­ing for TRS over land row

Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur) - - Htnation - Srini­vasa Rao Ap­pa­rasu let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.cpm

The mood in Vemulaghat, a sleepy vil­lage in Thoguta block, Sid­dipet district, Te­lan­gana is one of anger against the K Chan­drashekar Rao-led govern­ment. A ma­jor­ity of the 4,000odd villagers has taken a vow not to vote for the rul­ing Te­lan­gana Rash­tra Samithi in the December 7 assem­bly elec­tions.

The villagers have been at war with the state govern­ment since June 2016, when it de­cided to ac­quire their land for the con­struc­tion of the Mal­lan­nasagar reser­voir as part of the Kalesh­waram lift ir­ri­ga­tion scheme on the Go­davari River.

The reser­voir, pro­posed to be con­structed at a cost of ~9,800 crore, will have a ca­pac­ity to store 50 thou­sand mil­lion cu­bic feet (tmc) of wa­ter which will be used to ir­ri­gate 12 lakh acres in Sid­dipet, Medak and Ranga Reddy districts.

The reser­voir will dis­place nearly 30,000 peo­ple in eight ma­jor vil­lages and six other ham­lets and sub­merge 21,000 acres of rich agri­cul­tural land. Vemulaghat is the big­gest vil­lage among those af­fected and will lose at least 5,300 acres of land. It is also the only vil­lage which has held out against the state’s over­tures and threats.

“For the last two years, our vil­lage has been vir­tu­ally un­der siege by po­lice. We braved ar­rests, lathi-charges and cases, but we did not give up our fight. They man­aged to lure some of our villagers and forced them to sign doc­u­ments trans­fer­ring their land to the govern­ment, but a ma­jor­ity has re­fused to give up,” said Srini­vas Reddy, for­mer sarpanch of Vemulaghat.

The villagers of Vemulaghat know that they can­not stop the Mal­lan­nasagar project. “We have been ask­ing for a fair com­pen­sa­tion un­der the Land Acquisition, Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and Re­set­tle­ment Act, 2013. But the TRS govern­ment ini­tially sought to ac­quire land through an ad­min­is­tra­tive or­der (GO No. 123); af­ter the high court struck it down, it brought in its own land acquisition act which was noth­ing but a mod­i­fied ver­sion of the ear­lier govern­ment or­der,” Reddy added.

The govern­ment of­fered ~6 lakh per acre as com­pen­sa­tion, but the villagers are de­mand­ing at least three times that as per the Land Acquisition, Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and Re­set­tle­ment Act, 2013. “Ours is a fer­tile land and we raise three crops a year. Even this sea­son, we got good paddy crop in more than 300 acres, be­sides cot­ton, maize and other crops,” ex­plained Narasimha Reddy, a farmer.

While con­tin­u­ing the bat­tle in the courts, the villagers have been on a re­lay hunger strike since June 4, 2016 in front of the Ma­hatma Gandhi statue in the vil­lage. On Fri­day, the hunger strike en­tered its 888th day. “We did not let up our fight even for a day and we shall con­tinue it till we achieve our goal,” said Sri­sailam, one of the ag­i­ta­tors.

With elec­tions round the cor­ner, villagers have got an op­por­tu­nity to give vent to their anger. “In 2014, we sup­ported the TRS, but this time, we have made a col­lec­tive de­ci­sion not to vote for it,” said Vi­nay, a stu­dent ac­tivist.

The TRS, which has been way ahead of the op­po­si­tion par­ties in the elec­tion cam­paign, has not come to this vil­lage so far. “They can­not come here to seek votes. They know our re­ac­tion,” Vi­nay said.

TRS can­di­date for Dub­bak con­stituency un­der which the vil­lage comes S Ra­ma­linga Reddy said he had gone to the vil­lage a cou­ple of months ago but not af­ter cam­paign­ing be­gan. “Nev­er­the­less, we have our party work­ers from the vil­lage who are cam­paign­ing. The re­sponse from the peo­ple in sub­mer­gence vil­lages is not as bad as is be­ing pro­jected.”

VEMULAGHAT:

HT PHO­TOS

Lo­cals have been at war with the govern­ment since it de­cided to ac­quire their land to con­struct Mal­lan­nasagar reser­voir.

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