There seems to be some trouble in the otherwise 'happy' Telangana. Medak is Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao’s home district. A proposed land acquisition for an irrigation project here has triggered massive protests by villagers and the opposition parties.
This will probably be the first major political test for KCR, even as he has completed two years as the chief minister. The row is over land acquisition for the Rs 9,800 crore Mallanna Sagar project.
Over 30,000 people spread over 14 villages in Medak district have hit the streets opposing the land acquisition. The local environmental groups and the opposition Congress and Left parties are backing the agitators.
The proposed project is designed to store 51,000 million cubic feet of water and will irrigate 12 lakh acres in the drought-prone Medak, Nalgonda, Nizamabad, Warangal and Ranga Reddy districts. But 14 villages in the district will be submerged when the project is completed, with the government planning to acquire over 20,079 acres of land for the project.
The residents of Etigadda Kistapur and 13 other villages are up in arms against the government and vowed not to part with their lands. They are insisting on getting compensation under the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, instead of the package being offered by the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) government. As per the package, a compensation of Rs 8 lakh per acre would be given to those evicted from their lands.
“We are offering far more than what the land acquisition act allows,” said the Major Irrigation Minister and KCR's nephew T. Harish Rao.
The opposition parties have found fault with the project’s design, saying there was no need for building such a large storage reservoir that could leads to massive flooding.
The government brushed aside the criticism, saying the Mallanna Sagar project was part of a strategy to increase the irrigation potential of Medak district, which would also benefit three neighbouring districts.
“We want to irrigate 5.82 lakh acres in the next few years. It will be done through these projects,” Harish Rao said.
“The current land value here is Rs 16 lakh per acre. As per the Land Acquisition Act, the government is required to pay us compensation according to the land value of the acquiring property. We should at least get that,” said a farmer, leading the agitation at Etigadda Kistapur village.