Polavaram Project gets one third of irrigation outlay

The New Indian Express | May 21, 2021

In 2020-21, the budge estimate was Rs 4,804 crore and the revised estimate at end of the fiscal stood at Rs 1,328 crore.

VIJAYAWADA: With focus on completion of Polavaram Irrigation Project (PIP) and other projects under ‘Jalayagnam’, the state government has earmarked Rs 13,237.78 crore for the water resources department in the budget-2021-22 presented on Thursday. While the allocation is 12.1 per cent higher than last year, it remains to be seen how much would be actually utilised as 2020-21’s revised estimate showed utilisation of only Rs 5,238 crore out of Rs 11,805 crore.

In fact, the revised estimates of 2020-21, Rs 5,238 crore, are slightly lower than the 2019-20 account of Rs 5,335 crore as well.Like in FY 20-21, Polavaram project has been allotted over a third of the total outlay. About Rs 4,801 crore has been allocated for the national project, especially for land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement (LARR) components. In 2020-21, the budge estimate was Rs 4,804 crore and the revised estimate at end of the fiscal stood at Rs 1,328 crore.

Project works in Ongole irrigation circle including Rallapadu , Veligonda, Gundlakamma and others have been earmarked about Rs 1,685 crore, while those in Anantapur including Handri Neeva Sujala Sravanti, Tungabhadra Project High Level Canal stage and others were allocated Rs 1,042 crore.

The projects in Krishna Delta and Godavari delta systems, North coastal districts (Vamsadhara, Thotapalli and others), NTR Telugu Ganga, Kadapa (Rayalaseema Drought Mitigation Project), Kurnool district, and Tungabhadra board were allotted Rs 800 crore, Rs 752 crore, Rs 650 crore, Rs 502 crore, Rs 258 crore, and Rs 160 crore, respectively.

“The government has taken up 54 Jalayagnam projects out of which 14 have been completed. On completion of the remaining 40 projects, 27.62 lakh acres of new irrigation potential under major and medium irrigation will be created and 5.03 lakh acres of ayacut will be stabilised.

Through Jalayagnam, the government is committed to improve water availability for irrigation, thereby attaining sustainable development goal (SDG) 9 — build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation and SDG 2 — end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture,” Rajendranath Reddy said.

All projects to be completed in 2020-21

The finance minister revealed the progress made in various irrigation projects. BRR Vamsadhara project has achieved 86 per cent progress. Other major projects being implemented include interlinking of Vamsadhara and Nagavali rivers,Poola Subbaiah Veligonda Phase – I, , Owk right tunnel, HNSS. “Majority of works of these projects have been completed and the balance would be completed in 2021-22,” he averred.

Two firms bid for additional works of Polavaram Irrigation Project

The New Indian Express | May 19, 2021

The technical evaluation of the bids will be done on Wednesday, followed by commercial/financial evaluation on Wednesday before going for reverse tendering, the officials said.

VIJAYAWADA: Two firms have filed bids for the additional head works of Polavaram Irrigation Project (PIP) in the second call given by the water resources government earlier this month.

The technical evaluation of the bids will be done on Wednesday, followed by commercial/financial evaluation on Wednesday before going for reverse tendering, the officials said.

According to information, Megha Engineering and Infrastructures Ltd (MEIL), which is already executing the head works, is one of the two companies that filed the bids for the additional works.

“Two companies have submitted the bids before the deadline on Tuesday and we will evaluate them on Wednesday. The qualified bids will be considered for financial evaluation, followed by reverse auctioning, with qualified bidders, on Friday,” a senior official from the water resources department said. The estimated value of the works is Rs 683 crore.

For the record, the water resources department had invited tenders last month for the additional works, but later decided to re-invite the bids as the bids filed by two companies that participated in the process had issues. Subsequently, a second call was given and time was given till Tuesday to file the bids.

It is learnt that the department wanted to award works to the existing contractor on nomination basis to ensure momentum in the pace of works as change in an agency would again involve logistic management.

​However, the department sent the bids for judicial preview and floated the tender after the government decided to go for bidding.

The additional head works include investigation, survey, preparation of designs and construction of RCC diaphragm wall end cut-off for spill channel, vibro stone columns and others.

Reverse tendering

The technical evaluation of the bids will be done on Wednesday, followed by commercial evaluation on Wednesday before going for reverse tendering.

Tribals in Telangana flag illegal constructions in Agency areas

The New Indian Express | May 19, 2021

Leaders of the Adivasi Hakulla Porata Samithi (Tudum Debba) and other activists have been strongly opposing these constructions.

