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Why a Rs 1,400-crore Lendi irrigation project in Nanded is hanging fire for 30 years
IndiaShraddha GhatgeSep, 03 2016 16:04:13 IST

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The inter-state Lendi irrigation project between Maharashtra and Telangana has been languishing in an unfinished state for the past three decades. The project, once finished, will irrigate 27,000 acres of land falling under Nanded district of Maharashtra and 22,000 acres of land under Nizamabad district in Telangana.

The primary reason why the project, which began in 1987, has been so unusually delayed is due to the prolonged land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement of the displaced families.

However, the project-affected farmers of Mukramabad village in Nanded’s Mukhed taluka are distressed as they claim that they were unfairly compensated – Rs 8,000-Rs 20,000 per acre as per market rate during the time of acquisition – for their farms as well as houses.

Out of 14 gates, 10 have been fixed. The incomplete Lendi irrigation project at Mukramabad village in Nanded district.
Shivram Hasnal, deputy sarpanch of Ravangaon village, Nanded district, said, “This irrigation project has been going on since I was a kid. The compensation paid to us was extremely meagre. Some have been given as little as Rs 12,000 or Rs 20,000 per acre. All we are asking from the state is to pay us the compensation as per the revised land bill. That’s why we are protesting.”

As a mark of protest, they have been stalling the ongoing construction of the project since 2012 because their demand of fair compensation as per the revised land acquisition law has not been met by the state.

Hemant Khankare, a member of Gram Panchayat and Lendi Dharan Sangharsh Samiti, says, “We are demanding compensation similar to what farmers affected by Gosikhurd National Irrigation project were given. How can the compensation that was given as per the old market rate suffice? Besides, drought has aggravated our problems. The state should resolve this issue at the earliest so that cities like Latur, Osmanabad too would benefit from the water released from this project.”

The expenditure of the project has been divided in the ratio of 62:38 for Maharashtra and Telangana respectively of which Telangana has already paid Rs 190 crore. The initial cost of the project was Rs 54.55 crore, which gradually rose to Rs 555 crores in 2009 and has now shot up to Rs 1,400 crore. So far, about Rs 375 crore have been spent on the project.

Interestingly, given the expanse of the project, the backwater from the Lendi project can not only irrigate the talukas like Mukhed, Udgir, Deglur, and Nizambad (Telangana) but also resolve water scarcity issues in major cities Latur and Osmanabad.

Superintendent engineer of the project, Swamy, said: “The main issue is that of incomplete rehabilitation. About 3,000 hectares of required land has been acquired and affected people have been compensated as well. Even those who had moved court demanding higher compensation have been paid except the people of Mukramabad village. The payment of Rs 75 crore is pending since the village is considered as the fag end of the project. We are waiting for the state’s approval.

“Many people were obstructing the process of land acquisition which further delayed the project. For the past 15 years, the land has been acquired only on paper; the villagers are still living on the land and are nursing their farms. Besides, we have paid them already. How can they demand more if they are still living on the state-owned land with no obstructions. It’s an unreasonable demand,” Swamy added.

Suresh Kakani, collector of Nanded district, explained that the vast project has now been divided into two phases. The first phase has seven villages. Out of those, while the rehabilitation of the locals in five villages is almost complete, remaining two villages – Bhendegoan and Hasnaal – which was delayed due to a legal dispute, has now resumed. “The first phase is likely to complete in a year or two. Thereafter the work on phase two, which includes seven villages, including Mukramabad, will begin. It will take another couple of years for the entire project to get done,” he said.

Citing lack of funds as another hurdle causing the delay, Kakani said, “The stalled ongoing construction and lack of timely funding from the state has not only extended the duration but also escalated the cost of the project. Initially the farmers had cooperated with us but later they started protesting. Mukramabad is the last of the 12 villages which will be submerged once the project is complete. Also, in that only 30 percent of the village will fall under submerged area if we consider good flow of water.”

When asked about the protest by the farmers over the revised compensation amount, Kakani said, “As per the revised land bill, the affected people will get a higher compensation, but this is a bit complex issue because many who have already been compensated as per the old law have not challenged it. If they do so, then certain decisions will have to be made. I don’t wish to comment on the demands of compensation given to the affected people under Gosikhurd project, but whatever funding that has been set aside for the rehabilitation of the remainder of the affected people will be done methodically.”

Sudhakar Kachkalvar, chief engineer on the Lendi project, stated that out of 14 gates, 10 have been fixed. “We still have not secured a place for the rehabilitation of farmers in Mukramabad. The villagers have been compensated for the fields as per the market rate when they were acquired. It will take time as two more villages need to be rehabilitated. However, the farmers are not cooperating.”

Earlier in March, after Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao wrote to his Maharashtra counterpart Devendra Fadnavis to speed up the project, an agreement to constitute an inter-state board for joint irrigation projects was signed. Telangana government has kept aside Rs 25,000 crore for irrigation projects in this year’s budget, while Maharashtra government has allotted Rs 7,800 crore.

Tushar Rathod, BJP MLA from Mukramabad, said, “About 20 years ago, the then state government had compensated the people as per the market rate of that year. The compensation amount was obviously less as compared to what it is at present. Since the project was not completed on time, the rehabilitation of the people consequently stalled. We can’t give them further compensation as the land has already been acquired and owned by the state. Over the couple of decades, the families have expanded and hence that is making them ask for higher compensation.

“We are committed and hopeful that this project will be completed soon. However, lack of funds is causing the delay as well. The revised administrative approval for funds proposed by me is being delayed in Nashik office. We are hoping that once we it gets sanctioned, we will be able to move forward with the project. I have requested Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to grant some package to these affected families and rehabilitate them soon.”

Although 85 percent of the irrigation work has been complete, reaching a middle ground with the affected families has become a challenge for the state. Given the speed, it should not surprise you to see another story written on the same project, in another five-10 years, about its further delay and escalated costs.

#Devendra fadnavis#Gosikhurd national irrigation project#Inter-state lendi irrigation project#K. chandrasekhar rao#Lendi irrigation project#Maharashtra#Mukramabad lendi irrigation project#Nanded#Nanded irrigation project#Newstracker#Telangana

Published Date: Jun 10, 2016 06:09 pm | Updated Date: Sep 03, 2016 04:04 pm

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