Asserting that the Central government has no political agenda in the implementation of the Polavaram project, Union Minister for Water Resources Nitin Gadkari said the steep hike in cost has to be justified by the State government while promising to help it out in completing the project by February 2019.

He, however, refused to elaborate what justification meant, insisting the Central and State governments have no differences on the project and that the matters were technical in nature.

Addressing media persons along with Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu at the under-construction spillway here on Wednesday, Mr. Gadkari said the delays in giving clearances were only due to technical issues which he wanted Mr. Naidu and his team of officials to discuss with those in the Ministry of Water Resources and its agencies — WAPCOS and Central Water Commission.

Mr. Gadkari claimed to have instructed his officials to exclusively deal with the matters thereof for three full days along with Mr. Naidu and his delegation and that he would then send the proposals for necessary clearances from the Finance Ministry in eight days.

Mr Gadkari said the CM pegged the revised project cost at Rs. 57,940 crore.

Next visit likely in March

The Union Minister said the massive cost escalation had to be justified, for which the State government should submit full documentation. He said he would like to visit the project again in March 2019.

Reasons for the steep hike in the cost of land acquisition and relief and rehabilitation were to be furnished with a specific mention of the factors that almost doubled the land requirement, Mr. Gadkari said, partly attributing it to the new Land Acquisition (LA) Act, 2013.

Mr. Gadkari suggested that Mr. Naidu give priority to the rehabilitation of tribal farmers.

Stating that he was aware of the importance of cash flow to the Andhra Pradesh government, Mr. Gadkari said the Centre would not leave anything to chance as far as release of funds was concerned and told the contractors to be not bothered about it.

Common meeting

“Once the issues are sorted out, I will arrange a common meeting with the Finance Minister and see that the funds sought by the State are released,” Mr. Gadkari said.

Mr. Naidu said the land acquisition and relief and rehabilitation costs had increased from nearly Rs. 2,935 crore to Rs. 33,225 crore and that 55% of those losing their land were tribal farmers. The cost of head works had gone up from around Rs. 6,600 crore to Rs. 11,390 crore.

The CM urged Mr. Gadkari to give speedy clearance to the 2nd detailed project report and to release some advance on its basis to ensure that the project did not get delayed.

Mr. Gadkari said he would find out whether it was in his right to sanction the advance after the necessary approvals are secured from the Finance Ministry.

The CM said the technical issues were to be resolved by the Central government and expressed happiness that Mr. Gadkari promised to take it up on a priority basis.

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