ADILABAD: Tribals protested in front of the Adilabad District Collector’s office here on Tuesday, demanding action against those developing illegal layouts in Agency areas. Multi-storeyed buildings have come up on many of these illegal layouts, some even on government lands, violating the PESA Act.

Leaders of the Adivasi Hakulla Porata Samithi (Tudum Debba) and other activists have been strongly opposing these constructions.

They submitted a memorandum to the district panchayat officer to take action on people responsible for illegal constructions. Adivasi Hakkula Porata Samithi district president Godam Ganesh said that the Commissioner of Panchayat Raj Department had given directions to each district and panchayat secretary to protect Agency lands.

The government is also taking other steps to curb land encroachment in these areas. The State is enforcing the LTR 1/70 Act in the Agency areas and orders have been issued to take action in accordance with the provisions of Regulation 1/70, LTR.

Apart from this, the government has made it clear that authorities should demolish illegal structures without giving any notice to the owner.

The Land Change Regulation Act, 1959 and the Land Change Prohibition Act, 1/70 are in force in the Agency areas, which prohibit buying and selling of land among non-tribals.

​However, mandal level officials and village level panchayat officials have neglected to implement these acts. Illegal layouts and constructions have taken place in Ichoda, Gudihathnur, Indravelli, Narnoor, Jainoor, Gadiguda, Utnoor, etc.

Without Addressing Legacy Issues, Can Digitising Land Records in India Be a Game Changer?

The Wire | May 18, 2021

For millions of rural families who still lack access to good internet connectivity or are computer illiterate, the programme may end up increasing out-of-pocket expenses.

As part of the Digital India Land Records Modernisation Programme (DILRMP), the central government intends to create an Aadhaar-like unique identification for every land parcel in the country. The initiative named Unique Land Parcel Identification Number (ULPIN) will assign a geo-referenced 14-digit alphanumeric unique ID for each land parcel surveyed in the country. ULPIN has already been launched in 11 states, and the Centre intends to do a countrywide rollout by March 2022.

This is a welcome addition to the previous digitisation steps taken up by DILRMP like establishing data centres at all administrative levels, computerisation of registration and record of rights, digitisation of cadastral maps among many others. ULPIN is expected to further contribute towards the larger goal of creating an Integrated Land Information Management System (ILIMS) that is intended to improve real-time information on land resources, develop land banks, optimise land use and assist in policy and planning.

The opportunity in digitising land records…

The current paper-heavy physical management of land records is inefficient and replete with red tape which in turn creates a fertile ground for corruption by land mafias, especially in rural areas. The common man has little say in this and is at the mercy of revenue officials. So it follows that India must upgrade to a modern and efficient land records management system that works for both the administration and common people.

Land records digitisation which started in 2008 has ushered tangible benefits in many states. For example, Jharkhand now has a dedicated web portal called ‘jharbhoomi’ where any land owner in the state can see the status of their land tax, pay the due amount online, register land and homes, or apply for online land mutation.

ULPIN can further enhance similar single window citizen services delivery and can potentially prevent land fraud and bring in much needed transparency, especially in rural areas where many land records are outdated, missing or disputed. ULPIN will most certainly guarantee uniqueness in all transactions, especially if blockchain technology is utilised. It would also be a massive step in enabling seamless interoperability across government departments, financial institutions and even revenue courts.

For rural landowners, accessing loans and land-based government schemes might become easier and people living in the disaster-prone areas might not have to worry about losing their land documents to floods and fire anymore as their land ownership will be digitally secured and accessible. If not anything, ULPIN will at least provide a better picture of land ownership in India and help identify illegally held lands by bad actors. The ULPIN digitisation, therefore, seems like a good initiative, at least in principle.

…comes with certain caveats

India might be a growing IT hub but the digital divide is still a huge concern in this country – a sad reality that was revealed in the pandemic when students from far flung areas struggled to attend online classes for want of the internet, laptops or smartphones. For the millions of rural families who still lack access to good internet connectivity or are computer illiterate, the online facilities by virtue of ULPIN will be of little use. In fact, this may end up increasing their reliance on ‘internet middlemen’ and increase their out of pocket expenses.

The Centre has said that linking Aadhaar number with ULPIN will be based on consent but it is safe to assume that sooner or later the linkage will become mandatory. Moreover, nobody wants to be left out. The perception of missing out on future “imaginary” benefits due to the said linkage itself will drive people to opt for the same.

Individuals still face issues with Aadhaar in terms of mismatched IDs and biometric verification which in many cases deprive rural beneficiaries of their rightful access to government schemes. Linking Aadhaar with ULPIN can potentially create conditions of further alienation of the marginalised sections of the society.

One of the significant repercussions of the ULPIN initiative will be in the forest sector where it is can potentially undermine the Forest Rights Act (FRA). The landmark Act provides individual and community forest rights (IFR and CFR) over forest lands that the local communities have been using traditionally for centuries.

According to a 2019 TISS report, a decade after the FRA implementation, only 14.67% of the potential forest area have been recognised across the country. So, what does ULPIN mean for the hundreds of thousands of India’s forest dwelling citizens whose rightful claims to forest land remain unsettled.

Additionally, what happens to the resources of villages which are government property on record but have been claimed by gram sabhas as part of their FRA rights. In the absence of any formal land-holding titles, these customary lands might be at risk of being added to the land banks and made available for developmental activities, industrial establishments or CAMPA (Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority) plantations.

In states like Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha, these CFR (commercial forest reserve) lands are already under immense pressure for raising such plantations by the forest department. There have been cases where CFR rights are intentionally delayed or rejected to accommodate for such plantations (often monocultures).

Then there are millions of hectares of land in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh called ‘orange areas’ which erroneously show up in both revenue and forest department land records. This bureaucratic mismanagement has caused disputes over 3.8 million hectares of land causing an estimated 1.5 million poor farmers to live in perennial insecurity. This issue has not been solved in the last 50 years, and it doesn’t look like a digital intervention like ULPIN can be of any aid. Instead, a rushed implementation can further complicate this complex issue and raise land legacy tensions.

As with any top down heavy initiative, ULPIN too risks doing too much in too little time overlooking the immense complexity of issues related to land ownership in India. As government officials from tehsils and blocks rush toward completion of their respective targets within a stipulated time, will they consult all the stakeholders, settle long-pending land rights, resurvey disputed lands and change land plot numbers before assigning a unique digital identification?

A similar digital experiment with land has already been carried out by a few nations in South America. An extensive report by GRAIN shows how the land digitalisation process in five South American countries is paving the way towards mass privatisation and financing of land, disregarding the socio-ecological function of such community and public lands through a process that is termed as ‘digital land grabbing’. The report warns about reducing such common lands to mere financial instruments that has facilitated land grabs on massive scales, often at the expense of peasant and indigenous territories.

The fact that the ULPIN initiative shares similar tools (geo-referencing, digitised cadastral maps, private titling, land market, bank integration) as used in the South American nations raises some immediate red flags. Although this development is taking place in a far-off continent, it still provides valuable learnings for India, especially on the importance of safeguarding community and public lands. Any attempt to bulldoze the initiative across all states without making robust provisions for collective titling of common lands may lead to severe land legacy disputes in future.

Digitisation of land records and its unique identification can certainly lead to efficient management in land administration in India. However, just like any other technology, what matters is how the technology is wielded in the shadow of underlying interests of the political economy of India. In a country where vast amounts of land records are outdated, disputed or unaccounted, ULPIN will hardly be able to be the game changer that it is billed to be, unless the pending rights are settled and land records are updated post resurveys.

Otherwise, it simply ends up in a costly exercise in validating historic land dispossessions and existing illegal encroachments by the rich and powerful. So, in a way the initiative provides a timely reminder and massive opportunity to first create an enabling environment, rectify old injustices and update existing land records before going ahead with the proposed digitisation.

This will need time and patience and so, instead of a hurried campaign to cover the entire geography of India in a few years and earn some political points, ULPIN, for now, should be limited to only those land parcels where rights and legal statuses are well-settled.

Haryana Cabinet nod to policy for sale of shops/houses by municipal bodies

The New Indian Express | April 22, 2021

TO ENCOURAGE monetisation of locked properties of municipal bodies, Haryana government has made a policy for sale of shops/houses by municipal bodies, where possessions of such properties is with entities other than the municipal bodies or its predecessor for a period of 20 years.

The state Cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Thursday approved the policy, besides taking several other important decisions.

“There are a large number of properties in the shape of shops/houses which, though are presently owned by municipal bodies, are in possession of entities/individuals other than the municipal bodies for a period of 20 years or more. The municipal bodies find managing such properties difficult, particularly in view of the fact that the ownership/possession of such properties have, in several cases, changed hands on numerous occasions and the municipal bodies lack authentic documentation in this regard. Furthermore, several municipal bodies are unable to even recover the rentals of such properties,” the state government spokesperson said.

“On careful consideration, it was decided to transfer the ownership of these properties to such persons who are currently in justified possession of these properties. As per the policy, the shops/houses and other properties of municipal bodies which have been assigned to persons (other than the municipal bodies) for a period of 20 years or more shall be converted in the properties belonging to such of the persons, or shall be transferred in the ownership possession of such persons and also to sale such properties to such persons. This policy will not only strengthen the financial position of municipal bodies but will also grant small shopkeepers and other pattedar to the ownership of the said properties under their possession,” the spokesperson added.

Cabinet also approved the policy for transfer of municipal lands by charging consideration. “This policy would apply on the categories of properties/persons, where due to exigencies or otherwise, no approach road is available to the land owned by private individuals or entities.

In such cases, where no approach road is available to land owned or, as the case may be, held on lease for a minimum period of 30 years or more, by private individuals or entities and it is possible to provide approach access through the land owned by the respective municipal body, the respective municipal body shall provide land for being utilized for the purposes of constructing approach road (rasta) against the consideration equal to the market rate of the said land which is proposed to be transferred, provided that such transfer cannot be claimed as a matter of right and the decision of government, purely on the discretion of the government, on all aspects related to the transfer including shall be final,” the spokesperson added.

Other key decisions

Policy for homeless abandoned and surrendered children

Cabinet approved the Homeless Abandoned and Surrendered Children Rehabilitation Initiative Haryana (HARIHAR) policy for providing employment, educational and financial benefits to abandoned and surrendered children who have completed the age of 18 years from the childcare institutions of the state and were abandoned before the age of 05 years or surrendered before the age of 1 year.

The policy shall cover children admitted to childcare institutions before the age of 5 years (as abandoned) and before the age of 1 year (as surrendered) and who have completed the age of 18 years in childcare institutions, upto the age of 25 years, and who possess the required qualification.

“Also, to provide free school and higher education including technical education, skill development and industrial training and after care stay, rehabilitation and financial assistance upto the age of 25 years or marriage, whichever is earlier and one time interest free loan for purchase of a house in Haryana to abandoned and surrendered children who were admitted to childcare institutions before the age of 5 years (as abandoned) and before the age of 1 year (as surrendered), who have completed the age of 18 years while living in childcare institutions and have obtained admission in such courses,” the spokesperson added.

“In case an abandoned and surrendered beneficiary in after care gets a job on compassionate grounds, his/her salary will be deposited in a fixed deposit account and withdrawal will be allowed after attaining the age of 25 years or marriage or opting out of after care, whichever is earlier by such beneficiary. Such person will get upto 20 per cent salary advance from his/her own salary per month for his/her living expenses and will not be eligible for financial assistance. They will be provided one time interest free loan for purchase of a house in Haryana at the time of marriage,” the spokesperson added.

Uninstallation of toll

Cabinet approved uninstallation of toll on Punhana to Lakarpur, Sri Singalheri, Thenkri, Jalalgarh, Ranota-Manota upto Rajasthan border at 12.65 km in Nuh district.

Mining lease/contract rules amended

Cabinet approved amendments in the ‘Haryana Minor Mineral Concession, Stocking, Transportation Minerals and Prevention of Illegal Mining Rules, 2012’ and ‘Haryana District Mineral Foundation Rules, 2017’.

“As per the amendments, in case of mining lease/contract being granted through competitive bidding process, the highest bid received shall become the ‘annual dead rent’ or annual contract money payable by the lessee or contractors respectively. As per existing State Rules [Rule 9(3) and 22(2) respectively of the State Rules, 2012, the same is increased at 25 per cent on completion of each block of three years. The department proposed that rate of increase after every 3 years shall be reduced to 10 per cent as the existing rate is too high. Also, the request of mining contractors/lease holders seeking surrender [unconditional request] of lease/contract will be allowed subject to the condition that they submit application with no dues certificate up to the calendar month. The surrender will be allowed on payment of surrender fee equal to one-month dead rent/contract money. However, such surrender fee would be equal to two months dues in case applications are submitted during June 1 to September 15 (monsoon period). No application for surrender of part area of the mineral concession shall be maintainable. The director shall pass orders accepting the surrender request within 30 days. In case no decision is communicated, the application for surrender shall be deemed to have been accepted on expiry of 30 days of submission of the application. Also, the minimum distance from the source of mineral (mine) for grant of MDL be increased to 5 km for raw mineral from mines, to reduce the possibility of stocking illegally mined mineral. In cases of washing plant and screening plant, provision for grant of MDL based on NOC/CTE of the HSPCB,” the spokesperson said.

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